Professional Democrats Like Being in the Majority. They Don’t Like Using It.

While Paul Waldman is writing about protecting legal and safe abortion, his comment generalizes to so many issues (boldface mine):

In response to the new wave of shocking state laws passed by Republicans to strangle abortion rights, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) put out a list of things Democrats can do to push back. Her approach is centered on federal legislation to supersede draconian state laws and guarantee women their rights.

This is highly unusual, because what we hear from Democrats on this issue is almost entirely defensive. Instead of proposing new legislation to aggressively expand abortion rights, the most they can muster is explanations of why the latest Republican law goes too far, all presented as though they’d prefer to be talking about something else…

Earlier this week, I argued that Republicans are moving so quickly and aggressively to destroy Roe v. Wade because they have a very simple view of power: When you have it, use it to get what you want. It doesn’t matter to them that their policy goal — the elimination of Roe — is only supported by about 35 percent of the public. They know they could suffer a political backlash if they succeed, but it’s a chance they’re willing to take.

Where Waldman goes off the rails is assuming that Democrats are trained to constantly be in a defensive crouch. The problem is deeper than that (boldface mine):

I am almost as mad at many on the left, theoretically on the side of reproductive rights and justice, who have refused, somehow, to see this coming or act aggressively to forestall it. I have no small amount of rage stored for those in the Democratic Party who have relied on the engaged fury of voters committed to reproductive autonomy to elect them, at the same time that they have treated the efforts of activists trying to stave off this future as inconvenient irritants.

This includes, of course, the Democrats (notably Joe Biden) who long supported the Hyde Amendment, the legislative rider that has barred the use of federal insurance programs from paying for abortion, making reproductive health care inaccessible to poor women since 1976. During health-care reform, Barack Obama referred to Hyde as a “tradition” and questions of abortion access as “a distraction.” I’ve spent my life listening to Democrats call abortion a niche issue — and worse, one that is somehow repellent to voters, even though support for Roe is in fact among the most broadly popular positions of the Democratic Party; seven in ten Americans want abortion to remain legal, even in conservative states.

You can try to tell these Democrats this — lots of people have been trying to tell them for a while now — but it won’t matter; they will only explain to you (a furious person) that they (calm, wise, knowledgeable about politics) understand that we need a big tent and can’t have a litmus test and please be reasonable: we shouldn’t shut anyone out because of a difference on one issue. (That one issue that we shouldn’t shut people out because of is always abortion). Every single time Democrats come up with a new strategy to win purple and red areas, it is the same strategy: hey, let’s jettison abortion! (If you object to this, you will be told you are standing in the way of the greater progressive project).

Democratic politicians and their auxilliaries really want to be in the majority. They want the perks of the majority, and they don’t mind passing ‘bold incrementalist’ policies, while making sure their supporters, especially the ones that provide campaign donations, get some boodle. But ruthlessly exercising the legitimate power we grant them terrifies them. They don’t want to rock the boat. Some do, but there are always enough to prevent meaningful change.

To stop this, we have to cure them of this habit. Put another way, the ‘Resistance’ is meaningless until it starts protesting Democrats.

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2 Responses to Professional Democrats Like Being in the Majority. They Don’t Like Using It.

  1. What does this mythical “greater progressive project” consist of? It seems there is nothing that they will do or support.

  2. Richard Simons says:

    As a non-American, I get the impression that many wealthy, white, conservative Democrats prefer to be in opposition. Many Republican actions, eg reduced taxes for the rich, are to their benefit yet they can pretend to be opposed to them. I wonder just how determined they are to be in control.

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