How to Fight Back

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Democratic Party

I’ve been checking in with people whose pre-election comments tell me they perceived what was happening better than most. Among these is Andrew O’Hehir, who tells us now to fight any effort to “normalize” Donald Trump.

At the very least the Trump election is a moment of unprecedented national emergency, and a critical symptom of how badly American political life has decayed. …

… Those who try to assure us that the emergency is not an emergency, or to insist that the enduring institutions of democracy will surely triumph over this mass hallucination, are either cowardly or stupid or have their heads buried somewhere that isn’t the sand. Furthermore, they haven’t been paying attention: Aren’t these the same responsible grownups who understood how things worked in the real world, and who felt sure that Jeb Bush would be the Republican nominee, and that Hillary Clinton would win the election in a historic landslide? At some point, clinging to your broken idols while barbarians ransack the temple just becomes pathetic.

To be more charitable, the “normalizers” are just afraid. Which is understandable; we should all be afraid. We have good reason to be afraid if we are Muslim, if we are gay or lesbian or trans, if we are black, if we are recent immigrants with or without papers. We have good reason to be afraid if people in those communities are our neighbors, our family members, our friends, our loved ones. We have reason to be afraid if we are Americans who do not define that nationality by looking backward to an imaginary past. The question now is how we respond to that fear. What we do with it.

What we’ve done with it so far is to squabble about who is to blame for the crushing defeat of the Democrats in the recent election. I had originally consoled myself by thinking that now, maybe, the Democrats would wake up and become the ideologically left-wing party we have needed them to be for a long time. But if online debates are any indication, probably not. The consensus about what went wrong seems to be forming around voters are just stupid, and we hate them. But I’ll come back to this some other time.

Robert Reich had some concrete advice. Here’s the first bit:

Get Democrats in the Congress and across the country to pledge to oppose Trump’s agenda. Prolong the process of approving choices, draw out hearings, stand up as sanctuary cities and states. Take a stand. Call your senator and your representative (phone calls are always better than writing). Your senator’s number can be found here . Your representative’s number can be found here.

Can’t argue with that. Right now we’ve got to keep pushing Democrats to get some fire in their bellies. And please, please do not be the Democrats who welcomed George W. Bush into the White House in 2000. As a reminder, here is Russel Baker, writing in 2003 about the 2000 election:

It is hard to imagine the Republicans, had the Supreme Court appointed a Democrat to the White House, accepting the decision as meekly as the Democrats accepted the Court’s anointing of Bush. Republicans thrive on combat and have a passion for opposing, which is rooted in all those years of opposing the New and Fair Deals, not to mention Theodore Roosevelt’s “square deal” a century ago. Theirs is a party so dedicated to opposition that it opposes government itself and often seeks power mainly to dismantle a great deal of it. A favorite Republican battle cry is: “Government is the problem!”

Democrats have a flabbier tradition. Congressional Democrats, who might have been the natural source of an opposition to Bush, chose instead to be good sports about the aborted election. They promptly joined the President in granting lavish tax cuts to the richest part of the population, then moved en masse to endorse his request for authority to make the war he wanted in Iraq. After managing to lose the off-year congressional elections of 2002, they settled into a torpor so restful that they are still vexed with Howard Dean for disturbing their peace.

The rest of Reich’s advice is a bit iffier. I don’t blame people wanting to protest, but there was all kinds of protesting during the Bush Administration, and none of it had any effect. I’ll wait and see what happens, but as soon as the megaphones all fall into the hands of 20-something white guys who endlessly repeat the same tired, unoriginal slogans punctuated liberally by the F word hour after hour, I’m so not there. And don’t talk to me about the goofy costumes and the sock puppets.

Do keep speaking up, and flooding local newspapers with op ed contributions (another of Reich’s ideas) can’t hurt.

Todd Gitlin was not especially perceptive before the election, but the advice he has now isn’t bad.

Be on the lookout for all practitioners of bad faith, those who profess innocence and renounce their own responsibility.

Gitlin doesn’t say so, but I say that would be the DNC and most of the Democratic Party, not to mention the rabid Clinton supporters who refused to see what a weak nominee they were pushing on the rest of us.

Confront the media moguls, editors and reporters who delighted in Trump’s spectacle, reveled in the eyeballs they gathered by treating him as a decent and qualified candidate, and then scrambled to wash their hands, bleating all the while that after all, viewers were always free to change the channels.

Yes, election coverage was horrible, as it has been for many years. We need massive media reform, as many of us have been saying going back to the Clinton and Bush II years. I wish George Soros would use his money to do something about that, instead of whatever it is he allegedly spends money on that never works.

Confront the Republicans who covered for this unscrupulous man and bent their knees once they realized they had no plausible deficit hawk to put up against him.

