Listen, I know it looked bad there, losing the Virginia governorship to a low-down culture-warring scoundrel of a Trumpanista who lied, lied, lied, while carrying on about Critical Race Theory all the live-long day, the better to frighten the Caucasians back into the fold, especially when Biden took the state by something like 10+ points in 2020. But hey, we hung on to New Jersey, albeit by the hairs of our chinny-chin-chins, and that ain’t bad, it being a plain historical fact that whoever wins the White House loses the subsequent off-year gubernatorial contests, going back decades now – in fact, Biden is the first President since Reagan whose party didn’t lose Jersey too the next year, so there’s that. And yes, the Dems clearly have issues with their messaging, losing, time and again, the propaganda battle to the GOP racists and fear-mongers who routinely fight dirty and have no ideas of their own to offer, which, sadly, doesn’t ever seem to matter. Politics Girl, brilliant as ever, certainly has a point here:
And yes, oh boy yes indeed, the legislative shenanigans on Friday were enough to make anybody fish around the top drawer for that loaded revolver, with so-called “moderates” among the house Dems refusing to vote on Biden’s human infrastructure bill until they got satisfactory feedback from the GAO on how it was all going to be paid for (like that ever mattered to anybody in Congress before), while the progressives counter-threatened to once again refuse to vote on the hard infrastructure bill – something already Senate-approved, and thus a juicy piece of low-hanging fruit just begging to be sent upstream to Biden’s desk for signature – unless the moderates gave way on Build Back Better. For a while there, it looked like yet again, for the love of God, nothing was going to get done. AAAAGH. End of the day, though (quite literally, sometime after 11:30 PM), the progressives bowed to common sense, the trillion dollar infrastructure bill was passed, and now they have something truly significant and undeniably important to brag about. I’m here to insist today that Build Back Better will soon be passed too, maybe even before U.S. Thanksgiving, and despite Manchin and Sinema; and no matter how pared down from the original vision, that’s going to be a hell of a big f’ing deal that makes a real, palpable difference in people’s lives. Even before that happens, look at what the Dems can already boast about, as laid out by NBC’s ever-astute business anchor Stephanie Ruhle:
Those five million new jobs in only ten months – a record, by the way – have decreased unemployment to less than 5%, better than pre-pandemic levels and approaching economic “full employment” territory, despite literally millions of Americans quitting their shitty minimum wage jobs in what’s come to be known as the Great Resignation, an artifact, perhaps, of everybody gaining some desperately needed perspective during the previous months of lockdown. As always, the Democrats are delivering good government and tangible progress, and at some point that has to matter, if only they can learn to sell it properly. It has to.
I’m not saying we don’t have a pitched, uncertain battle on our hands here. After all, the Republicans come into this fray with a couple of huge advantages.
First, while making inroads with Hispanics of late, the GOP remains a fairly homogeneous collection of white rural voters without post-secondary education, while the Dems, in America’s ludicrous two party system, are left to erect a big tent to shelter literally everybody else, a political base so diverse that it’s become a cliché to quip that in Europe, there’d be six or seven distinct parties serving the same breadth of interests. Thus the donkeys tend to look fractious, feckless, indecisive, and prone to endless gridlocked intramural squabbling, while the elephants appear resolute, consistent, and relentlessly on-message, all of them spewing the same coherent talking points, and running the same plays as dictated from Trump/Elephant Galactic Headquarters.
