The Case for Hope

Figures I’ve seen from the exit polls in the Alabama election should give us some renewed hope in the capacity of the electorate to see through the propaganda to the truth about the modern Republican Party. Among the most telling data are these: Although white women overall favored Roy Moore over Doug Jones, when the evangelical women and the non-evangelical women are considered separately, the non-evangelical women overwhelmingly preferred Jones. Moreover, I’ve read, if the percentage of evangelical voters in Alabama were the same as the percentage nationwide, Jones would have taken the election by double digits. The Republican Party, lead by Trump, has alienated so many voters outside a cultish core that the probability of a rout in 2018 has increased substantially.

The Big Picture

A willfully ignorant, dangerously incompetent schoolyard bully whose mistreatment of women is taken for granted and whose chief motivation seems to be revenge for personal slights currently occupies the White House.

The leaders of the legislative branch of government, far from taking steps to remedy this, are allowing the debasement to continue for partisan political advantage. In the case of the Republicans, the goal is to secure Trump’s signature on legislation that ignores the values and interests of the majority of Americans, catering instead to the wealthy who fund GOP campaigns and the white identity voters who regard the GOP as their bulwark against having to participate in a genuinely just and diverse community.

In the case of the Democrats, the goal is to hang Trump around the necks of Republicans running in 2018, relieving the Democrats of the responsibility to fashion and offer a genuine platform of clear, fresh ideas to build a strong middle class. Just as the Republicans chose to run against Obama rather than for the majority of Americans, the Democrats hope to run against Trump.

The media also benefit immensely from Trump’s continuation in office. Viewership is up. Online is up. Journalists are in the midst of a golden age of political reporting.

The big losers in all this are the rest of us, and the rest of the world.

Feuding While the Republic Totters

So the Democratic Party continues the Hatfields-and-McCoys internal feuding in the crucial runup to the November 2018 election. Liberals and progressives are behaving as if one or the other of the philosophies will win in 2018, and the only question is which one. Wrong!

The GOP strategy of using millions donated by high rollers to finance low-road campaigns stoking the fear and resentment of the white working class is likely to be just as potent as it has been for the past few decades, the Trump wildcard notwithstanding. The Democrats, at least, would be fools not to presume this and to prepare for it.

The stakes, of course, are far higher now than at any time in the past few decades. The GOP shows no inclination whatsoever to remove the boil on the Presidency, despite ever more dangerous words and actions by the Dear Leader. To rid the country of Trump, the Republic needs a slew of Democratic wins across the board in 2018.

The party must do three things pronto: 1. Develop a fundraising strategy not beholden to billionaires. 2. Craft a platform with solid proposals to improve the lives and prospects of America’s diverse working class. 3. Recruit and support candidates with real public presence and genuine enthusiasm for the platform.

Memo to DNC: Eyes on the Prize

It’s natural enough for the Clinton Brigades to defend her when she’s attacked, and she is being attacked again now for “rigging” the primaries against Bernie. Likewise, it’s natural for Bernie fans to bristle at this pushback from the Clinton Brigades.

The job for the DNC going forward, however, is to move on from this feud, focusing instead on building a party that is seen clearly by the electorate as the go-to alternative to the party owned by the Koch brothers and the Trumpians. The strongest possible showing in 2018 is not merely a party imperative, but a national imperative.

The DNC, then, must get its financial house in order pronto, bringing in whoever is necessary to ensure an effective system for appealing to small donors. The DNC must be a party of clear and compelling ideas focused on the interests of the country’s working stiffs of all colors, genders, and backgrounds. And the DNC must be about the business of recruiting a new generation of candidates who have the qualifications, public presence, and enthusiasm to bring folks to the polls.

The Impotence of Argument

We should — we must — continue to make the case for ending Trump’s toxic Presidency by whatever legal means are available. And the hardest part is that we’re stiffed by the only people with the power to act, our protestations evidently impotent.

Among the reasons for this strategic silence, the most troubling is the politicians’ apparent suspicion that Trump’s hardcore base is deaf to appeals to conventional values and resistant to plain old facts.

I think the politicians are right. I think there’s nothing Trump could do to jeopardize his hardcore support other than to abandon his racism, nativism, misogyny, and catering in word and deed to the pinched and rigid imperatives of the cult of the evangelical Right.

Country Over Party

To the leaders of political parties, and to the faithful rank and file, the national interest and the party’s interest ordinarily seem identical. If the country would come to its senses and adopt the party’s platform, all would be as fine as anything can be east of Eden.

As a lifelong Democrat and the son of Democrats — my dad from Manhattan and my mom from the coal country of West Virginia — I’ve longed for the day when the country finally would embrace fully the ideals of justice and equality championed by the modern Democratic Party and articulated so eloquently by Dr. King in his “I Have a Dream.”

