New York Times op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd writes this morning about “Dems in Distress” that Democrats are afraid of Scott Brown and have good reason to be. More, that Democrats should fear the Republicans in general. This seems to be about less what the Republicans have done lately than about what the Democrats have not done – or not been able to do.
She has a point about a stagnant Obama administration. The Republican House has put a stranglehold on progress, making simple governance next to impossible let alone implementing new policies. As she points out, and as we all know, Obama is reduced to running the country through executive order. Dowd explains that this is not a sign of strength, but a sign of weakness.
I suppose it could be interpreted this way, though it is, after all, more the fault of the Constitution than of the Democrats in general or Obama in particular. Nobody expected, when they framed our governing document, that one political party would go to such extreme lengths to invalidate a presidential election. Nobody foresaw a black president, or the lengths conservatives would go to in order to destroy that president, even to the extent of suing him for having won.
I would say this is less about democratic weakness than a conservative lack of scruple and an inherent tendency toward totalitarian forms of government. This is not about the weakness of the executive branch so much as about the tyranny of the legislative. And it exposes the weaknesses inherent in a 200 year-old document. The Founding Fathers dealt with Aaron Burr but he was a piker compared to the Cuban anarchist, Ted Cruz. And yes, there were some vocal conservative Christians back in the day but nobody in Philadelphia in 1787 could have foreseen the collection of lunatics we call the Religious Right.
We’re dealing with some difficult sh*t here, as a country. Scott Brown is not the threat, nor is Sen. Rand Paul with his second straight straw poll victory (this one in New Hampshire) because he can’t get within a half-continent of Hilary Clinton in popularity, even after Benghazi. Nor, when it comes down to it, was the Democratic defeat in Florida (bad as that was). The threat is conservative extremism, well-funded by almost unlimited corporate money. The danger is more, as the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote the other day, why millennials have abandoned Obama, and even that danger can be overstated (and has been).
If there is any hope at all for a future free from conservative tyranny it is millennials and the question of how much they are willing to put up with. Isn’t it at least as significant that millennials won’t go near the GOP? They have had scant patience with Religious Right claptrap about the dangers of homosexuality, or about the need to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your savior and persecuting everyone who does not. Millennials, if they have become lukewarm to Obama’s message, have been positively cold toward the GOP’s. Ross Douthat wondered yesterday if millennials will return to the community but in a very real sense, millennials never left the community. They are the community of tomorrow, which paints a very unpleasant picture for conservatives who don’t like communities to change (or much else).
The future may not look bright as we would like it to be, though it looks brighter than it did in 2008. The country has gone through a severe rough spell since Bush’s last year in office, when his administration left it an economic shambles. We had a couple of good years but 2010 heralded a new era of mulish opposition to everything Obama and brought progress to a standstill. While accusing Obama of tyranny, Republicans took their own authority to the limit, and then past it, with a shocking indifference to the consequences. That is a measure of their hatred of our first black president, even more, to the idea of having a black president.
You can be sure they will react just as powerfully to the idea of a female president. It just isn’t done, old boy. Imagine, if you will, a Jewish president, and think about Jerry Boykin’s publicly expressed sentiment that “the Jews are the problem.” Even Condoleezza Rice said Saturday she wants Republicans to be more inclusive. I suspect they will run out of Lindsey Graham’s angry old white guys before that day comes to pass.
It is true that the midterms are a dangerous time for Democrats but they are always a dangerous time for the party in the White House. It is not, however, as though Republicans have no fears themselves, if you look at a few polls (the lead Jason Carter holds over Nathan Deal in Georgia, say, or Allison Grimes over Mitch McConnell in Kentucky). Waving around a musket he doesn’t own isn’t going to win McConnell any votes and it isn’t the Democrats who have restructured their primary system to silence the whackos in their midst. No, that would be the Republicans.
So while Obama may be portrayed as an anchor chain by Dowd and others, the Republicans have an abundance of anchors, and this will become more apparent as we approach the elections and Republicans try to outdo each other in making crazy statements. Their craziness lost them the 2012 elections, as you may remember, when it got so bad that even the mainstream media took notice. Barack Obama may not be the vote getter he once was, but by and large (if you discount things like drone attacks) he is at least on the right (that is left) side of history, and following the same general trajectory of both millennials and country, while Republicans are charging off across a thorn-covered field overlooking a cliff, shouting “follow us!”
Definitely, Democrats have reason to worry, and should. We should take nothing for granted. But we don’t begin to operate under the constraints of a party that has Rand Paul as their shining star.
Cheer up, Democrats. At least you’re not the Republicans.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.