Second, the GOP seeks not to govern, and not to formulate policy, but merely to capitalize on the militant ignorance of their electorate while inflaming fears and irrational passions with a witches brew of lies and disinformation. The election was stolen! They want white children to hate themselves! Critical Race Theory is now on the kindergarten curriculum! All government programs are socialism, which is the same as communism, which is the same as tyranny! Your country is being stolen! Transsexual perverts want to hang out in public washrooms and molest your kids! There was no insurrection on January 6! Vaccines aren’t necessary! The pandemic isn’t real! It’s all lies! Freedom! USA! USA! Not only does that shit work with the folks they’re trying to galvanize, it’s just so magnificently easy. The poor Dems, on the other hand, keep on trying to come up with real world policy prescriptions that might improve ordinary folks’ lives, day to day, while also attempting, when it comes to things like the climate change that the GOP insists isn’t real, to save the whole frickin’ world before its too late. Try doing all that while pleasing everybody who votes for Manchin and simultaneously placating the ones who prefer AOC. Try even making the whole range of complex issues at all clear to the lay public, and holding their interest while explaining how your proposals would create positive outcomes. Let’s face it, they’re none too bright out there, and have the attention spans of blue-arsed houseflies. Selling real policy to that sort of electorate is hard. Complexity is hard. Explaining nuance, ambiguity, and the endless gradations of grey that fill out the messy palette of truth is hard. Boiling all of that down to GOP-style slogans that’ll fit on bumper stickers has always been next to impossible.
So yes, it’s an entirely different challenge, striving not merely to seize power but to do something with it once you’ve got it. In a ridiculous constitutional system that grants more power to vast acres of empty dirt than concentrated masses of human beings, particularly in the Senate, just grabbing the reins in the first place is likewise always going to be an uphill battle, and it only gets worse if you shy away from fighting just as down and dirty as the unprincipled, conniving pricks on the other side. The gains the GOP has cemented lately via ruthless gerrymandering and the stacking of SCOTUS certainly don’t help, and nothing gets easier with the supposedly liberal media supplying headwinds that escalate routinely to tree-toppling gales of bullshit all day and night, as again explained brilliantly by Politics Girl, my new hero:
In case you think she’s misguided, look at the banner headline on the CNN webpage today:
…while the passage of a one trillion dollar infrastructure bill, the biggest public investment in history, which might create hundreds of thousands or even millions of good jobs while finally addressing a whole host of problems that have grown naggingly and dangerously worse for decades, is presented further down with characteristic low-key snark, thusly:
It’s not just the pinheads at Fox News whose influence is continuously corrosive.
I don’t deny it. Good works are a tough sell these days. Yet it can be done. Meshing sound public policy with the bumper-sticker mode of politics is only next to impossible. Truth can be packaged and marketed to the masses, and so can hope. RememberYes We Can? Didn’t this guy win twice on the strength of a simple message?
I swear to you, gentle readers, it’s possible!
Regardless, of course, there are hard times coming. I know that. Don’t you think I know that? What, I sound like Pollyanna to you? As if. Buddy, I know the score, and here’s what it is: just as the party that holds the White House almost always loses the off-year governor’s contests, it likewise nearly always takes a drubbing in the mid-terms. The only divergence from this trend in modern political history occurred when the Republicans of George W. Bush gained ground in the wake of 9/11, when everyone was jittery about homeland security and the GOP, despite being the ones on whose watch the calamity occurred, managed to sell yet again the old lie that they were the party best suited to guarantee national security. Other than that, it’s always a shit show, I mean hell, even FDR took a shellacking in the mid-terms, having just enacted the frigging New Deal, so we have to prepare ourselves for losing both houses of Congress next year. Fine. Goddammit to Hell and all, but O.K. then. In the meantime, though, the Dems can enact positive change, stuff that makes so much of a difference that come 2024, when, God help us, we might well be facing Orange Idi once more, there might be a good news narrative to sell, one powerful and incontrovertible enough to make sticking with the donkeys seem the right way to go. There’s no more powerful question in politics than “are you better off now than you were four years ago?”, and nothing more golden than being the incumbent who gets to say yes. That’s where this all ought to wind up, when the time comes. That’s what I’m choosing to believe.
You just gotta keep going, Donkeys! Pass that Build Back Better thing! Then get going on voting rights! Screw the filibuster! Then sell it! Fight! Win!
Listen to Edna!