Dear Hillary and Bernie,
Is there any reason we voters should care which of you is better at lacerating the other when what we need to know is how well you will be able to fight our real opponents after the convention and after the election?
What sense does it make for you two to argue over your respective policy programs when, unless you can get the Republican obstructionists out of the way, all that’s at stake in your arguments will prove to have been just which of your agendas the Republicans will block?
If you’re serious about getting any of your proposals enacted, shouldn’t you be looking down the road at the obvious roadblock that’s in the way, and taking steps now to remove them?
You’ve spoken, Hillary, about your being good at reaching across the aisle–as if that means you’ll be able to move us forward. Do you really think that you can reach across that aisle with any more openness to finding common ground than President Obama displayed for years, hoping to work together with Republicans to get things done? That got him nowhere, because they were interested not in getting things done but in making him fail. Do you have any reason for thinking your “reaching across the aisle” would go any better?
And you, Bernie, have done a great service in calling attention to some important truths about the rigging of our economy and of our politics by the corrupting influence of Big Money. But why aren’t you educating the American public about how it is the Republican Party that has been systematically blocking all efforts to level the playing field? (It’s not the “billionaire class” you should be denouncing – voters can’t take power from them directly – but their GOP political minions whose power the people can take away.)
And while you’ve made a big point of stressing that the overturning of Citizens United is your major litmus test for any Supreme Court appointee, why aren’t you educating the American public about how that widely despised Supreme Court decision was the product of a five-justice majority, all of whom were appointed by the Republicans?
Given that you’ve got every political incentive to wrest control of Congress away from the Republicans, why aren’t you campaigning in a way that gives you the best chance of accomplishing that?
My fear is that the answer may be that you are both reflecting the weakness that has beset the leadership of the Democratic Party for the past generation, a weakness manifested in the continuing failure to adequately confront to the Republican Party as it has been breaking bad.
- Failure in the 90s to denounce and stand up against the right-wing attempt to destroy the Clinton presidency.
- Failure during the W presidency to fight even to censure, let alone impeach, a president who committed half the impeachable offenses (I would estimate) perpetrated by over two centuries of American presidents.
- Failure during the Obama presidency to return fire with an intensity and determination that even remotely matched that of the Republicans with their continuous assaults on this Democratic president.
It should not be difficult now — after all the Republicans have done — to go after them effectively.
It should not be difficult to demonstrate to the American electorate that, if they want the nation to move forward, in a variety of ways the majority desires, they’ve got to take power away from this Republican Party, which has deliberately chosen to hobble the people’s government rather than get anything accomplished.
It should not be difficult to demonstrate that this Republican Party continuously fails what might be called “the founders’ test.” That test would consist of asking: When our founders drew up the Constitution, would they have regarded the way the Republicans have been conducting themselves in our constitutional system as an acceptable example of what they had in mind?
This Republican Party would fail that founders’ test again and again. In particular, there’s no way that the founders would have regarded “If the president is for it, we had to be against it” as passing that test. A nation disabled and adrift in the face of serious challenges is hardly what they had in mind.
The people are angry with “Congress.” But it is only the Republicans in Congress that are refusing to do the people’s business. Show people where the real problem is, and harness their justifiable anger to propel your candidacy, and the candidacies of Democrats seeking to take the Republicans’ seats from them.
You have every political incentive to go after the Republicans to drain their support away. You have every political incentive to demonstrate to Democratic primary voters that you are a leader who can defeat this “outlier” of a political party that’s operated like a wrecking ball on our political system.
Can we at last have a Democratic leader who has a real appetite for the battle that so urgently needs to be fought?*
Footnote: We Democrats do have one important leader who has taken on the Republicans in an loquent, powerful, and appropriate way. That’s Senator Elizabeth Warren.
In March, Senator Warren excoriated the Republican behavior in refusing to do their constitutional duties to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, and connected this disgraceful conduct with their other illegitimate forms of political conduct and with the ugly extremism on display in the Republican presidential contest.
This past week she demolished Ted Cruz after Senator Cruz sent out a smarmy message about all the sacrifices he is making to run for president. And her demolition was framed in a way that highlighted all the right-wing policy positions through which Cruz (and other Republicans) sacrifice other Americans who are struggling to make their lives work.
What Elizabeth Warren is doing is what we need for the Democratic standard-bearer to be doing — using the truth about this grotesque Republican Party to discredit it in the eyes of everyone not too far gone into a right-wing-induced trance to see it.
We can’t have Elizabeth Warren at the top of the ticket this time around. But it sure would be good to have Hillary and Bernie show us how well they can do what she’s doing, and perhaps to put Senator Warren on the ticket in July in the number two spot.