If the United States was the country we pretend it to be, there would be no angst over the 2020 Presidential Election, because if the United States was that country, Donald Trump wouldn’t be president, because as the cliché goes, “we’re better than that.” The reality is Donald Trump is the president because we’re not better than that.
The American political class, Democratic and Republican, are both intellectually and morally bankrupt. They are bereft of any policy ideas that are a function of an intellectually supportable theory of the world as it exists in the 21st Century. Their lack of any moral center of gravity means both substitute pandering for leadership. When I think about America’s aged-out Baby Boomer political class, the phrase “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity” immediately comes to mind.
Democratic establishment leadership in 2000, 2004 and 2016 (Obama was not the establishment first choice in 2008) has shown it lacks the mental toughness and political ruthlessness to win a contest against a committed amoral adversary. The Democratic establishment is the Vichy Government trying to figure out how to live with Nazi control of France.
I have little confidence in the collective leadership of the Democratic Party to develop a coherent strategy and message that will win the presidency, provide a national rationale for supporting Democratic candidates that will maintain control of the House and win the Senate, and lay siege to Republican control of state legislatures.
A conversation in the 1987 movie, The Untouchables, between Sean Connery (Jim Malone) and Kevin Costar (Elliot Ness) about how to take down Al Capone crystalizes the reason for my pessimism:
Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?
Ness: Anything within the law.
Malone: And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they're not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead.
Ness: I want to get Capone! I don't know how to do it.
Malone: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife; you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital; you send one of his to the morgue. *That's* the *Chicago* way! And that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?
I’ll risk being Captain Obvious and say the answer to the question of the readiness of the Democratic establishment to do what’s required to take down Trump is a resounding no! Democratic leadership will never be confused with Malone when it comes to toughness, or Ness when it comes to moral strength; but Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are to American politics what Al Capone and Frank Nitti were to crime in Chicago.
How do the morally weak overcome the morally corrupt? The short answer is they don’t. So what are we to do?
The recent events in Puerto Rico and mass protests leading to the forced resignation of the governor, made me stop and reflect on the current political climate of the United States and what are necessary preconditions for political change.
The prerequisite for progressive political change is sustained mass action. The American political system does not initiate structural change without being prodded, pushed and pulled into the future, its default position is defense of the status quo. I could point out the Civil Rights Movement preceded civil rights legislation, the Anti-War Movement preceded United States withdrawal from Vietnam, but we don’t have to reference the last century, criminal justice reform is on political agenda because of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The predicate for the Democrats reclaiming control of the House was not Democratic establishment political leadership, but the spontaneous organized mass demonstrations against the idea of a Trump and Republican-controlled America, beginning with the Women’s March the day after his inauguration. That was followed by mass resistance to the Muslim ban and mass demonstrations to save the Affordable Care Act. It was the momentum created by the Street that provided the political energy that routed Republicans in 2018.
Left to their own devices, the Democratic establishment will have a 2020 campaign strategy built for 1992. We the people must act on our own behalf and in our own interests, we can’t look backward, because it’s that past that’s brought us this present. A return to normal does nothing for people of color, immigrants, the LGBT community, religious minorities or other marginalized communities. There’s nothing about America’s past that I wish to return too. We don’t need to fight back, we need to fight first. Don’t defend – attack. We’re already in a fight, so embrace the principle that the fight isn’t over until we win.
I’m going to close by putting a little Doobie in your funk: “Take this message to my brother, you will find him everywhere. Wherever people live together, tied in poverty's despair. Oh, you, telling me the things you're gonna do for me. I ain't blind and I don't like what I think I see...Takin' it to the streets.”