Home Donald Trump The Spanberger Discussion and the Challenge We Democrats Face

The Spanberger Discussion and the Challenge We Democrats Face

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I wouldn’t have expected to come under as much attack as I did from commenters on my piece, “Is Spanberger’s Care Not to Offend Trump Supporters a Good Choice.”  After all, I was consistent in conceding that she might be right, and I wrong, about the strategic wisdom of her avoiding crossing Trump supporters.

And let me be clear, I wish Spanberger all the best– I hope she wins next time out and enjoys a long tenure in the Congress. (I also recognize that her winning the 7th as a Democrat was an accomplishment, even under the circumstances that created a Blue Tsunami nationwide.)

But perhaps I ought not to have been surprised at the attacks.

Despite those attacks, or perhaps because of them, I think that discussion worth pursuing further. For it provides an entry way into a general issue of some importance.

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It seems to me something was missing in the responses from her defenders here: shouldn’t there have at least been some acknowledgement that Spanberger might have handled herself better on the radio show in question (“The John Fredericks Show”)?

Let’s recall that this entire subject of what happened on that show arose here on Blue Virginia because of an article that Lowell posted about how “Right-Wing Radio Host Mischaracterizes Rep. Spanberger’s Words Re: Trump Being a Racist.”

It is clear that Lowell felt that what happened was not a good thing. That’s clear because what happened led him to declare that “Democrats should absolutely *not* go on right-wing media.”

Lowell’s emphasis was doubtless on the point that you can’t trust the right-wing host to be intellectually honest. But it seems fairly clear that he sees Spanberger as playing a role in what happened.

After all, Lowell thoroughly reviews how Spanberger answered the question that was posed to her (“Is Trump a racist?) and describes her answer as being made up of weak words and weak sentences, whose meaning was unclear.

Those weak words and weak sentences, it seems clear, helped open the door for Fredericks to misrepresent what she said, claiming that she’d absolved Trump of racism. Lowell effectively shows that, while she didn’t say yes, she didn’t actually say “No” either, as Fredericks falsely claimed.

Doesn’t that mean that Spanberger should have spoken the obviously and importantly true answer in some way that was clear enough to prevent Fredericks from misrepresenting her comments as he did?

In any event, the bottom line is this: Rep. Spanberger went into “enemy territory” and what happened left Lowell Feld understandably regretting that this Democrat had gone onto Right-wing media.

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My purpose here is not to criticize Spanberger (who surely would have my vote if I lived in VA-07) but rather to use this as one more specific illustration of what I’ve believed for years to be the most important point to make to Liberal America and its political arm, the Democratic Party:

  • that our response to the rising evil on the right has been consistently too weak and insufficiently confrontational,
  • that we have been consistently outfought by a Republican Party that has gone all out to extend its (destructive) power, and
  • that, as a result, our values have lost so much ground over the past generation that we’ve gotten to the point of having an unthinkable Trump Presidency supported by an unthinkable Trump Party with even the future of our constitutional order at stake.

So it is in that context — and for that larger point — that I raised the issue of Spanberger’s tip-toeing around Trump’s racism.

I thought it possible, though I admitted I might be mistaken, that Spanberger’s performance should be seen as an instance of that more general problem in American politics: how the Democrats have shrunk — so many times and in so many ways — from calling out the Republican evils, with disastrous results, including

  • The failure to prosecute crimes committed at the highest levels during the George W. Bush presidency (“look forward,” said the new president in 2009, to keep the peace);
  • The disastrous 2010 election campaign (don’t call out the completely disgraceful conduct of the Republicans on Obamacare);
  • the disastrous 2014 election campaign (don’t make an issue of the unprecedented obstructionism of the Republicans, clearly putting their own quest for power ahead of the good of the nation);
  • the theft of a Supreme Court seat (and thereby the whole Court) through an abuse of the Constitution (not raising a high-decibel hue and cry, including taking McConnell and the Republicans to Court, over an unprecedented and unconstitutional exercise of “advise and consent”); and until recently
  • a reticence to impeach even after the President went all-out with unprecedented complete denial of Congress’s clear constitutional and legal authority and powers (despite the oath of office and despite the President going all-out in flagrant violation of law and Constitution, and despite the original crimes to place himself above the law, the Dems holding back as if not impeaching were a legitimate option with this wantonly impeachable President)

(I’ve critiqued each of these as they were happening, and back in late April I made the general case in the article, “Hoping This Time the Democrats Avoid Their ‘Characteristic Error’.”

It is very telling, and I think relevant to this discussion, that not only have Democratic leaders and office-holders consistently made the same mistake of not pressing the battle, with disastrous results, but most of the Democratic base has never seen anything wrong with how the Democrats were conducting the battle.

(For example, the huge regard with which Barack Obama is held in the Democratic base – and don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a great guy and I feel considerable fondness for him – does not seem at all tempered by any recognition that Obama fundamentally forfeited the battle against the Republicans who were his sworn enemies, and who sought to make him fail, and who robbed him as fully as they could of his ability to perform the role of President — and that, in this way, Obama enabled the further darkening of the already destructive Republican Party.)

That lack of recognition means that whatever it is that has disabled their leaders from protecting the nation against an evil force infects the Democratic base and Liberal America as well.

So I’m seeing a possible two-fold relevance of this discussion:

  • maybe Spanberger’s performance on “The John Fredericks Show” exemplified that larger problem of how the Democrats have dealt with the disgraceful behavior of the Republicans over the past generation.
  • and maybe the comments on that earlier thread – in which her defenders gave no indication that they would have wanted Spanberger to have answered that question differently on that right-wing radio show – illustrates the more general failure of the Democratic base to encourage and support their leaders to wage their part of the battle more powerfully.

I’d ask those people: Can you imagine no way for a Democrat to deal with that question that would have worked well for our side?

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I concede the possibility that this instance doesn’t exemplify so extremely well the more general problems with the Democrats that I’m pointing to. But, whether I’m on base or off base on this specific instance, it seems to me certain that — as we endeavor to save American democracy from the morally bankrupt force that presently dominates the American power system – we should be mindful of this incontrovertible truth:

Liberal America has played a role in creating this national crisis of evil gaining so much power. 

They (We) have played that role not by being evil, but by failing to fight that destructive force effectively.

How could that not be true?

If one of America’s major political parties in our two-party democracy gets taken over by evil, then it must fall to America’s other major political party to protect the nation.

For the political battle – in a democracy with a two-party system — to have culminated in such unthinkable brokenness necessarily bespeaks a failure of political rhetoric – words to reach and move the electorate — by the healthier, saner, more virtuous party.

As power in America is awarded through popular elections, it has been up to the Democratic Party to use the rhetoric necessary to assure that evil gets punished and not rewarded.

When evil gets rewarded, it grows. And if it grows unchecked long enough, it can even bring us to the unthinkable place we’re at now, with a Trump Presidency and a Trump Party and a Trump base that has gone – in some political sense – off the deep end.

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“Is Trump a racist?” The question is asked at a moment when the President has manifestly been stoking racial hatred and has inspired a terrible hate-crime. The truth – expressed clearly, however tactfully or boldly — seems important here.

An important truth — like so many other truths of recent years that have not penetrated the American body politic thoroughly enough to prevent evil from rising to power in America beyond anything we ever thought possible.