The Democrats – the Focus of Some Fascination
Democrats have become the focus of lots of attention since 2018. Some of this focus is actually because, against all Republican attempts to rig the system in their favor (voter suppression, gerrymandering, propagandizing), Democrats managed to elect a majority to the House of Representatives. Some of this attention arises from the shock of a party who thought they had set up a situation where they would be the majority party in perpetuity going forward. Republicans felt that they had begun the dissolution of the Democratic Party. There was also shock on the part of our president whose ego kept telling him that he was universally beloved.
Republicans clearly will want to attack Democrats in any way they can, in hopes that winning these seats in the House is merely an anomaly or that a blue wave can easily turn red again. Republicans who make all party members memorize “talking points” and pass purity tests are astonished and entertained at the diversity among Democrats and thrilled to speculate that trying to embrace so many voices will be the Party’s downfall.
And the new Democrats, who are seen as almost radicals even by more moderate Democrats, are swimming against lots of speculation in the media about whether the party is actually a big enough tent to include all of the different levels of policy that exist under that tent without splintering in enough pieces to make reelection of Trump inevitable.
The media seems almost as gleeful as the Republican Party at the prospect of a Democratic Party in disarray. They have made Alexandria Ocasio Cortez a darling of the media, but not always out of interest in what she espouses, but rather to present her as the new, extremely radical face of the newest members of the Democratic Party. She also has plenty of poise and gives a very good interview, which adds to her appeal.
Media seems to be setting up a radical v moderate Democratic race for 2020, possibly to split the Democratic vote. Why does the media want to split the Democratic vote? Much of the media is aghast at the behavior and policies of our current president. Is it all about drama and ratings? It is not as if these new ideas have not already been put into place in other modern nations. Many modern nations have far better safety nets than our supposedly enlightened nation does and they function without constant means testing and angst about abuse.
How much do the media’s attempts to get enough information to predict future outcomes contribute to determining future outcomes? We can see that modern media can persuade voters to hold a particular point of view. Given this power it is clear that the media could also function to downplay the distance between younger and older members of the Democratic Party, to help integrate the two views, which are really not as distant as they have been made to appear. Even supposedly objective media figures seem to be playing up the distances between platforms in the Democratic Party.
There has already been much discussion about “socialism”, about AOC’s outspokenness, about radical and outrageous policy ideas like Medicare for All, taxing the rich. Our president remarks, on no less an occasion than the State of the Union address, that we cannot expect to have any legislation going on in Congress at all as long as there are investigations being conducted in the House. The policies that the new members of Congress subscribe to evoke strong reactions. Heresy! Sacrilege! Impossible! Will explode the deficit! Yikes!
But consider the policies the Democrats have already been pursuing: validity of the Trump election, foreign intervention in an American election, collusion to invite foreign intervention in an American election, is the President of the US a criminal, has the President of the US violated the Constitution of the United States, ending voter suppression strategies including extreme gerrymandering, protecting health care (both the ACA and women’s reproductive health), protecting our alliances, protecting the UN, protecting the environment, protesting systemic economic inequality, immigration policies and secure borders, laws about guns to prevent mass shootings, areas of concern that have arisen from having a white supremacist in the presidency such as racism, the #metoo movement as pushback from having a misogynist in the presidency, pushback against appointments of people whose beliefs are antithetical to the agencies they head, reform of overly zealous and racially uneven imprisonment realities.
It is a long list of Democratic concerns, but all of these issues have tended to be the defensive actions of a party that does not have a majority in power. I don’t remember a time when there were so many policies where approaches were so divided along partisan lines. I believe that Republicans are deliberately partisan and unwilling to compromise and that they have a purpose in mind, an undemocratic purpose, which is to make the policies of the right the basis of our entire governance once and for all. I believe that we are basically in a war to determine what “future-America” will be like.
Our president chastises Democrats and insists that they present him with a bipartisan solution to secure our southern border. But the President has already dictated what laws and offerings he will accept. He requires that any border security arrangements include a wall, not something about which there is bipartisan agreement. Therefore, he has already made bipartisanship an impossibility and has bought himself more opportunities to impugn Democrats for being stubborn and inflexible, although the same adjectives surely apply to Trump.