Exactly what Trump does to the true blue conservatives in the GOP remains to be seen, since a lot of his campaign agenda is very different from their agenda.  However, he may very well jettison his campaign agenda and just let Republicans do whatever they want, as long as they don’t get in the way of his business ventures.

This one I disagree with:

Confront also those who, in the name of their fantasy revolution or their plain rage, declined to vote or stood with Jill Stein and Gary Johnson in oblivion, preferred the gestures of nihilism to the hard work of politics that they find boring and corrupt.

Yeah, the Steiniacs in particular were annoying as hell, but unless somebody has new numbers saying otherwise, they had a negligible effect on the election results. They’ve become a handy scapegoat, though.

I’d say right now the most important thing is to try to keep a fire lit under Democrats so that they don’t get flabby, and also to encourage whatever shakeups might still be possible in the DNC.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. KC  •  Nov 26, 2016 @7:28 pm

    Agree on many points. The only point I disagree with is that Clinton was “forced.” She spent a year on a listening tour prior to the primaries to establish relationships with voters in states she needed to win. She also built support with former Congressional colleagues and other superdelegates. This is good politics whether one likes it or not, and contributed to her win.

    Bernie caught fire with a white progressives and millennials, but he didn’t run a perfect campaign. Had he peeled off more congressional support earlier, as Obama did with Kennedy, we likely wouldn’t be pretending the DNC is some all-powerful evil force controlling elections (and sorry, I’ve seen way too much of that nonsense). His extra debates would’ve come easier no doubt, and it’s likely DWS would’ve gone sooner. He also should’ve started sooner too, so he could’ve spread his message, but developed a connection with primary voters he’d need.

    Just my two cents and water under the bridge now.

  2. KC  •  Nov 26, 2016 @7:44 pm

    Agree on many points. The only point I disagree with is that Clinton was “forced.” She spent a year on a listening tour prior to the primaries to establish relationships with voters in states she needed to win. She also built support with former Congressional colleagues and other superdelegates. This is good politics whether one likes it or not, and contributed to her win.

    Bernie caught fire with white progressives and millennials, but he didn’t run a perfect campaign. Had he peeled off more congressional support earlier, as Obama did with Kennedy, we likely wouldn’t be pretending the DNC is some all-powerful evil force controlling elections (and sorry, I’ve seen way too much of that nonsense). His extra debates would’ve come easier no doubt, and it’s likely DWS would’ve gone sooner. He also should’ve started sooner too, so he could’ve spread his message, but developed a connection with primary voters he’d need.

    Just my two cents and water under the bridge now.

  3. Billikin  •  Nov 26, 2016 @9:38 pm

    I have finally come to the conclusion that the Democrats are not inept politicians, it’s just that they don’t care all that much, probably because their donors don’t care all that much. After ’08 they pretty well ceded the field to the Republicans. One thing the Democrats could do is to get poor people registered to vote. I kind of doubt if their donors would approve, however. The Democrats want to invest in the middle class, not the lower class.

    And about Jill Stein. She just might pull this election out for Clinton. It’s a long shot, but we shall see. I would not be surprised if they find computerized voting fraud in both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

  4. Doug  •  Nov 26, 2016 @11:23 pm

    There’s a few more plot twists to the story. It will be interesting what a recount reveals. If he survives,Trump will enter the White House under a darker cloud of suspicion than any president in my lifetime.

    The shadow of Trump being illegitimate – the bastard child of cheating – MAY tempt Bannon into rash action in the inauguration. Trump may even be unaware if thugs are identified, paid and imported by the busload to assault protesters at the inauguration. Counter-violence by anti-Trump protesters will serve Bannon even better as he casts the thugs in the role of victims.

    The word ‘fascist’ has been tossed around – Trump as candidate advocated, incited and defended violence against protesters at his rallies. Trump now has to decide if he’s going to fight the opposition with lawyers or fight the opposition with brown shirts. Despite trash-talking, Trump has always fought with lawyers – he may not have the stomach for what Bannon wants.

    It’s possible Trump is an old fool whose delusions after a reality show put him in a position of power which he will fail at – as many presidents have. Or Trump may have the instincts to turn a position of constitutionally limited power into fascist evil this country has never endured. Sadly, I’m hoping for scandal, corruption and stupidity as the best possible outcome and I’m deeply afraid of the worst possible outcome.

  5. freetofu  •  Nov 27, 2016 @1:12 am

    I agree with this take on Stein:
    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2016/11/the-recounts-are-far-more-likely-to-help-trump-than-hurt-him

    There’s no good reason to believer that there was any cheating through machines, but it is true that a) Clinton got over 2 million more votes than Trump b) there was suppression of minority voters by Republicans, and c) the FBI meddled illegally in the election, and Trump hinted that he knew about this beforehand. So the recount will mainly serve to enhance the appearance of legitimacy to Trump’s victory, and make the Democrats look like hypocrites.

