Authoritarianism is knocking on the door
At the heart of a democracy is a battle of ideas. Political parties make their case to the electorate, who then make an informed choice about who best represents their aspirations and values. That's how it should work. However, what happens when only one party has a policy platform? It should be a no brainer, you would expect the public to say 'If you can't tell us what you propose to do for us, you have no right to expect us to vote for you'. This is no longer the case in America. Tens of millions of people simply don't appear to care that the Republican Party have no platform or policies whatsoever. They have replaced policies with disinformation, division and demonisation of minorities (not that the latter has always been in their school bag). That's bad enough, but at a time when the country is amidst a pandemic that has now killed more Americans that the 1918 flu pandemic, they are actively encouraging people to rally against science and dismiss public health information.
For any level minded person looking at this situation, it is nothing short of bizarre that a political party would ACTIVELY encourage people to effectively kill fellow Americans as a political act of loyalty, especially when they are asking their own supporters to kill each other. What it does illustrate however, is how we as humans are absolutely susceptible to 'tribal propaganda'. Politicians since time began have been selective with the truth and used artistic license to bend the facts to advance their cause. Now however, we are in a whole new world of 'alternative facts', as the GOP have successfully created a parallel universe where millions of people have almost lost their sense of reality and adopted a frightening tribal loyalty that has become part of an argument to dismantle democracy. I am convinced that Trump will go down in infamy as the man who almost destroyed US democracy. The reason I say almost, is because I do still have faith that good can triumph over evil.
As the saying goes, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." This is certainly true within the Republican party. The irony is that for Trump, this is not about political ideology or even politics at all. It is totally about self enrichment and the avoidance of prosecution. The party leadership must be aware of this. Trump's decision to enlist the ranks of the crazies to win his political fights, has shifted the party so far right it's become a domestic terrorist organisation, willing to burn the house down to seize power. There are no longer any political rules of engagement and they are even prepared to kill Americans to achieve their goal. The party is never returning to its original core values, it has been reborn as the destroyer of democracy and if you think Trump is evil, then you ain't seen nothing yet. If DeSantis gets to run in 2024, he will make Trump look like an amateur.
So what are the challenges for Democrats for the 2022 mid term elections? Where do I begin? For the last 6 weeks, the policy agenda has been stuck in the mud. To be fair, I think the debate that's been going on within the party whilst damaging, is better done now than closer to the election. The problem with transformational change is it's not cheap. To get things done you need to invest and given the lack of investment for decades, this investment has to be big. No-one can ever doubt the good intention of Democrats to always try to make life better for the many and not the few. The problem is, money is only part of the equation. It's HOW you invest that's the key.
The Build Back Better agenda can and should be transformative, but given the razor thin majorities held by the Democrats, the messaging has been simply awful. An inability to articulate a narrative, is without doubt the biggest vulnerability that the Dems have. When you are the opposition, the job is easy, you simply say everything the other side is doing is a disaster and will make life worse for the American people. In the old days, you would be expected to say why and how you would provide a better solution. However in the current climate, the GOP can't do that as they have NO POLICIES, so as well as attacking the Dems on policy, they stir up division and create an anti-science smoke screen at the same time. To my eternal frustration, the Dems have simply sat back and kept absorbing the punches with little or no reply.
In a social media driven political landscape, failure to provide a coherent narrative can be fatal and the Dems ability to trip over each other on what has been a very public policy development spat, has been beyond damaging. Overshooting self imposed deadlines and now having to step back from the original agenda, devalues the final offering. It's now no longer perceived as transformational not because it's not, but because it has had to be diluted in full public view. For all the benefits it will bring, it will be seen as Build Back Slightly Better plan. Strategically, it paints a picture that Dems are NOT prepared to go after the wealthy, free Community College is not that important and that a few days paid leave is better than nothing. I could go on.
If this was about cost, then the simple solution would be to keep ALL the policies in tact and reduce the period of benefit to cover just the length of this administration. So provide all the benefits but only until 2024. Use all those benefits delivered to American families to run on for the next three years. Then the vote in 2024 becomes about 'Do you want to vote to keep 2 years free Community College, 12 weeks paid leave, lower prescription charges, expanded Obamacare, free child care etc etc, or do you want to vote Republican and lose them all?' I cannot think of a stronger message to run on. If was just about cost, this would be an absolute no brainer, but it appears this is more about ideology for some moderate Democrat lawmakers. It is this which will ultimately dilute the strength of the campaign for 2024. It seems clear that the likes of Manchin and Sinema are the worst kind of people you want on your team. They are the equivalent of the 'dirty cops' in the precinct, where 'serve and protect' comes secondary to being 'on the take'. The harsh reality for Dems, is that in these circumstances, the dark cloud of dark money in politics is once again setting the agenda and NOT the lawmakers who were elected to legislate.
The Democratic Party has been moving over time to the left of centre, which is always a gamble in America. It leaves you open to being tagged as socialists. Given that US elections are won on the margins, independent voters are the key and they, by nature of their independence, tend to sit in the middle of the two main parties. So consider this, the GOP has moved to the extreme right and the Dems have moved to the left of centre ground. That would put the mid point where the Republican Party used to be. So Dems have to be very careful not to step too far left at this stage of the game.
The chaos and obstruction from the right will continue to gather pace and as there are now no rules, it is going to be a monumental challenge to cut through that chaos. If you want an example, take a look at The American Rescue Plan. It is the foundation of the Build Back Better agenda, but it has disappeared beneath the swamp of anti science disinformation, a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and a crisis on the souther border. Despite the benefit it has delivered to American families, it has been lost in the dust storm created by the lunatic right. For me, that's an own goal and a missed opportunity to sell the transformational change agenda. There has been a deafening silence from the Dem messaging machine.
The Republican message monster is gaining momentum, while the Dems are having a civilised cup of coffee in preparation for a war that began the day Biden took office. I like to call it messaging delinquency and I find it difficult to articulate the frustration I feel at the 'It will all work out fine. Don't worry, be happy' attitude. Stop smoking the joint and wake up. If the House and Senate, or even just the Senate are lost in 2022, it's all over and the Democratic agenda will be cast into the wilderness with democracy for company.
Tomorrow we'll continue our discussion, but please give consideration to the above assessment. As an objective outside observer, I provide these observations from a place of love and solidarity.
Thanks for stopping by, see you tomorrow and stay safe out there.