We’re six months out from the November election—and already the you-know-what has started. Nobody knows (at least nobody who can talk!) what will happen in the next six months: how primary elections on both sides will shake out, what will happen with the Mueller investigation, who will turn out. Indicators have been generally good for Team Blue, but lots of people here have Charlie Brown syndrome, and expect that Lucy will show up sooner or later and snatch the football away.
And of course, the other side will use every means at it’s disposal to do so. And they are starting to already. The recent Reuters poll—even though it was released with a big fat asterisk (it had an unusual sample composition—this happens, but reputable polling firms don’t suppress their outliers or otherwise try to make the results more “respectable”), has a few folks concerned, and a smaller number freaking out.
But at any sign of a movement in the polls in the GOP direction, expect the following narratives to come crashing down like waves in a heavy sea:
- The Democrats Are Incompetent And Are About To Snatch Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory
- The Democrats are Weak, Corrupt, Feckless, Craven, Cowardly, or Immoral
- Certain factions of Democrats are responsible for the first two. (For the purposes of this diary, I will try VERY hard to avoid taking any sides in any pie fights).
- The Democrats Don’t Understand The “Common Man”, are Out Of Touch, are Elitist, etc.
- The Democrats Suck At Messaging.
- The Democrats Have Horrible Agenda X (where X is generally not something that is a key plank of the party; is something unpopular, and is something supported by someone in the broader left-liberal coalition).
Some of this will come from outside provocateurs and trolls. Some of it will come from openly right-leaning media sources and commentators. And some will come from inside, often times from well-meaning actors trying to nudge the party in one direction or another.
Before diving into this rathole, it’s worth examining critically some of the above.
First, what does it mean that the “Democrats suck at messaging”? That candidates and office-holders don’t give speeches enough, or say the wrong things in their speeches, or are insufficiently skilled at oratory (or are insufficiently charismatic) that even the “correct” message misses its target? That Democratic advertising and campaigning is likewise off the mark? Or does this mean that key Democratic messages aren’t given enough play in the media? If you think it’s the former and not the latter, pay more attention—there’s a whole lot of Democratic and leftist messaging and discourse that simply is kept off the television and out of the newspapers.
Second, what does it mean that the Dems are weak/corrupt/feckless, etc. I’m not talking about specific policy disputes here; I’m talking about the generic charge that Democratic candidates and officeholders, when you get down to it, are people who if elected cannot be counted on to do the right thing. Perhaps that’s true of some—but have you seen the other side? Republicans officeholders—including Trump on down, and with few exceptions—generally can be counted on to do the WRONG things most of the time. And that still is true even if you analyze them from the view of Republican voters—many GOP voters are constantly outraged by the betrayals against their pet causes perpetrated by their own party. Yet it seems that the other side can run devils, and if our candidates aren’t perfect angels—in the view of everyone—we start convincing ourselves they can’t win.
I hope I don’t have to explain why references to “the common man” is a loaded term. As it is frequently used in American political discourse, it generally refers to blue-collar whites. While the Democrats need to represent the concerns of the working class, which is in large part blue collar; this particular faction is the recipient of a lot of propoganda trying to convince them that the Democrats oppose their interests in a zero-sum battle for cultural and political supremacy.
And alleged “incompetence” is often simply a summation of all of the above, coupled with barbs at specific party leaders, many of whom aren’t even on the ballot (or who are in safe seats).
Think about it people. Trump is highly unpopular and polarizing; even with the outlier poll published by Reuters his overall approval rating is negative. We’ve been clobbering the GOP in special election after special election—even the seats the GOP has held have been deep-red precincts that the Republicans carried by a narrow margin. Many people who voted for him are having second thoughts—and the folks who are sticking with him are generally—as Hillary put it—deplorable. Racists, religious bigots, Randian uber-capitalists, or some combination of the three. Yet the media likes to proclaim—and it’s going to get worse—that the Democrats are so horrible and so clueless that they cannot defeat this? That despite being out of power, the failure to properly speechify or hit the right notes in a political campaign, will amount to a political own goal of epic proportions? Even with the “give him a chance, he might not be bad” card off the table? That in whatever district, the local Democrat running for office just ain’t right—so might as well let the Republican win?
This, folks, is rat-fucking. And many of us seem eager to be convinced of our own collective incompetence.
Many middle-school bullies are fond of a game called “why are you beating yourself”, in which they grab a victim (who is too physically weak to resist this abuse), batter him with his own arm, and ask him why he is beating himself. Many of the bullies that dominate (or try to) our political discourse like to play the same game, and some of us are dumb enough to fall for it. Why are we beating ourselves, indeed?
Primary season is almost over. Push back against media claims that Democrats or liberals are stupid or cowards. Whatever we may be, the other side is worse. (And don’t expect the media to help much—half of it are GOP shills; the other half are corporate whores who, while not liking Trump much, don’t really like us either and will shank us whenever they can). Resist the temptation to wage intra-party squabbles during the general election season; there’s a far more important battle to fight. Resist the temptation to abandon the fight against evil, because some of those you ride to battle with aren’t as morally or politically pure as you would like. Resist the strident demands that the Democratic Party always and forever bring knives to gunfights. And resist the notion that our standard-bearers must be perfect heroes or heroines who will jump on any grenade lobbed their way. There’s a scene in the first Shrek movie where Fiona is outraged that Shrek rescues her from the dragon without facing the beast head-on; and makes it clear that it simply wouldn’t be a proper rescue without the knight being barbecued first. Don’t be like that.
After all, it won’t be Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer or Bernie or Biden or Adam Schiff or Ted Lieu or Sherrod Brown or Kamela Harris or even Robert Mueller III who rescues America from Trump. It will be the American people who do so, by voting him and his enablers out of office. Lots of people, between now and November, will try and convince you that you lack this power, and that if you choose to exercise it nothing will improve. Some of you—out of cool cynicism, some out of despair—will choose to believe this.
Don’t. If voting didn’t matter, the right wing wouldn’t be working so hard trying to convince you that it doesn’t. Remember: Trump and his minions remain a grave threat to this country. Many of his rats are jumping off a foundering ship. But only you can fire the torpedos that will send it to the briny bottom.