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Choices Going Forward

Well, as seems to be more and more the case, there is bad news regarding efforts by good people to stymie or reverse the decades of work by bad people to destroy American democracy. And it’s not fun to recount them, though obviously they can’t be ignored. But who wants to read doomsaying or depressing things, without at least some positive thoughts as well? There is this need to balance unsettling facts with some hopefulness. It is sometimes not easy, though.

I am surely not the only person getting the sense that neither of the bills intended to restore voting rights is going to pass in the Senate. As I wrote the other day, it is infuriating to me to keep hearing some people called voting rights activists attacking and blaming Biden for not doing enough to get the bills passed. Once again we see people who appear to have little knowledge of how government works. One of them said yesterday that Biden “must use the full force of his power to get Manchin and Sinema to vote for these bills.”

And what power is that? How does he compel or force Manchin to decide that he will carve out an exception to the filibuster, after he has said many times that he thinks that keeping the filibuster is essential to democracy? It is not, of course, it is undemocratic in conception and practice. But Manchin doesn’t see it that way, and he will not. So these bills will be brought to a vote, and the Republicans will filibuster them, and Manchin and very possibly Sinema will not do anything to carve out an exception to the filibuster for the imperative of voting rights, and the bills will fail, as Republicans always knew and intended that they would.

“Simple arithmetic,” as Jean Gillies said in her brilliant performance in the great noir film “Decoy.” It was low-budget, but very well written; and Gillies, who tragically died in her 30’s, turned in one of the greatest femme fatale performances in film noir history. It is well worth seeing; not that watching it is going to change the bad political news; but we need distractions, and ways to help draw ourselves away from the relentless beat of what the Republicans are doing to the country.

They have set up this system where they appear to hold all the levers and blocks, which they employ whenever needed. We won the Senate, at least nominal control, with our fifty seats, but they included Manchin and Sinema. Maybe that is the best we could get out of those states right now. Surely we would be much better off had we won some additional Senate seats, in Maine, North Carolina, Iowa. But we did not.

Maybe some of the voting rights activists who are spending their energy complaining about Biden, and those who simply refused to show up for Biden’s visit to Georgia, because “he is not doing enough,” or “he should have done it sooner,” should have worked harder to win some additional Senate seats. Maybe some of them did, but it was not enough, because too many voters refuse to understand that when you vote for any Republican, you are voting for them all, they all vote the same way.

“My Republican in my state is better, he/she is a moderate,” is one of the most naive and damaging opinions possible. All Republicans vote the same on voting rights bills, they always oppose them. Republicans, who possess no underlying principles whatsoever, except for winning, have learned that if they all vote in lockstep, they form a shield wall, which is almost impossible to break, because the anti-populist way that the Senate was created, gives disproportionate power to rural voters in small states. And that combined with the “Senate rule” they created of the filibuster, gives the small and Far Right states the essential veto power over virtually any non-budget bill that the Democrats would ever try to pass.

This has been the reality for decades now, but not many people see it. As far as I recall, there was only one major bill passed during the entire eight years of Obama’s presidency, the ACA, passed when Democrats held a sizeable majority; and even then the bill was watered down, and barely passed. For the other eight years. Obama just made speeches, and watched his lower court judges get blocked; until Harry Reid finally had to change the filibuster rule; after which McConnell blew up the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees, and blamed it on Reid.

And similarly, as much as Biden has tried to do in his one year in office, and as many good things as he has done (today the White House is releasing a statement that seven federal agencies are announcing specific plans to deal with climate change), he cannot pass any legislation which is not subject to the budget exception found by the parliamentarian years ago. Otherwise, the Senate only exists for Republicans to get their own Supreme Court judges confirmed, and to attack great public servants like Dr. Fauci. And so many “progressive Democrats” don’t seem to comprehend this, and so blame Biden for the impasse blocks which Republicans have spent their time constructing.

So likely no voting rights bills; and the Supreme Court, also carefully packed by Republicans,, using the same structural advantages and methods, is not going to overturn the most blatant gerrymandering or vote suppression bills done by states. So the terrain we see now, is very likely what we will face in the upcoming election; with many Democrats who get on TV, complaining that this is Biden’s fault (“we gave him 50 seats!”), or Hillary’s fault, or the fault of Democrats in general. Which is not only wrong, but does no good at all.

