Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Three Easy Steps For Democrats
This fracturing of the Grand Old Party provides the Democrats with an incredible opportunity to restore some measure of sanity -- and humanity -- to the country's political institutions. They have a chance to win the Presidency, reclaim a majority in the Senate, and reshape a Supreme Court that has been a conservative sinkhole for decades. But being Democrats, they are equally likely to screw things up with their preternatural inclination to avoid partisan confrontation, move to the center, and misread the zeitgeist.
I am not a political consultant, but I play one in the blogosphere. And in that role, I want to suggest three inter-related steps that the Democrats must take to ensure a progressive victory in November and beyond.
1. Supreme Court Matters. President Obama must nominate an indisputably qualified, left-of-center candidate for the Supreme Court -- and soon. One potential candidate, who is reportedly being vetted by the White House, is Judge Jane Kelly. She is a former public defender from Iowa with a compelling life story. Kelly currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, having been confirmed by the Senate in a 96-0 vote. What makes her particularly attractive is the way her nomination will discomfort Senator Charles Grassley, the current Republican Chair of the Judiciary Committee and the ugly face of the obstructionist right, who strongly backed her confirmation to the federal bench in 2013.
The inevitable Republican refusal to hold confirmation hearings for such an otherwise unassailable Supreme Court nominee must then become a major political issue. Obama should hammer the Republicans daily for their unprecedented refusal to abide by the Constitution and exercise their duty to give "advice and consent. Senate Democrats should hold their own mock confirmation hearings if the Republicans won't do their job. This should be treated like Ted Koppel-style hostage crisis reporting (e.g., "This is Day 57 of the Republicans failure to hold confirmation hearings"). Democratic presidential and senate candidates must make this a central aspect of their campaigns, asking whether We the People really want Donald Trump (or Ted Cruz, for that matter) to choose the next several Supreme Court Justices.
Not only will this provide a perfect vehicle to illustrate Republican obstruction and hypocrisy, but it would shed a critical light on what should be a key election issue. Democrats need to stress that a liberal majority on the Court can make an enormous difference in people's lives and what horrifying consequences are in store if a conservative majority is restored and then solidified. It needs to be stressed over and over how the Court can be transformed from the most corporate-friendly court since the 1930s to one that is far less deferential to polluters and Wall Street fraudsters, and far more protective of women's health and reproductive rights, privacy, voting rights, labor and civil rights. Citizens United and other unprincipled decisions of recent terms can be overturned.
2. Stay to the Left. Bernie Sanders' campaign has obviously resonated with a wide range of committed, enthusiastic voters and tapped into legitimate anger and frustration about the current state of our politics. There is no question that he has moved the Party -- and Hillary Clinton -- to the left. It wasn't that long ago that Democrats were afraid of being dubbed "Liberal," and now, thanks to Bernie, the two candidates are fighting over who is the true Progressive. His calls for changing a rigged, corrupt political system and fighting the inequality it has engendered need to continue to be a critical aspect of a Democratic campaign no matter who is nominated. At the same time, the Democrats must confront and address issues uniquely faced by people of color whose support is absolutely necessary for a victory in November. And they must focus on convincing women voters, including those unaffiliated with either political party, that their health, privacy, reproductive rights, and economic well-being will be at risk if a Republican wins the presidency.
(On a related note, Hillary and Bernie need to insist that Debbie Wasserman Schultz be removed as the head of the Democratic National Committee immediately. She has been an absolute disaster for the Party, and, as a shill for Wall Street, she is the exact wrong person to be hosting the Convention. Her latest inexcusable stunt is the co-sponsoring a bill to delay and gut implementation of regulations developed by the Elizabeth Warren-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would crack down on usurious payday lenders who prey on the poor.)
3. Fear Itself. It seems likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party's nominee, but we could end up with one of the other candidates who, with the exception of Ted Cruz, only seem less frightening by comparison. But all of them are extreme right wing zealots -- and the Democrats need to scare the shit out of the public by explaining what this country would look like if they took power. Racism, religious intolerance and misogyny have long been pillars of Republican orthodoxy but they are no longer shrouded in coded language and dog whistles. This makes it far easier expose the Republicans for what they really stand for.
Voters need to realize that the leading Republican candidates have little respect for or understanding of the Constitution -- they intend to round up immigrants and Muslims, build a wall on our southern border, engage in torture and other war crimes, and essentially create a White Christian Nation. Seriously. In addition, they all maintain extreme positions on abortion rights -- some more extreme than others -- and their Party's relentless war on women's health would only be ratcheted up by a far right Supreme Court majority that would certainly overturn Roe v. Wade. Then there's their contempt for science and stubborn refusal to accept the reality of climate change, their promise to repeal Obamacare without an alternate plan to provide health care beyond the availability of emergency rooms, and their cynical economic plans that mainstream economists conclude will create enormous tax breaks for the wealthy while exploding the deficit.
The truly frightening world view and policy positions of Trump, Cruz and their cohorts are so far being drowned out by the posturing, rhetoric and sophomoric insults that seem to comprise the sum total of Republican debate. As we laugh at how crazy it is that these fuckers have actually resorted to dick jokes, we are in danger of losing sight of how dangerous they really are.
The roadmap for Democrats is pretty simple: 1) The Supreme Court; 2) A Progressive Platform; and 3) Fear. Don't blow it.
[Related posts: Justice Scalia Has Left The Building; Public Defender for Justice; Republicans Will Not Release Their Stranglehold On The Supreme Court; Schadenfreude Tinged With Fear As The GOP Devolves Into The Party Of Trump]