A Fourth of July Reflection

Happy Fourth of July, I guess. It’s hard to be upbeat about the holiday considering that we’re moving towards a white Christian supremacist regime, and one that highly resistant to democratic change. David Daley & David Faris describe the sorry state of affairs (boldface mine):

In fairness, the vote harder refrain does bear on one key element of the crisis in democratic governance: with two Senate Democrats opposed to breaking the filibuster, the majority party needs to add at least two more to have any remote hope of advancing its agenda But the obsessive focus on increasing the Democratic numbers on Capitol Hill—a long shot, in any event, for reasons we will discuss below—obscures the larger problem. It’s not that the mandate of protecting democracy and our basic rights simply requires more Democrats. We need better Democrats, who actually understand what they’re up against and have a plan to fight back

There’s no point in shunning the obvious truth: Democrats have earned this cynicism. Yes, the nation is in this dangerous position because the Republican Party has swerved decisively toward authoritarianism. But this lurch has not happened in a vacuum. Over and over again, the forfeit of democratic freedoms has come about via the right wing’s opportunistic exploitation of a pronounced pattern of Democratic toothlessness in the face of bared GOP fangs. The smashed guardrails and discarded norms have mounted year after year, visible to all who cared to see. The scrupulous nonpartisan institutionalists Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein wrote their jeremiad outlining the antidemocratic fallout of asymmetric polarization in Washington, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, a decade ago.

But that message has bafflingly yet to register with the Democratic party’s profoundly change-averse leadership. They have operated on institutional autopilot as right-wing opponents have gleefully annexed one revered institutional norm after another to the project of one-party minoritarian rule. A partial list of these power grabs includes: two terms of obstruction and wildly partisan congressional investigations during the Obama administration; a stolen Supreme Court seat; the napalming of the constitutional order during the Trump administration by way of naked contempt for congressional oversight, judicial authority and presidential conduct culminating in the GOP endorsement of blackmailing allies for partisan gain; a radicalized high court assault on voting rights; the most extreme partisan gerrymanders in modern history; an insurrection seeking to institute a right-wing coup, replete with talk of martial law, seizing voting machines and overturning election results from inside the White House. One among countless indicators of our broken system of simple truth-telling and public accountability is that the party aligned behind the “Big Lie” about a stolen 2020 election is in better shape to be successful today than it was on January 6, 2021; indeed, in several pivotal swing states, this spring’s GOP primaries saw ardent defenders of the Trumpian Big Lie win gubernatorial and secretary of state nominations, casting real doubt on the prospect of that actual election results will have any bearing on the outcome of the 2024 presidential balloting.

How have Democratic leaders been so stolidly resistant to facing up to the true scale of this threat in anything other than fundraising appeals? Regrettably, advancing age and the institutional complacency that often comes with it play a major role here. The members of the Democratic Party’s leadership caste continually yearn for the long-vanished shade of “The Party of Lincoln.” They pine for the camaraderie of Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan and the difference-trimming compromises struck in the Senate cloakroom half a century ago—and by indulging in these clubby reveries before the public, they continue to transmit the message that the GOP is a normal political party, committed to upholding basic constitutional rights, freedoms, and power-sharing norms.

There’s also this trenchant observation about the Democratic party consultants–who are neck deep in this shit:

They believed that they could raise enough money via ads foregrounding the excesses of Trump and his allies to keep the consultant class fat and happy, that gerrymanders couldn’t be forever, that there would always be a next election. Time and again, they were wrong, hopelessly. Time and again, the strategy failed to adjust to reality.

You should read the whole thing.

At this point, supporting Democrats has to be viewed as absolutely necessary harm reduction: every seat held by a gormless and clueless Democrat is a seat denied to actively malevolent Republicans (and to the revolutionary wannabees, making things even worse won’t lead to your glorious revolution, it just means things will be even shittier).

But we do need better Democrats too. A huge problem is the fanboi/grrling impulse of too many Democratic primary voters. These politicians aren’t your friends: they are means to ends, and when they fail, it’s time to get new ones.

Anyway, merry fucking Fourth.

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2 Responses to A Fourth of July Reflection

  1. John says:

    “…every seat held by a gormless and clueless Democrat is a seat denied to actively malevolent Republicans…”

    • John says:

      Oops, sorry. Forgot to leave my comment.

      I agree if the Democrat is truly gormless and clueless. On the other hand, if the Democrat is a saboteur (or behaves like one), then it’s not so clear.

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