I know we’re all supposed to be obsessed with who broke out and who broke down during the first Democratic debates last week. But I would like to interrupt this predictably-scheduled programming to make a general plea to all the candidates on behalf of everyone who desperately longs to defeat Donald Trump.
Please, please, please do not let a day go by without hitting at least one of the following points, and hitting it hard:
In the debates and elsewhere, it is true, Democratic candidates have been loud and clear on a number of key points:
Those are all good, indeed essential, arguments. No one should stop pounding them. But there’s an awful lot that this litany simply omits.
Long before the candidates took the stage in Florida, Democratic politics had become soggy with its saturation in the debate over whether victory lies in running way to the left or hewing to the left-of-center. Meanwhile, nobody seems to notice that in following Trump, the GOP has almost entirely abandoned its own side of the field.
It’s astonishing. Trump and company have applied scorched-earth savagery to almost everything that has historically made the GOP appeal to anyone outside the confines of a few distinct, if overlapping, groups: the Christian and/or white-nationalist right; the personality cult of Trump; and the anti-tax, anti-regulation absolutists who don’t care if U.S. governance becomes a Kim Jong-Un/Franklin Graham co-production as long as they get richer.
Free trade, free markets, individual rights, localized political control, global leadership, fiscal prudence, (true) religious liberty, law and order…Trump’s GOP has torched them all. In so doing, they have alienated some highly honorable Republican and recently-ex-Republican dissidents -- and a giant mass of not-so-left-leaning independents on whom this election will hinge.
So far, Democrats have been behaving as if there are only two ways to treat these folks: woo them by pre-diluting liberal ideals so as to compromise before anyone even gets near a table, or “stir the base” with big-government, identity-infused visions and hope that independents’ reservations about this will be drowned in a sea of anti-Trump disgust.
Just an aside here, I think that such reservations should be drowned in a sea of anti-Trump disgust. I find it wildly misguided to reason, as columnists such as David Brooks have been doing, along the lines of “I think it’s a bad idea to abolish private health insurance or super-tax the super-rich, so I might just sit back and facilitate the re-election of someone I do believe to be a dangerous lunatic. ” But I’ll accept that many Americans might reason just so.
Anyway, these folks might or might not be comforted by kind words about rich people or promises go halfsies on subsidized health care. But they certainly ought to be reminded:
This would not be true in virtually any other election, but it is very true of this one: If you are a good, sane, solid American whose politics lean right but not far right, Joe Biden is not the only Democratic candidate with whom you should feel greater affinity than you feel with Donald Trump. In fact, you should feel greater affinity with almost all the Democratic candidates than you feel with Trump--and not just because of his racism, sexism, cronyism, authoritarianism, impetuousness, ignorance, crudeness, and whatnot. It’s also his complete renunciation of many of your own values. After all:
Some candidates – Pete Buttigieg comes to mind – do talk in general terms about the need to address entirely new realities in entirely new, label-resistant ways. In his turn on Thursday night, Buttigieg actually stated, “tariffs are taxes.” But that should not be a throwaway line on a debate stage by this or that contender. It should be one of five simple, straightforward lines of attack, relentlessly pressed by all the contenders:
It’s all well and good to fight over whether Joe is too old and grabby, Bernie too old and crabby, Elizabeth too wonky, Kamala too prosecutorial and Pete too young and/or the right amount of gay. It’s fine to debate whether the standard ought to be “Medicare for All” or “Semi-Decent Health Care for Most;” “The Green New Deal” or “A Cyan-Colored Strategy That Treats Climate Change As Something Other Than A Chinese Hoax.” But wherever one comes down on those issues, these facts remain:
In future posts, I will flesh out each of these ideas. But for now, if you happen to be a Democrat running for President, please, please, please hit at least one of them, at least once a day.