Politics as war, cold and hot, with incessant rebel yells: “Never Retreat, Reload”
from the Godfather movie, Michael speaking: “You’re not a wartime consigliere, Tom. Things may get rough with the move we’re trying.”
We need a wartime president. Instead, we have a well-meaning, professional, Nice Guy Negotiator (like Obama) who trusts that reasonable, politics as usual will work against lying, bad-faith foes. As FDR may have quipped, when friends pressured him to fight discrimination, “Now go out and make me do it.” In effect, create such public pressure you force presidential boldness – not bad advice today.
Dumb, deluded and impenetrable, Trump’s rugged individualism, geared for warfare, lacked FDR’s discretion, worshiped gut instincts, and fell on his face. FDR understood in our system the power of majority leverage. But FDR believed in the sovereignty of the people, that certified elections matter and only the seditious dishonor the democratic choice.
So today there’s pounding on the leaky roof, water soaking the furniture, and the response so far is to hunt up half-gallon buckets? How about “systemic reforms,” at least flashing wartime emergency lights? That ain’t Santa Claus on the roof, wielding his ax but the orange ghost of Christmas past bemoaning elections done and gone. Trump works hard to spur his sideline battle, mainly for fundraising, but for him and his base he remains at war, noxious enemies out to do him in.
All things being equal (which they never are), Biden is hardly the worst Democrat, and even with improbable GA senate wins faces an uphill grind. But whether pushing progressive or moderate legislation, he has not learned what FDR (and the Godfather movie) knew: when you face unprincipled vicious opponents who’ll do anything to win (laws and rules are loose feathers), the successful match power with power, recognize the siege and orchestrate full-throated responses. That means rejecting the filibuster, twisting arms, adding Supreme Court judges, reducing student debt, pushing family support hard, and reforming taxation and immigration.
Unused power stagnates
How long will we wait for Mr. Nice Guy to realize the battle’s underway and fierceness is necessary? Yes, unfairly, Biden gets punished because “his” (rational) pandemic plan is sabotaged by scurrilous hypocrites, few of whom defy vaccination or the best medical breakthroughs. Biden’s ambitious, opening gambits were presented as if Trump hadn’t badly distorted politics as usual, just as Covid rewrote what normal means. Good intentions fall short against foes indifferent to morality, law, science, disease, suffering, even the compassion that Christianity honors.
However keen to thwart tyranny, Founders never imagined power-mad losers who’d defy the self-evident truth that elections divide winners from losers – and only those out to wound America torpedo the sanctity of elections, let alone the results. To disown fraud-free results is the height of hypocrisy: that makes your campaigning a charade – sore losing squared. Only the deranged throw tantrums (or invade the Capitol) because their guy lost, making majority rule just another fraud.
Instead of such hypocrisy, why not simply make insurrection permanent? Discrediting voting leaves no choice but violence as “the decider.” Why fritter away lying about elections when disruptive rebellion is your mission? At least, violence is less hypocritical, though a more transparent, mortal threat. So having lost by every legitimate measure, Trump had to poison what no epic sore loser can abide: the lever of defeat. As Trump the wannabe autocrat views life as war, naturally his mania for power meant his myopic end justified all means, damn the damage. If that means corrupting the very process of fair elections, thus hijacking how we determine leaders, how does that hurt Trump? Don’t retreat, just reload.
Cold war? Hot war? Doesn’t matter when Trumper propaganda demanded he be handed the presidency by entitlement – and what, acclamation? Bizarro but consistent – warring against America. Biden and Democrats must get real and understand the battlefield and his foes. I have a few modest suggestions:
Declare a national emergency
Every day senators and the president should take the podium and rail against lawless, corrosive rejection of certified elections, as if their careers depended on it (which they do). Non-stop, leaders should inform the populace how elections are run, what they mean, and why fraud-free, democratic results must be absolute, not matters of craven ambition. We need a PR campaign against the Trump kill-elections campaign that dishonors all voters. FDR got everyone’s attention with fireside chats that explained in depth what was happening, what he was doing, and the unacceptable outcomes were he to fail.
Democrats should pressure federal judges, CEOs, law professors, clergymen and influential figures to declare that certified elections are sacrosanct, equivalent to the Constitution, and that either majority rules or we call the whole thing off. If elections don’t distinguish winners from losers, that makes a mockery of primaries, nominations, campaigning, voting, election law and tabulations. This is not negotiable or open to media litigation by the sorest loser in Christendom.
Declare the need for judicial speed
Democrats should apply maximum pressure to accelerate prosecutorial decision-making about indictments of law-breaking, across the spectrum of misconduct. Americans must know who honors the law and who holds it in contempt – another non-negotiable issue.
Democrats must produce a potent public relations campaign against this latest Lost Cause Trump tantrum. Reform candidate applications: only those who in advance accept certified results can run for public office. If losing has the same standing as winning – the inevitable quest of all Lost Cause manias – then nothing is final and chaos rules. If chaos rules, masters of disorders like Trump and related villains will have their chosen element.
Establish the prominence of science, reason and evidence
Pass laws that specify how medical research and expertise, not personalities, will determine our response to the next pandemic. Establish the thresholds when vaccines are mandatory for public health and welfare (if not economic activity). Clarify what constitutes a national emergency and the necessity of a unified response plan. Trumpian scorn of tested science, then making everything up as he went along, is why upwards of a million Americans will die (many needlessly) – and tens of thousands will suffer permanently from “long Covid.”
Establish a permanent education campaign that proves reason and truth-telling are the only bulwarks against future, disruptive nightmares, a must-have for civilization to continue. Especially during wars, against a pandemic or irrational mob rule, we must re-establish that reason and logic are the only solutions against threats, predictable or random. When a spigot of chronic lying kills truth, it threatens the fragility of democratic rule. A war of bad faith against legitimate democratic institutions must be treated as a mortal plague, for which relevant political vaccines must be achieved.
The Alternative? Don’t ask
Or we can act as if today’s rightwingers are voices of freedom, returning America to greatness, and not immediate, emergency threats to workable institutions. Let’s whitewash violent insurrections, no more than boisterous free speech. Trumpers view reality with suspicion, demonize those who disagree, and treat the other side as enemies. That way invites apocalypse. Sometimes courage and character define good leaders, sometimes educational campaigns can conserve a prudent majority doing its best from being swamped by a bad faith minority. But first we must internalize when war has been declared and the nature of the invaders.