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The Political Costs of Discouraging the Democratic Base


Fires that Need Rekindling

Remember the way the election of Donald Trump sparked a powerful reaction of activation and determination from millions of people who felt passionately that Donald Trump does not represent what America should be.

The “Women’s March” the day after the Inauguration, bringing huge throngs into the streets, was the first powerful sign.

Then came the mighty Democratic voter turnouts in the post-2016 Special Elections, culminating in the Democratic blowout in the 2018 election. A crucial election had handed control of the House of Representatives to a political Party that was anti-Trump, pro rule of law, pro Constitution, pro truth-telling; had created a Democratic majority in a position to hold this President accountable before the American people.

The rising of these passions represented a vitally important component of the effort of “the Good” to fight back against Evil in America. If America was going to repudiate the direction taken in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency  — a criminal, lying, bullying malignant narcissist, and abetted by a Republican Party that had long ago shown its moral bankruptcy, showed it cared only about its own power  — an essential part of the process had to be some such uprising up of the American people to defendthe better angels of America’s nature.

And, indeed, the people rose up, refusing to yield to despair, filled with righteous passion.

It was that force of people’s passion to turn back the dark forces — forces that by 2017 had taken control of every component of the nation’s government — that brought Democrats into control of the House of Representatives.

Now, with control of the House, at last we had a weapon — with all its powers and prerogatives, including most especially the power to impeach — with which to hold a lawless President accountable. Hopes swelled.

But of course, what has unfolded since a Democratic Speaker took control of the gavel has fallen far short of the vision of righteousness reasserting itself that kindled the passions of those who drove the Democratic wave/tsunami.

The conduct of the Democrats in the House — led by Speaker Pelosi — has been a real let down.

Squandering a Big Opportunity, Leaving No Discernible Impact

The Democrats do plod forward — asking questions and making statements, issuing subpoenas and filing suits — but it does not come across much as a full-out waging of battle.

  • The Democrats do not impeach.
  • Nor do they act as if they are confronting any urgent constitutional crisis, or national emergency, that calls for haste.
  • And despite the continuing spectacle of unprecedented presidential lawlessness, the voices of the Democrats seem muted.
  • While the President pulls out all the stops to obstruct justice, the Democrats in the House decline to use the power of “inherent contempt” to combat the Trump gang’s across-the-board refusal to honor Congress’s constitutional and legal powers.

The Democrats’ effort has been well-short of all-out, and the results thus far have been quite meager:

Despite the Mueller Report, much of the American public has been exposed to very little of the picture of Trump’s wrong-doing. The combination of the publication of the Mueller Report and the Democratic control of the House has done little to move the needle of public opinion.

Millions hoped that at last Trump and the Trump Party would no longer be able to get away with so much disgraceful behavior. But Trump and company appear to be getting away with plenty.

Trump seems to have maintained his standing. His chances for re-election are frighteningly high, according to the futures markets, and, if anything, have been rising.

(It seems that all the arguments that the present approach is the path to political success seem to be based on what some people imagine will develop further down the path. There’s little support to be found for that optimism in what’s already happened.)

Yet, it is being said, more and more frequently, that the Democratic Speaker of the House — wanting the issue of impeachment to just disappear — wants to continue on the present muted course, and to concentrate on dealing with Trump in her preferred way, by defeating him the 2020 election.

But that approach may be draining away the very fuel that brought the Democrats victory in 2018 and that they may need to prevail in 2020.

With polls indicating that 2/3 of Democrats want the impeachment process begin, it is not surprising that observers have noted that discouragement of the Democratic base has set in.

Discouragement meaning loss of heart. And this battle against Trump is one for which the heart has been — throughout — a major source of our power. Women’s March, 2018 blowout. And now, 2/3 for impeachment proceedings.

If it was the passions burning in the hearts of the Democratic base that gave Pelosi the speakership after the 2018 election, it would seem that Pelosi’s putting out those fires by disheartening that Democratic 2/3 makes it less likely that Pelosi will gain the 2020 victory that seems to be her focal goal.

So, setting aside the obligations of the “oath of office,” and setting aside the multiple threats to the nation represented by Donald Trump’s presidency (of which the undermining of the Constitution and the rule of law is but one), and considering only the Democrats’ political calculus: The need to rekindle those fires is one important political reason to look for a new Democratic leadership to rehearten the disheartened.

(And to this political reason involving the disheartening of the Democratic base might be added the political reason, which I argued in an earlier piece, that a large segment of the American electorate seems to favor the strong-though-immoral over the good-but-weak.)

Where to find new leadership? (Given the assumptions that Nancy Pelosi will remain speaker, that she will continue to oppose impeachment, and that the other Democrats in the House will remain in line behind their otherwise much-respected Speaker.)

I propose that, under the present circumstances, the leadership that’s needed can best be provided from among the 2020 contenders for the Democratic nomination for President. It is an opportunity for them to step up and demonstrate that they are the leaders we need.

More on what that might look like — and in particular who looks capable of providing it — coming up.


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