The Democrats are getting a lot of flack. Outrage after outrage on the part of Republicans is repeatedly met with questioning why Democrats haven’t done more to make things better. As though, somehow, the Democrats are in charge. And, with the election apparently tightening, people are aghast, as well they should be, that the race is even this close. Trump has demonstrated time again his stunning unfitness for the position. Somehow, the Democrats get blamed for doing something wrong.
It’s understandable. People feel the world slipping out of control and are trying to influence what can be influenced. The pointed and angry commentary at the Democrats, however misguided, is in one sense an admission that the other side — Trump voters — are not persuadable. But that should absolve the Democrats, not be a reason to condemn them.
If no rational reason to vote for Trump exists, then they voted for Trump on irrational reasons. What can Democrats do in the face of that? Democrats can throw all the rationality they have at that and not make a dent. Irrational is as irrational does. Any psychiatrist will tell you, you can’t argue with the psychosis. It’s a losing proposition for all concerned. Hillary Clinton is manifestly more competent and, in 2016, she ran a manifestly better campaign than Donald Trump. But a sizeable enough portion of the electorate voted for Donald Trump. They are immune to the better campaign. Joe Biden, now, is in the same position.
The election will come down to who believes Trumps lies. What responsibility do Democrats have other than to tell the truth?
The Democratic party is the one side of the struggle that makes the choice to live in reality and they try, by and large, to tell the truth. And they have the numbers behind them, winning the popular vote in four of the last five presidential elections. But, in electoral campaigns at least, the truth isn’t dispositive nor is the popular vote. Quite the opposite, as the long national history of false narrative as blunt force trauma from the Right shows: from dog-whistles and whisper campaigns to outright bigotry and authoritarianism, fear and anger have long been stoked to a white-hot fury.
Trump is just the bluntest liar. But Trump isn’t lying to any Democrats. He’s lying about Democrats. He’s lying to his own side in the hope of ginning up that heap of fear and smear and anger. The election will come down to who believes Trumps lies. What responsibility do Democrats have other than to tell the truth? What power do the Democrats have to compel voters to listen to the truth?
And then there’s the mainstream media. They contort themselves into all manner of knots and tangles, trying to simultaneously play gotcha while making pretense to objectivity. Both-sider-ism is accusatory and passive aggressive at the same time. It can’t really be done with any coherence. Aside from letting the Republicans off for their malign behavior it’s a confused narrative that enrages as often as it informs. As outrageously false and even simpleminded as it is, FOX News takes a clear point of view. It has a narrative — however false — that people can follow.
But the worst sin of the mainstream media is the horse-race coverage of the elections and the near complete elision of the vast difference between what the Republicans and the Democrats actually do in office. For instance, the last time the Democrats had both the House and the Senate was one of the most productive legislatures since the New Deal. By way of contrast, the ten years since then, when either government was divided or when controlled by the Republicans, have been the least productive legislatures, EVER. For the mainstream media to point this out would not be taking sides but reporting facts.
But they don’t. The mainstream media is all about campaign tactics and positioning, feint and counterfeint and marketing. All the things that are only about the campaigning and, actually, not at all part of the job of legislator.
With all the gerrymandering, billionaires, voter suppression, the electoral college, and the vast array of right wing media, as well as the fusillade of lies coming from the President, it’s something of a miracle the Democrats get elected at all. If we had a straight electoral process, absent the skullduggery that generally helps the Republicans, it would be all Democrats all the time. Then we can have fights within and among ourselves about how best to, you know, legislate: pass laws that help people instead of letting them hurt. We could even have the Democrats splinter into other parties so that we wouldn’t have a party trying to contain both Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We wouldn’t have to pretend Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are all that close, idealogically.
Instead we fight amongst ourselves about what should be done and who should do it to get the job, rather than who would be better on the job. We criticize each other for perceived failings and inability to persuade the unpersuadable.
If Trump wins in November, it won’t be the fault of the Democrats. It will be the fault of the people who vote for Trump and who are, apparently, immune to logic and common sense.