New Democrats in the House could be seen as simply upping the ante in the Party wars which have been steadily escalating in this past decade. New Democrats do not want to be on the defense. They say why don’t we play some offense. Since the Republicans think they have us on the ropes, why not play a little rope-a-dope. AOC says “we can be audacious”. Perhaps she is saying that Democrats have plenty to lose by playing it safe, by simply trying to plug the holes that Republicans are blowing in the protections we have for “we the people”, and by passing policies that blast new holes in protections the people rely on to keep them from exploitation, poverty, and labor abuse. Without a majority in any branch of government, defense was the Party’s only move. But this is a new day, winning the House in 2018 has perhaps given Dems enough encouragement to go on the offensive. The people may be more than ready to accept things that have never actually been offered before.
Medicare-for-all, for example, if implemented could prove as difficult to overturn as any other useful social program. Republicans are not the only ones who oppose it, although they will be fierce in their opposition. Americans may not like the idea of giving up their private health insurance especially if an employer pays. Americans are being told that they will have long waits for treatment and the options for treatment will be curtailed. The private health insurance industry will not go ‘gently into that good night.’ There are many obstacles. However single payer insurance is available in almost every modern industrialized nation so there is plenty of evidence that it can be successful. It will be labelled a socialist program, and the very whiff of socialism, considered anathema by Republicans, may be enough to kill the idea for most Americans.
But Paul Krugman had a few things to say on this topic in this morning’s NYT.
“What Americans who support “socialism” actually want is what the rest of the world calls social democracy: A market economy, but with extreme hardship limited by a strong social safety net and extreme inequality limited by progressive taxation. They want us to look like Denmark or Norway, not Venezuela.”…
“On the other hand, we should never discount the power of dishonesty. Right-wing media will portray whomever the Democrats nominate for president as the second coming of Leon Trotsky, and millions of people will believe them. Let’s just hope that the rest of the media report the clean little secret of American socialism, which is that it isn’t radical at all.”
Just the mention of raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans makes Republicans speechless, if you can imagine that. And the Green New Deal strikes people who don’t believe climate change is caused by human activity as a direct attack on Capitalism and also impossible.
A homeowner with a bully pulpit on the Washington Post opinion page, Megan McArdle, wrote an article today to share how expensive renovation on her own home has been and what had to be done to make her home more energy efficient. She’s right. If we have to pay to retrofit our homes with efficient windows and doors, adequate insulation, solar panels, efficient heating systems, etc. most of us cannot afford to comply with any Green New Deal that requires such things. The Green New Deal seeks to make us rely less on private automobiles and trucks and more reliant on mass transit. This shift will be a difficult one for most Americans. What if the world begins to put pressure on nations that are energy hogs? What if climate change becomes absolutely impossible to ignore? Will that make a Green New Deal more palatable?
The author of the WaPo article says that implementing such policies quickly will inspire chaos and anger. Perhaps if government subsidizes some of these changes they will likely be met with less anxiety, but a slow step-by-step approach could bypass much social upheaval. Will speed of implementation prove to be necessary? How much time will environmental changes allow us? This author also raised the specter of guaranteed pay, another Progressive ask, being greeted with cheers by deadbeats. However there are people who cannot work for many valid reasons. Why should they have to jump through stigmatizing hoops because some people abuse any social program? Why should all social programs be twisted to assume that everyone will want to abuse the system?
There was also this cartoon this morning, which offers AOC a bit of support:
I am not allowed to capture it, so use the following link to see it.
So we are most likely to continue to be inundated by speculations about that Democratic Party full of voices that are all saying different things at the same time. The problem will be not to set a platform in stone until Dems see how public opinion is trending in 2020. By the time of the Democratic convention we can hope that some kind of policy platform is decided on that is acceptable to all members of the party and gives Dems an electable set of initiatives. Too bad Dem party heads are not as good at creating consensus of action (if not thought) as Nancy Pelosi is. There is nothing to be gained from being a meek party, a party on defense. It does seems that if you don’t want the ‘less’ agenda of the Republican Party it is time to go all out and ask for the ‘more’ agenda of the Democratic Socialists. Compromising from the right to the middle is unlikely to solve any of America’s current issues. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez seems to have ideas that offer the most juice for Democrats. Why not be audacious?
Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Fox News