If Democrats Really Cared About Protecting Democracy From Republicans They’d Become Republicans!
An emerging narrative from Never Trump conservatives and white moderates of all persuasions is that Democrats are walking into an electoral rake because President Joe Biden chose to govern like a Democrat. That was reckless and irresponsible.
Conservative Bill Kristol retweeted an article from Matthew Yglesias that he claimed was “very much worth reading.” We’ll agree to disagree.
This piece from a month ago, by @mattyglesias, is very much worth reading.\n"A very broad swathe of Democrats, from Sanders to Manchin...including Biden, chose to prioritize the items on their policy agenda over the alleged transcendent threat of Trumpism."https://www.slowboring.com/p/nobody-is-acting-like-they-believe?r=1emko&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web\u00a0\u2026— Bill Kristol (@Bill Kristol) 1642946566
Yglesias argued that “nobody is acting like they believe the future of democracy is at stake.” He went so far as to suggest that maybe Democrats don’t actually believe their rhetoric. He started this piece with a “thought experiment” where Senator Joe Manchin agreed to end the filibuster and pass voting rights legislation, even make DC and Puerto Rico states and expand the Supreme Court to 13 justices. This is already a very different Joe Manchin, one not grounded in observable reality. Yglesias claimed Fantasy Island Manchin would still piss off progressives because he’d insist on Never Trump conservatives in Biden’s Cabinet and tabling any major climate change legislation. Strawman progressives are just the worst.
Instead, Yglesias said, “a very broad swathe of Democrats, from Bernie Sanders on the left to Joe Manchin on the right and very much including Joe Biden in the middle, chose to prioritize the items on their policy agenda over the alleged transcendent threat of Trumpism."
So, as I often say after reading something from Yglesias, what does that mean exactly?
SERIOUSLY, WHAT NOW? Why Is Matt Yglesias?
After Trump was elected, House Speaker Paul Ryan was able to fully pursue his Ayn Rand-inspired domestic agenda, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell eagerly packed the Court with Federalist Society-approved rightwing hacks. They were free to do so without fear that Hillary Clinton supporters in pink hats would set the country on fire. They could go all in because the stakes weren’t existential if they lost the next election.
But because Trump tried to pull a coup and his violent mob stormed the Capitol and injured cops, it’s important for Biden and Democrats to temper their ambitions for the sake of democracy. Isn’t that effectively rolling over for terrorists? Aggressively confronting the climate crisis seems like something a self-respecting democracy should do.
Yglesias observed that many liberals objected when former Ohio Governor John Kasich spoke at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, but doesn’t a “pro-democracy” coalition need “polite” non-MAGA conservatives? This depends on how you define “pro-democracy.” Kasich was fine with cutting voter access as governor. He’s dismissed DC statehood because it would just give Democrats (i.e. Black people) more representation. He is also a staunch opponent of abortion rights. Anyway, Kasich’s endorsement didn’t budge the needle for Biden in Ohio, who lost to Trump by about the same margin as Hillary Clinton.
You’ll notice that Never Trump conservatives aren’t rushing to compromise with liberals for the sake of democracy. More polite Republicans still oppose fundamental elements of democracy, such as reproductive freedom and voting rights. Business Insider columnist Josh Barro claimed that Democrats’ recent focus on voting rights was a needless distraction because “the top issue for voters is the economy.”
In a Politico interview with “Biden’s staunchest media allies,” most of whom were Never Trumpers, Barro said “every day that you’re talking about voting rights legislation, you do not appear to be focused on the economic problem …” This is either willful ignorance or astounding sophistry: Voting rights are directly tied to the economy.
New York congressional candidate Maya Contreras said: "The majority of Republicans & a few moderate Dems are for deregulation, privatization, low taxes, and low wages. If we’re blocked from the ballot box we cannot vote in people who want to create a fair and equitable economy that works for all."
1. Voting Rights are tied to the economy. The majority of Republicans & a few moderate Dems are for deregulation, privatization, low taxes, & low wages. If we\u2019re blocked from the ballot box we cannot vote in people who want to create a fair & equitable economy that works for all.https://twitter.com/AlexThomp/status/1483606190349238272\u00a0\u2026— Maya Contreras (@Maya Contreras) 1642632553
3. Honestly Josh Barro is just being obtuse at this moment. Perhaps looking to feed the rage machine.— Maya Contreras (@Maya Contreras) 1642632554
That's the whole point of voter suppression: Republicans want to create a permanent plutocracy under white conservative rule. Never Trump pundits and even some moderate Democratic consultants believe that a benign version of this is preferable to violent, MAGA tyranny. It’s a Faustian bargain that’s doomed to fail. We must embrace democracy fully if we want to preserve it at all.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."