  6. Jill  •  Nov 27, 2016 @8:45 am

    Billikin, I agree about the Democrats. They have shown since 2000 that they are content with just collecting the scraps of corporate cash left over after the GOP has stuffed itself.

  7. Ed  •  Nov 27, 2016 @10:44 am

    Democrats/liberals/progressives lost the battle of ideas long ago. That’s why they want the low IQ immigrants to keep coming. The low IQs are the ones most likely to vote for the only thing that democrats offer, which is government freebies.

  8. c u n d gulag  •  Nov 27, 2016 @12:06 pm

    Ed,
    Go sling that tale in the Appalachians, where people have lived for centurie. They hate the government, and at the same time, collect their SS, SSSB, SSDI, Medicare, Medicaid, S-CHIP, farm aid, etc.
    Maybe they’ll buy that furriners coming here for free handouts. They seem to have liked hearing that thus far.

  9. Tom_b  •  Nov 27, 2016 @2:17 pm

    Ed,

    Sure; the Republicans have all the great ideas:

    Wreck the climate
    Lower taxes on the rich
    Raise taxes on the not-rich
    Start expensive wars
    Wreck education
    Take away peoples’ healthcare
    Especially take away women’ healthcare
    Guns for EVERYONE except blacks
    Bash gays, women, immigrants

    Where do I sign up?

  10. Bill  •  Nov 27, 2016 @4:42 pm

    Be cool if conservative gubmint would just follow thru with their “ideas” and just cut off their constituents to then let the magical prosperity happen. To the constituents I mean.

    What do Michael Moore, PCRoberts and Chomsky have in common? They’re all independent-thinking conspiracy wierdos who see the corporate-government establishment oligarchy as our worst enemy. They also predicted Trump. Maybe not so weird anymore. (Well except for maybe one who I think’s gone round the bend because all good Frankensteins tend to when their beloved creation goes on the destructive rampage. I dunno, maybe one can only repeatedly yell “Oh shit… OH SHIT!…” for so long before becoming a bit addled themselves.)

    Anyways… since the mob appears it will be growing in size and intensity for the indefinite future we probabaly need to also remind the DNC that theirs might be the first castle to go if changes don’t start happening.

  11. csm  •  Nov 28, 2016 @2:33 pm

    In order to “fight back” dems have to untie their hands, bound tightly by corporate lucre, voices gagged with obligations. Being sadomasochists, its not likely.

  12. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Nov 28, 2016 @4:05 pm

    There’s something missing that I think we need to address at length.

    Consider the Republican platform:
    1) taxes must be cut; they’re too high, and we don’t have a taxing problem, we have a spending problem.

    Everyone hates taxes; it’s popular to vote in favor of cutting them. But we all know the notion that we must always cut taxes is based on a lie. By that reasoning, we should immediately eliminate all taxes – there, now they no longer need to be cut.

    So: we know Republicans are lying. But everyone pretends there’s a principal.

    2) “We believe in smaller government; that’s why we’re cutting SNAP (food stamps), for example”.

    One could argue that government that helps people buy food is “too large” – it’s doing something it shouldn’t be doing. But if you agree that the government should help people buy food (and note: this is a very *strong* way to support the free market in food with minimal distortion), then saying they should not have the funding to do so efficiently and effectively is idiocy. And they Republicans are not idiots.

    So we know they’re lying: the professed belief in smaller government is just a cover for cutting whatever program they aren’t in favor of. But we pretend that it’s an actual principle.

    3) The Republicans want to reduce and even eliminate abortion – blatantly false, or they wouldn’t be trying to kill of Planned Parenthood, an organization that prevents far, far more abortions than all the laws the Republicans have passed. They want abortions – they want them difficult and even illegal, because then they can show their dear love for THE PRECIOUS BAAAABIES!!!!!!1!!!11!

    We know this is another lie – but again, we pretend it’s a principle, and even during the Schiavo fiasco, they are punished neither for their lies nor their incompetence, because, hey, “deeply held principle”.

    4) The Republicans want to create jobs in America – why cut taxes, allow tax-free profits in other countries (with promises of huge discounts for bringing profits home every so often), and making trade deals with no rules about slavery free supply chains, or labor/environmental protections?

    They want to create jobs, off shore. And they want enough jobs here to satisfy their supporters. But their concern is to have people able to “wet their beak” in every big spending opportunity – health care (especially medicare! privatizing medicare is *insane* given the efficiency already achieved!), education, infrastructure, etc..

    Each and every opportunity to do this sucks good jobs away, and creates worse outcomes. We know that their talk about “privatization” is a farce, they just want to give away big slices of money. But we keep pretending it’s a sound idea, a deeply held principle.

    What you say above is good – confront, fight back, reject “normalization”. But unless it includes the well known truths to replace the lies being told, we’ll be fighting with fencing foils against claymores.

    (And I don’t necessarily mean the Scottish two-handed sword… they’re also a type of explosive landmine.)



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