Dems Don’t Get It
Watching the insurrection unfold live on January 6th was horrifying enough in it’s own right: it was and will always be incredibly jarring to watch rioters forcibly break into the Capitol, occupy the Speaker’s desk and proudly parade the Confederate flag — a symbol of hatred and treachery — down those hallowed halls. Yet, it would take days — and in some cases, weeks — until the full horror of the ordeal would become clear. In the aftermath of the attack, we would learn of the complicity of members of the police in the attack and how the rioters got nauseatingly close to the likes of ‘AOC’ and Mitt Romney. Just like how Charlottesville will forever be remembered as the site of the 2017 Unite The Right rally, January 6th will go down in history as the day violent insurrectionists — guided by the then-President’s rhetoric — tried to forcibly overturn the American government. Amidst the general fog of the day to day chaos of the Trump administration lay these markers of history, that — despite Trump’s attempts to deflect and distract — remain as stubborn, shameful reminders of the moral depravity reached during the last four years.
It speaks to how hollow and depraved the Republican Party has become over the last four years that just hours after an attempted coup, over two-thirds of Republican congress-members still voted to overturn the results of the election. In the wake of the biggest attack against American democracy in a generation, 147 Republicans chose to show more solidarity to the insurrectionists than to their fellow members of Congress who had just escaped a narrow brush with death. In the face of an attack that saw a police officer die fighting for the survival of his country as we know it, Republicans — who just months earlier had cynically taken up the mantra ‘Back The Blue’ — decided it was more important to back their own career interests than it was to stand with the members of law enforcement who had put their lives on the line.
The Republican Party may have viewed the insurrection as little more than an inconvenience; an event whose greatest tragedy was forcing their hand on a politically-difficult issue, but at the time, the Democratic response seemed genuinely fiery; with Democratic politicians quickly lining up behind impeachment. Without a significant number of Republicans on their side, the Democrats hands remained largely tied, but for a moment after the attack, it felt like Democrats might ensure some meaningful accountability for those responsible for the attack — even if just through sheer force of will.
Where Trump promised a radical, but undeliverable and largely undesirable, model of change, Democrats have offered virtually nothing at all
Over the years, the Democrats have gained a reputation for being feckless and ineffective. In 1994, The Simpsons ran an episode, where they depicted the Democratic National Convention — complete with signs reading “We hate life and ourselves” and, “We can’t govern”. Since the episode aired, over a quarter of a century has passed and America has changed dramatically — in fact, two of the only few things that remain the same about America from then is that The Simpsons is still on air and, the cartoon’s depiction of the Democratic Party remains as true as ever.
Democrats, through a feat nothing short of miraculous, have gained control of the House, Senate and Presidency. The current electoral system is slanted against them in almost every conceivable way: House districts are heavily gerrymandered in Republican’s favour, the electoral college allows Republicans to lose the popular vote by millions while holding on to the Presidency and, the Senate gives disproportionate power to small, mostly conservative states. On top of this, voter fraud — that disproportionately affects minorities — dampens Democrats chances in races for all three institutions. In order to gain the power they currently hold, Democrats had to beat the odds in almost every area — including in the two pivotal Georgia senate races; that Republicans entered with a substantial advantage.
These victories were achieved largely by the skin of Democrat’s teeth, and they were achieved through the work of activists; who — despite the pandemic and other restrictions — came out in record force to support the Democratic Party.
Since the turn of the century, Democrats have held this trifecta on power for just two out of twenty years. In the two years, they held this power (2009–11) Democrats passed legislation that — while unsatisfactory to many progressives today—was genuinely radical and ground-breaking back then; namely the Affordable Care Act — which nearly halved the number of uninsured Americans and saved countless lives in the process. Democrats have this precious power once again and, given the historically unfriendly environment midterms offer to incumbent parties, they are likely to lose it again in two years time. Then, it could easily be another decade or two until they gain it back.
Democratic leadership seems less willing than ever to be radical — held captive by quaint and vague ideas of unity. Unity that can never truly be achieved without reckoning with the ever-growing injustice
It’s early days — though time is of the essence — and there’s nothing Democrats have yet planned to pass in the next two years that would be as life-changing or legacy-ensuring as ‘Obamacare’ was when it passed. Yet, the need for radical, systematic change is far more urgent now than it ever was. In the years since, inequality, division and hatred have risen sharply and, the fabric of America’s democracy has thinned continuously. It was these same forces that led to Trump’s success and, as the events of last month showed, there still remains hordes of people still committed to the cause of Trumpism and, there’s 147 politicians ready and willing to be their leader.
Trump was undoubtedly an accelerant of America’s problems, but fundamentally he was a symptom of America’s core rot. All the ugliness of the racism, misinformation and desperation that America had tried in vain to sweep under the carpet bubbled up in 2016 and found itself personified in the crude oafishness of Trump. What should concern everyone who cares about the survival of democracy and decency is that the issues that caused Trump are worse than ever. Meanwhile, the Josh Hawley’s of the world — who eagerly wait in the wings for their chance to take Trump’s mantle — are far more politically adept than the forty-fifth President ever was.
In the face of this, America needs a Democratic Party prepared to take on a root and branch transformation of the country; one that will correct the gross abuses of power committed by Republicans over the years and seek to redress the scourges of poverty, desperation, alienation and angst. Yet Democratic leadership seems less willing than ever to do this — held captive by quaint and vague ideas of unity that can never truly be achieved without reckoning with these ever-growing injustices.
Democrat’s decision not to call witnesses to the impeachment trial is just another example of this. What would’ve further exposed Republican’s shameful role in the insurrection and made their jobs more difficult is now gone. The activist base of the Democratic Party was left disillusioned once again and a narrative that would’ve otherwise centred around Republican complicity, instead centres around Democrats bizarre self-own. The Democratic rationale around dropping witnesses seemed to be that it would give them more time to focus on Biden’s agenda, but even that is proving to fall short of what’s needed: Democrats have already largely admitted defeat on a $15 minimum wage and have offered only a $1400 stimulus check instead of a $2000 one — and they have no plans to make such a check paid monthly. Meanwhile, Biden’s healthcare plan, even if passed, would leave 10 million Americans uninsured. Where Trump promised a radical, but undeliverable and largely undesirable, model of change, Democrats have offered virtually nothing at all. And this time, the stakes couldn’t be higher.