So, like all armies, we have to fight on the terrain we are confronted with. That would mean, somehow winning the next elections. It may be impossible, given the vote suppression? Yes. but perhaps not. Dave Wasserman, who works for the Cook Report polling and voting analysis organization, recently wrote that Democrats actually have a path to winning the House, though several not impossible, but difficult, things have to happen.

One of them is Biden’s favorable polling numbers to be closer to 50% than 45%. That is possible, but it would take a number of so-called Democrats who spend their time complaining about Biden, to understand that he is the only chance they have right now. Some of them don’t seem to care, so imbued as they are with their own self-righteousness. Of course, others do greatly care, and they should speak out forcefully about that.

I happened to see Stuart Stevens on TV; and while he was in the “enemy camp” as a political guru who ran Republican presidential campaigns, I saw him as a decent person, better than his cohorts. Last year, he wrote the book, “It Was All a Lie,” in which he realized that all the things his party had been saying and promising, were just convenient subterfuges designed to win elections, they did not mean any of them. He has continued to make that point, and he just said that he supports Democrats to win elections right now, as the only way to possibly save his party is for the Trumpism to be destroyed.

I imagine that he has retired from campaign work, but if he is interested, I would certainly recommend that Democratic officials offer him some advisory job, because he knows the Republicans better than almost anybody; and we know that Republicans are willing to do things in campaigns which Democrats seem to shrink from. Wars have been won by managing to get a few of the key enemy personnel over to your side, and then taking advantage of their expertise and skills.

We are in some sense depending on Jamie Harrison, the new head of the DNC. He speaks forcefully, but it remains to be seen how well he can strategize and allocate resources. It is in retrospect, but a lot of money was wasted in 2020 on various senate races which it turned out we did not have much chance to win. And I think we should start attacking now in a general way; and that much of it should be centered on what Biden has accomplished and is trying to accomplish, and would, if he had more seats. And just as importantly, that if Republicans gain control, they will shut down the government, impeach Biden for spite, try to pass major tax cuts for the rich, block every single bill Biden tries to pass, and end the economic recovery. We must give voters significant reasons to vote, and tell them what will happen if they don’t, even if the media instantaneously and invariably calls it “bad tactics” or “fear-mongering.” And then of course we must find ways to enable them to vote.

It would greatly help if Democrats pulled together, rather than carped, particularly when it is born out of not understanding how government works, and the difficulties of getting bills past a lockstep Republican determination to block everything; plus the filibuster. Just think, if Democrats could somehow gain two Senate seats (PA and WI?), we could perhaps get rid of the filibuster, although of course it would not help us much if we lost the House, but it would be a start, which is what we need, a start to breaking the stranglehold which the Republicans have gained over democratic institutions.

It would be very helpful, not to mention calming, if the media would somehow stop turning everything into “optics,” and, “this will be bad for Biden.” The media simply takes Republicans for what they are, like a given physical reality, with no connotation, and it is always the Democrats who are negatively commented on.

For one of countless examples, the fact that not one single Republican is going to vote for any Voting Rights bill, is not criticized, it is simply a reality for the media. And “how it hurts Biden and Democrats” is the theme, not what Republicans are doing to destroy democracy. No one in the media blames any Republicans now in office for anything at all. It is very strange, almost psychotic, as if they can only see one figure on a screen and not the other one. But it is what they do, every single time, as if they are programmed (or paid) to. It is a major impediment. They must really want the Republicans to win.

So it is certainly not a positive situation, though a fairer media would make it seem less negative. It is imperative that people who are basically on the good side, try to understand that this is a war against a very dangerous, virtually insane foe, the Republican Party and its enablers, and that we do not need to hear a daily recitation of how they are disappointed at Biden and Democrats in this, or angry at that. Unless they are making money, in some way: funds, TV time, or publicity, out of it, and are really not that much on our side at all. Money and publicity can corrupt most people, as was portrayed in the movie “Network.”

I think that there was a generation in America which understandably lost faith and regard for our government leaders; and then succeeding generations continued this, to where there is a segment of people who like to call themselves liberal or progressive who are so cynical. and so demanding as part of an identity wing, that they don’t like any of the Democratic leaders–except that they liked Obama for a while. This could finally lead to the evolutionary end of the Democratic Party, shattered into factions. Or necessity could somehow cause them to come together for a common great effort. Some of the people from Atlanta who I saw interviewed yesterday, seemed to have that hope and perception. It really is up to human nature, and what people are capable of in times of crisis.