Faith in the righteousness of a party’s commitments generally carries with it skepticism about the motives or the capacity of those on the other side of the aisle.

How can anyone who knows anything about the way the world works believe that “the market,” left almost entirely ungoverned by political majorities, will get us closest to heaven on earth?

Does anyone who understands even the most basic biological science actually think that the union of a sperm cell and an egg cell produces at that moment a “human being” with the right to govern the course of a woman’s life for the next twenty years or so?

And guns everywhere? Please.

The power of political conviction is such that I can concede “for the sake of argument” that there are Americans who authentically disagree with me and with the Democratic Party on these matters, but I can’t quite fit into those other moccasins and be for a moment a true believer in the things so many modern Republicans embrace with such evident passion.

In this period of extreme partisanship, most of us have tolerated and many of us have contributed to the stir-the-pot hurly burly, either because we’ve become loyal fans of the propaganda “entertainments” that Roger Ailes wrought or because we’ve felt compelled to throw the rightwing media stars’ molotov cocktails back over the wall at them, meeting the vehemence with vehemence.

And now, of course, we have Trump, an avatar from Ailes World, who somehow has become the 45th President of the United States, and who behaves as if he were a Breitbart-infused troll, tweeting vitriol that comes to him in the wee hours as if that were his first duty as Chief Executive, with everything else left to the generals and to a West Wing staff with a chronic gravitas deficiency.

Party politics won’t save us at this point. Oh, we might see, and I hope we see, a sound repudiation on election day next year of the Republican strategy of ignoring the abomination that is the Trump Presidency and trying desperately to pass legislation that benefits the zillionaire GOP donor class but not the folks who work for a living and have to choose sometimes between the meds and the rent.

But what the country needs most, I think, is a respite from the unbridled partisanship. Let’s find some way to send to the political sidelines for awhile the ideologues and single-issue true believers who have their place in our democracy, constantly asking us to think again about what we’re doing, but who really should not be put in charge of such a diverse country except when we’re so far off course that a radical corrective is required to save the republic itself.

I’m prepared to vote next time for candidates, Democrat or Republican, who present themselves authentically as center-left or center-right moderates, ready to talk to folks on the other side of the aisle and to reach accommodations that might give the purists only half a loaf, but that move the country forward.

Barack Obama was a center-left moderate, but Mitch McConnell and his cronies froze Obama out. Hillary Clinton was a center-left moderate, but she was defeated by decades of demonization and by her flaws as a candidate. The Republican leadership — principally McConnell, but others as well — chose hyper-partisanship and base-stirring over responsible leadership during the past decade. (I’m sure my friends on the other side of the aisle have examples from the Left to nominate.)

What I hope is different now is a recognition by a critical mass of voters that the time has come for folks like John Kasich, who seems to me the clearest example, to have a go at governing. Governor Kasich is a center-right moderate who could help heal the country.

The Bipartisan Conspiracy of Silence

The Hill leadership on both sides of the aisle, their willful deafness to calls for impeachment quite palpable, must have concluded that the country is going to be okay until early 2019, when the outcome of the 2018 election either has extended the GOP stranglehold on power or has made Nancy Pelosi Speaker again and maybe handed the Democrats a Senate majority.

Between now and the election, Trump will continue to be Trump. The Hill GOP will be interested only in tax cuts. The Hill Democrats will moan about this or that, but do nothing, figuring Trump is destroying the electoral prospects of the GOP.

So, the betting is that the generals will keep Trump from doing anything really stupid internationally, and anything he does domestically can be fixed later.

And if Mueller and his Untouchables come up with something that can’t be ignored, so be it.

That’s the pathetic truth, my fellow Americans. There is no real prospect of salvation for quite awhile. Time to find a good therapist.

How to Preserve the American Experiment

Here’s my sense of the American zeitgeist at the moment.

There is no fervor to embrace the neoliberalism that drives the GOP donor class. Nor is there a tsunami of support for the social democracy that Bernie champions.

Folks by and large are not gun fetishists, but they understand that guns have a place in some lives, especially in rural areas.

A majority of Americans think abortion neither should be banned nor should be unregulated, especially in the later stages of pregnancy.

The DACA Dreamers should be made welcome, but the country can’t afford a completely open door.

Free trade is good, but its downsides should be addressed. The Democrats are right to insist on a society free of prejudice, but in their condemnations they paint with too broad a brush.

And so on.

What the country needs is a leader or set of leaders able to rally the folks with these views, getting them to the polls and forcing to the sidelines the single-issue ideologues and all-or-nothing crowd who, it sometimes seems, would rather have a dictator who agrees with them right down the line than a messy democracy in which the constantly must settle for half a loaf.