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We Should Criticize the Home Team When They Deserve It

Two articles today have a common, negative theme:

Why Are Democrats Letting Republicans Steamroll Them? (Politico)

The Fall of Roe Is the Culmination of the Democratic Establishmentโ€™s Failures (The Washington Post)

The Politico article says the two parties have very different approaches to national politics:

The simplest way to summarize the situation is that Democrats value democratic norms over policy achievements, and Republicans feel the opposite….

This is a pattern weโ€™ve seen repeated ever since. Republicans attempt some unprecedented and shocking move; horrified Democrats respond by trying to be the adults in the room; and then the Democrats go unrewarded for it.

To be sure, a country is probably better off with one responsible party than with zero. But in important ways, this kind of asymmetry can be dangerous, making the government less and less representative of its people….

Weโ€™re seeing this dynamic again in the wake of the Supreme Courtโ€™s decision to overturnย Roe v. Wade. This ruling, while opposed by most Americans, was a longstanding goal of Republicans … And Democratic leaders had, thanks to [the] bombshell disclosure of the draft opinion, ample warning that it was coming. And in response, they have done โ€ฆ virtually nothing.

There are actions Congress could take (although with likely opposition from the two “Democratic” roadblocks, Manchin and Sinema); or the House could take by itself; or the president could take. Some of these might be considered norm-breaking and deemed too aggressive by Very Serious People. But as the Politico author points out, game theory tells us that the best way to deal with an uncooperative opponent is to stop cooperating. Otherwise you’ll beย  taken advantage of over and over.

The Washington Post article by Perry Bacon, Jr., says Democratic leaders are simply too damn old:

The overturning ofย Roe v. Wade, and the underwhelming reaction from senior Democratic leaders to that huge defeat, make the case even clearer that the partyโ€™s too-long-in-power leaders โ€” including President Biden โ€” need to move aside. On their watch, a radicalized Republican Party has gained so much power that itโ€™s on the verge of ending American democracy as we know it.

It’s a gerontocracy. Biden is 79; Nancy Pelosi is 82; her second-in-command, Steny Hoyer is 83; the House’s third-ranking Democrat, James Clyburn is 81; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is only 71, but his second-in-command, Dick Durbin, is 77. (I’m slightly younger than all of them but understand it’s too easy for politicians to overstay their welcome.)

Mr. Bacon continues:

Party leaders … spent 2021 downplaying Republican radicalism while emphasizing building roads years from now. No matter what happens this election cycle, their previous defeats, lack of new strategies and open disdain for the partyโ€™s activists is too much to allow this group to remain in charge. The Americans who will most suffer from entrenched GOP rule … deserve leaders who will fight as hard and creatively as possible for them, not a leadership class so invested in defending its own power, legacy and political approach….

There is a real ideological divide between the center-left and left in the Democratic Party. But I think an equally and perhaps more important fissure is between the political approach of the Old Guard and those who embrace a modern style of politics [among whom he includes Elizabeth Warren, who’s 73] …ย  I sense that they understand how politics in 2022 actually works. Unlike Biden and Pelosi, they are not wedded to polls and bipartisanship and do not constantly distance themselves from the partyโ€™s activists. They are much more open to new thinking.

I agree with both of them, but I’ll add another factor: money. There is nothing on the left that matches the number of billionaires and less than billionaires who fund right-wing organizations, Fox News being the prime example. But that imbalance doesn’t excuse the failure of Democratic leaders to effectively deal with the Republican menace.

President Biden’s biggest failure has been his inability to get 50 senators (all of whom caucus with the Democrats) to support his agenda, even on matters that don’t require reforming the Senate filibuster. Depending on how things work out, his appointment of the cautious Merrick Garland may be his second biggest failure. If you need a recent example of his perspective on Washington politics, here’s what President Biden said in February regarding duplicitous turtle-face Mitch McConnell, the guy who packed the Supreme Court that’s now running the country:

You’re a man of your word, you’re a man of honor. Thank you for being my friend.

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