It’s hard to see how anyone with their head screwed on straight could be anything other than a Democrat in these times. Of America’s two major parties, only one has the least bit of claim to be honest or decent or constructive– and it sure isn’t today’s Republican Party. And that’s been true now for years.
But it can be pretty frustrating too, being a Democrat. Because for all their virtues, the Democrats have their one major drawback: they’re lousy at fighting the fights that need to be fought, and fighting them with the intensity that the stakes in the battle call for.
This will be one of the notions developed more fully in the new series I’ve lately launched: “Press the Battle: Fighting for the Soul of America(ns).” Two entries in particular talk about this habitual Democratic shortcoming:
These will be posted here in the coming weeks.
In the meanwhile, there’s a particular matter that’s surfaced that seems entirely ripe for Democrats to gird their loins and press the battle with a fierceness that, though it runs counter to the nicey-nicey spirit that’s infused the Democratic Party of our era, the occasion calls for.
Namely, the Democrats should be putting the screws on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his absolutely indefensible wielding of bulls*** for a clearly oath-violating purpose.
For months now, I’ve been watching interviews of Democrats from the House and the Senate where they invariably choose collegial pleasantry over outrage for addressing the blatantly outrageous conduct of their Republican colleagues.
The interviewers have routinely asked Democrats whether they think that if Trump does this or that terrible thing — like fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller — would those Members on the other side of the aisle do anything about it. And almost invariably, they express their “hope” that those Republicans would step up and do their constitutional duty.
What they don’t do is talk about how disgraceful their GOP colleagues have been, at nearly every turn protecting the President rather than the constitutional order they’ve taken an oath to protect.
Nicey-nicey– great upon greeting one’s host and hostess at a dinner party, not so great when the foundations of the American Republic are being endangered by a lawless President and his Republican enablers.
But now at last there’s some movement — that includes some Republicans, including Senator Grassley, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee — to pass a law that would give to this and future such Special Prosecutors some protection from the Saturday-Night-Massacre impulses of any President who wants to place himself above the law.
And into this moment with a glimmer of hope for the Republicans to act responsibly, there enters Senator Mitch McConnell– already infamous for his stealing the Supreme Court by a wanton distortion of the Senate’s role in advising and consenting a President’s nomination to fill a vacant seat on the Court.
Not surprisingly, McConnell’s conduct is scandalous. And not surprisingly, the Democrats have not roused themselves to make of that conduct the scandal it surely should be.
To the idea that the Congress should pass a measure that protects the integrity of the Mueller investigation, McConnell says (as does his counterpart in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan): “I don’t think that’s necessary.”
Which is utter nonsense not just in one but in two — count ’em, two! — ways.
First, as we know that Trump has already twice moved to fire Mueller, there’s no basis whatever for assuming that Mueller and his investigation are in no need of protection.
Second, even if it were to prove true that there’s no need for such a measure, that would be no reason not to enact it. Enacting the unnecessary is without cost. But failing to enact the necessary has a great cost.
That cost is called a “constitutional crisis.”
There should be a punishment for someone in McConnell’s position speaking utter nonsense, and that punishment should take the form of denunciation, ridicule, condemnation, shaming, exposure. Enough to make him squirm. Enough to do him damage.
But the Democrats have imposed no such punishment. Their voices have not even been raised to a level that the American people can hear, so that they will cast upon McConnell with the scornful look he so richly deserves.
Based upon this premise of the utter nonsense that no such measure is necessary, McConnell has gone on to declare that — regardless of what the Senate Judiciary Committee may pass — no such bill will make it to the floor of the United States Senate for a vote.
The premise being hollow, the conclusion can readily be exposed as the betrayal of the nation that it is. McConnell is saying that he doesn’t care whether the nation is plunged into a constitutional crisis that he could have helped to prevent.
That indifference to the integrity of the American constitutional order warrants punishment even more than his uttering b.s. to provide a fig leaf to cover up his true motivations in putting his political calculations above honoring his oath of office.
But from the Democrats, the voices remain muffled and cordial.
Is there any excuse for the Democratic failure to press the battle with the ferocity that this perilous endangerment of our constitutional system warrants?
I know that there are customs in the Congress, and especially in the Senate, having to do with cordiality and collegiality. “My friend, the Senator from…” one says on the floor, when there may be no friendship. And no doubt there are good reasons for such customs.
Have the Democrats, in taking McConnell to task, even raised their voices up to the boundaries of the permissible level of attack? That seems doubtful to me.
And regardless, when a constitutional crisis needs to be averted, should the dictates of such senatorial custom outweigh the urgency of the nation’s need?
I’ve seen no signs that nicey-nicey treatment of Republicans behaving disgracefully has had any salutary effect on how they will behave. Not lately, and not for the past generation.
Rather, that nicey-nicey way of dealing with disgraceful and scandalous Republican conduct — of which we’ve seen plenty since the 1990s — appears to enable what the nation needs changed.
This enabling is the Democratic contribution to the national crisis into which America has been descending for years. And it is the character flaw in the Democratic Party that fosters this weak, enabling approach that we Democrats most urgently need to change in our Party.