Fleshing it Out

Snapshots of Our Political Pathology

Why There’s No Alternative to Casting the Democrats as Our Champions

I am thinking that this belongs somewhere in the series, but I don’t know where.

I am interested in your opinions both about the whether and the where.


A word to those people who have reservations about my singling out the Republicans as the heart of the problem, rather than lumping them together with the Democrats when we look at what we need to fight against, and at who might do our fighting.

The people with those reservations are of two kinds: 1) those who are so turned off by the failings of the Democrats that they have a leftward “plague on both your houses” attitude toward that imperfect party; and 2) those who have that widespread reflexive liberal “both sides do it” attitude that shrinks from pointing fingers of blame.

I do not deny the Democratic Party has its shortcomings. But I maintain that the only shortcoming the Democrats have that really matters in the present circumstances is the weakness that has disabled them from fighting with the necessary vigor– fighting against the force that, even if it is not altogether confined to the Republican Party, has made that Party its chief instrument.

Elsewhere — such as this op/ed of mine in the Washington Post — I’ve argued the great wrong-headedness of the “both sides do it” approach. To see in terms of symmetry a situation in which the heart of the problem is asymmetry –“We have one side that makes a fight over everything, even if the nation badly needs the sides to cooperate; and we have another side that is reluctant to fight over anything, even when the nation needs them to press the battle”– is to badly misperceive the situation.

But for those in the “plague on both your houses” camp — those who cannot abide looking to the Democrats to rescue us — I will offer these three points. Together they show, I believe, that we have no other choice but to make the Democrats our champions. Even if we have to move and goad them to play the role.

1) Inescapably, the battle that needs to be won is fought out in the arena of American power. In that ring, there are only two combatants: the Republicans and the Democrats. What people do elsewhere in the American socio-cultural=political system can eventually impact the fight for power in the central arena. But ultimately it is in that arena that this battle will be decided, and only in that arena that it can be won.

2) Those who imagine that we in America might look to a new, third party to rescue us are banking on the nigh impossible. Just think: it has been more than a century and a half — since the decade before the Civil War — since a new political party (the Republican Party that arose in the 1850s) succeeded in displacing one of the two major American political parties (the Whig Party, which had been Lincoln’s previous political home). The emergence of that new party required the most extraordinary of circumstances: the conflict over slavery created a rift along regional lines that neither of the major political parties of the 1830-1850 period could survive. There is no sign that anything of the sort could be repeated in our times. Therefore, we are almost certainly stuck with our current two major parties.

3) It is as clear as could be that on virtually every issue on which the two major parties do battle in these times, it is the Democratic Party that pushes in the right direction. I’ve referred previously in this series to the 5-4 split in the Supreme Court’s disgraceful 2014 McCutcheon decision, with the five Republican appointees all voting to open the door to plutocracy, and all four Democratic appointees all voting in dissent to defend some protections for the people against our elections being ruled by the money power. But beyond that, whether the issue is the minimum wage, immigration reform, universal background checks, jobs bills, climate change, voting rights, etc., without exception the Democrats have been on the right side of the issue.

Imperfect those the Democratic Party and their leaders are, they are on the right side of the current lines of scrimmage, they are and will almost certainly remain the only other team on the field, and that is the field where the game to decide our nation’s direction gets played.

line of scrimmage

The inescapable conclusion is that the Democrats are our only option. To paraphrase our unlamented recent Secretary of Defense: You don’t go into battle with the political party you might want, but with the political party you have.

3 thoughts on “Why There’s No Alternative to Casting the Democrats as Our Champions

  1. Richard H. Randall

    Basically agree. Now, what are the characteristics of the leader of that party as a nominee for the Presidency? I’d insist on toughness, honesty, and as much as possible, non-involvement with the big banks and corporations.

    Plenty more room for proposals.


  2. Robin Pettit

    Hillary has more most of those characteristics except for the last. She has involvement with big banks and corporations. I am not sure a viable alternative has presented themselves. Elizabeth Warren, IMHO, is too soon, she is only in her first Senate term. But less perceived experienced candidates have won in the past. I personally like Elizabeth Warren. I also think Al Franken could be a candidate too. Bernie Sanders may be too extreme although not to me.


  3. Richard H. Randall

    My thinking runs much with yours Robin. I’d choose Elizabeth Warren for President, and General Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a retired Army soldier, and supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2007. The latter is very polarizing, though I agree she has done good service both as a senator and Sec State.
    I am noticing that the ‘traditional’ GOPers are for the most part defeating Tea Partiers in the primaries. Today though, they’re not all that far apart ideologically.


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