Only the Democratic Party is in a position to protect the nation from the palpable danger into which the Trump Crisis has placed us. I am hopeful– the fire in the hearts of Democratic leaders seem to be intensifying.
But I also worry. I worry because it is far from clear that the Democrats have cured themselves of the weaknesses that – over the past generation — enabled a Trump Party to arise.
Here are some worrisome signs.
1) The Democrats seem still not to have comprehended a quite obvious and important truth: That the Republican Party’s being able to gain power — even while behaving ever more disgracefully — is clear proof of a major political failure by the Democrats.
In a two-party nation, where power is allotted through the votes of the people, one party cannot gain power — while behaving increasingly badly — unless the other party somehow enabled it.
How could that not be the case? It should not be impossible to get a decent people to recognize and reject bad behavior.
But the Democrats really hardly even tried. Given the extreme nature of what was rising on the right — assaulting our basic democratic values, our basic political norms, even the constitutional order, tearing our social fabric and even undermining our national security – the Democrats’ efforts to expose and discredit it were wholly inadequate.
2) That obvious truth should have the Democrats asking a very obvious and important question:
“How did we fail in the political battle? What could we have done to have made the Republicans pay a political price for bad behavior, rather than being repeatedly rewarded for their bad behavior and therefore gaining in power?
But that question has hardly been raised at all.
Those two points — #s 1 and 2 — show a remarkable lack of awareness among Democrats that if one party moves toward moral bankruptcy, it is the other party’s job to protect the nation. (In a two-party nation, they are the only political power in a position to do it.)
3) In their consistent failure to fight the necessary fight, Democratic leaders have demonstrated that same lack of awareness.
Consider President Obama:
For all his being a most likeable, extremely decent, impeccably responsible, and often impressive guy, President Obama forfeited — to an almost incredible degree — many necessary battles against an opposition that has been unprecedentedly destructive and dishonest. (Really, it blew my mind how he never treated as enemies an opposition that unfailingly treated him as an enemy, a Republican Party trying continuously to destroy his presidency.)
He never treated the Republicans’ across-the-board obstructionism as the unprecedented, and indefensibly unpatriotic policy that it was. He never denounced their blatant indifference to moving the nation forward. He never called them out for the contempt they were showing for the will of the people, who’d hired someone for a most important job.
Unchecked, this unprecedented obstructionism eventually led to the unprecedented theft of a Supreme Court seat, where the Republicans employed a distortion of the role of “advise and consent” that was clearly contrary to the intent of the founders.
And as this grab for power, undermining our constitutional order, was ongoing, Obama never made a real fight. He never raised a loud hue and cry, never took the Republicans to the Supreme Court, never made sure the American people saw McConnell’s move for the unprecedented act of theft that it was.
We can now see how much territory – territory it was Obama’s job to defend— was lost. The stakes in that unfought battle are revealed by all the 5-4 decisions that would have gone the other way — would have, had the Democrats successfully defended the power that was rightfully theirs by virtue of that seat on the Court becoming open while the Democratic winner of the 2012 presidential election was still in office.
4) The evidence shows, however, that the Democratic leadership have not been the only ones who failed to see the fight that needed to be fought. Most of the Democratic base – perhaps until now – failed as well.
One heard no clamor from Liberal America, calling upon Obama to stop forfeiting all those battles against a Republican Party behaving in unprecedented, nation-damaging, and fundamentally indefensible ways.
And even now — with Obama out of office — his extraordinary popularity with Democrats indicates no general recognition that Obama – great guy that he is – was enabling the darkness we now see: enabling the creation of a Republican base that would like what they saw when they saw an atrocity like Trump offering himself as President, enabling the rise of the Trump Party.
Liberal America does not seem to recognize that the increasing power of that force of destruction – while Obama was President, possessing the bully pulpit — says something quite vitally important about Obama’s leadership.
5) So are the Democrats yet ready to provide the nation the leadership it needs to extricate America from the darkness of these times?
When it comes to the current process by which the Democrats will be picking new leadership for the 2020 race, with almost every fundamental value on the line –
- the rule of law vs lawlessness,
- a just distribution of power and wealth vs plutocracy and a widening inequality gap,
- racial harmony vs. racial hatred,
- truthfulness vs. deceitful manipulation,
- compassionate treatment of vulnerable people vs. cruelty,
- protecting the constitutional order vs. assaulting it,
- protecting the integrity of earth’s biosphere on which we depend vs. endangering the future for short-term profits –
— will the Democratic base recognize that what is required, above all, is that the Party nominate whichever man or woman shows that they have what it takes to fight and defeat the force that has degraded so much in America?