The Democratic Leadership Is Not Up To Facing Our Existential Threat

With leaders like Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer, we are not going to stop Il Trumpe and his Merry Band of Eliminationists:

On Tuesday, five members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus protested the Trump administration’s family separation policy by shouting at Donald Trump as he entered the Capitol for a meeting with House Republicans. The protest was remarkably mild, considering both who it was directed at and why it was happening in the first place…

On Thursday, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House, was asked about this protest on CNN. This is what he said (via CNN):

“I think that’s — it’s not appropriate,” he told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “Newsroom” when asked if he was comfortable with the strategy.

“But having said that there are very strong feelings, and nobody engenders stronger feelings and says worse things or acts in a more confrontational manner than the President of the United States,” he continued. “That does not, however, justify us following suit.”


“As I said in my interview today, the President’s vile comments and reprehensible behavior and inhumane policies engender strong condemnation and rightfully result in deep frustration,” he said. “I do believe that the institution of Congress must uphold a level of decorum, even though the President does not. The CHC has been passionate defenders of immigrants and families, and I support their right to protest in this fight to stop child abuse, reunite families, and protect” recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Here’s how I see things, post-child internment camps: Both the Trump Administration and the Republican Party, some of whom are acquiescing and some going along willingly, are an existential threat to anyone who is not straight, white, and Christian. I’m not naive about our history: I remember Reagan and both Bushes, and they were much worse than people want to remember. And a defining structure of U.S. history, perhaps the defining structure, is caste system racism. Everyone must know his or her place, and if you don’t, action will be taken against you, whether that be social marginalization, state sanctioned penalties, brutality, or death. It is awful, immoral, and unjust, but at least with caste system racism, there is the hope, which I think we have imperfectly realized, that this system, piece by piece, can be dismantled.

But we have now veered into eliminationist territory with the forced separation and internment of small children, almost entirely Latino, who belong to parents who are seeking asylum. The goal, as elite racist Andrew Sullivan gave away, is to prevent the U.S. from becoming less white (no one ever seems to get upset about Russian immigration, for example). Arguably, it began, in a political sense, with Mitt Romney’s talk of ‘self-deportation’, but make no mistake: Il Trumpe et alia (and do not forget all of the et alia) want to remove non-white people from the U.S. They don’t have a solution to the ‘Latino Question’ yet, but if we give them time, they will.

Most Americans, including those who have historically been near or at the bottom of the U.S. caste system, do not have a frame of reference for this type of hatred. Too many are still viewing this as a problem of making an imperfect system better, and not as an attempt to prevent expulsion and annihilation, as one of ‘cleansing.’ As I have been saying, even prior to the election, the propaganda apparatus used to demonize Latino immigrants can be easily and rapidly repurposed to target other groups–and, if politically expedient to do so, it will be.

Too much of the Democratic leadership doesn’t comprehend this. It is increasingly clear that the Democratic leadership, which is not only sclerotic, but is also overwhelming straight, white, and Christian, simply can not understand at a visceral level the fear part of their rank-and-file experiences–not just Latinos, but any ethnic, racial, or religious minority. As Paul Blest put it (boldface mine):

So when Hoyer says he “supports” the CHC’s “right to protest in this fight to stop child abuse,” but he doesn’t support this protest, what does he mean? What kind of protest would be a measured response to what he admits is child abuse? How much fury is justified over children being put in cages?

…How much anger towards this—the forced kidnapping of children from their families to vaguely send a message to other people from Mexico and Central America, as if they all know each other—is permissible?

Hoyer’s response to this is emblematic of why so many progressives have believed from the beginning that congressional Democrats—particularly those who were elected during the first year of the Reagan administration—are woefully unprepared to deal with the Republican Party under Trump. Trump has moved the political center on this issue so far to the right that Democrats were at one point willing to curb legal immigration, a position that was considered untenable in the Republican Party just three years ago.

Now, however, Republicans are studying the immigration proposals of the European fascist parties like they’ll be on the SAT, and Hoyer’s preferred response would seemingly be for all of his fellow Democrats to politely disagree with their good friends from the great state of Iowa and New York. He apparently would rather them try to win over hearts and minds in the House with the argument that immigrants aren’t insects or rats, or maybe just fire off some tweets about it and not do shit at all.

…He is a member of the leadership team of the House Democratic caucus. With this wormlike response, he has thrown his fellow members—and immigrants who have absolutely no good reason to trust the Democrats—under the bus. He is telling them that, at a time when Republicans are waging a war to keep the country as white as possible for as long as possible, their rage just isn’t acceptable.

Hoyer is wrong. The five CHC members understood that their position as elected members of the federal government automatically affords them the attention and a microphone that the people they’re fighting for do not typically get. These times call for direct action and for confronting the miserable sacks of shit who are responsible for all of this suffering.

The current Democratic leadership is inadequate to the task at hand, and the rest of us could pay the price. They believe this is just ‘politics as normal’ (if ugly and dark), and not an existential threat to millions of Americans. Before you dismiss this as hyperbole, ask yourself if in 2014, you thought we would be where we are today. At this point, to not entertain the possibility of the worst is simply a failure of imagination.

If we save ourselves from this ugliness, it will be spite of the Democratic leadership, not due to their help, and we must remember this, especially once the emergency has passed.

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1 Response to The Democratic Leadership Is Not Up To Facing Our Existential Threat

  1. Marie says:

    Mike, thank you for this excellent post. I have bookmarked it for future reference. I consider myself a progressive and largely agree with your critique of the Democratic leadership. However, I don’t think progressives are any more enlightened about what’s at stake for Trump Republicans’ favorite victims. During the campaign of 2016, I begged my progressive friends to follow the example of the Popular Front of the 1930s in temporarily putting aside our individual disagreements about policy or legislative priorities for the sake of fighting the greater threat of (Republican) fascism. My reasoning was that once Trump got in office we wouldn’t get another chance (example: control of SCOTUS for a generation). Bitching about HRC’s ties to Wall Street struck me as a self-indulgent bourgeois conceit, easy to do when it isn’t your own freedom or right to exist that’s under threat. I hope I am wrong but as of 2018 all social, political, and economic power is concentrated with Trump and Republicans, and they will control the Supreme Court for another generation. At this point, discussions about, say, the nature of the DNC leadership just makes for lovely parlor talk because the election that truly mattered has come and gone.

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