An article on Huffington Post, bearing the title “Whoopi Goldberg Tells Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to ‘Sit Still’ and ‘Learn the Job,'” is worth reading for its inadvertent demonstration of a defect one finds too often in liberal understanding of how we got to this dangerous moment in American history.
“Learn the Job,” Whoopi suggests. I don’t know if Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is neglecting any part of her task of learning about her congressional tasks. But surely one part of the task we need our Democrats in Congress to do well is to get the best of the Republicans when they launch their usual (and usually baseless and unfair) personal attacks on any Democrats who gain the national spotlight.
And on this part of the task, AOC (as she’s now being called for those into the whole brevity thing) is performing exceptionally well.
That counts for a lot, since this is a part of the task at which Democrats have been abysmally ineffective for years, to great cost.
(Cost such as what the whole nation is now paying for the effectiveness with which Hillary Clinton was demonized, and that the nation paid for the successful delegitimization — in the eyes of too many Americans — of President Obama.)
Whoopi’s response to AOC focused, however, not on AOC’s effective ripostes to her Republican attackers and belittlers. She addressed, rather, the young congresswoman’s critique of her Democratic elders. “Something new” should be tried, the 29-year-old had told an interview, because “we know so much of what we’ve tried in the past hasn’t worked.”
Whoopi thought AOC was not giving her Democratic predecessors the credit they deserve. Ms. Goldberg sees AOC’s critique as claiming that “the Democrats have done nothing, the establishment of the Democrats have done nothing.” But in fact, Whoopi said, there are a lot of people in the Democratic Party who have been “busting their asses.”
I am a fan of Whoopi Goldberg, but here she seems to miss the point. Much bigger than a point, actually. More like the proverbial Elephant in the Room.
No one is accusing the Democrats of this era of laziness. So it is irrelevant even though it is true that a lot of people in the Democratic Party have been busting their asses.
The vital reality is not that Democrats have not worked hard, but that for most of the past generation, they have lost so much ground.
How can that not be true if we’re having to fight to protect the basic accomplishments of the New Deal (like Social Security)?
And having to fight for an EPA that does what even Richard Nixon established it to do, i.e. protect, and not dismantle, the environment?
And so on, with Democrats finding their backs against their own end zone on issue after issue.
Is it not obvious that the Democrats’ way of fighting in this era (at least up until this fight against Trump) has been disastrously ineffectual?
How else to explain that by November of 2016, the Republicans controlled all of the federal government and the great majority of the states– even while becoming the most disgraceful political party any of us have ever seen in any advanced democratic nation?
In the light of all that recent history, of course Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right that something about how Democrats have been operating has not been “working.” And of course she’s right that something different is called for.
And the first different thing that’s called for is for the Democrats — and people like Whoopi Goldberg — to recognize how profound has been the failure of the Democratic Party to protect the nation against the Republicans.
An essential part of that task of protection means making the Republicans look as bad in the eyes of the American public as they surely will in the eyes of history.
And AOC’s clever rejoinders to Republican attacks look to me like a worthy contribution to meeting that urgent need for Democratic effectiveness in that fight. And so does her call for the Democrats to examine how they might need to change.
(More coming soon about my concern — which things like Whoopi’s critique of AOC serve to heighten — about whether the Democrats are ready to fight this fight right.)