Dear President Trump,
This morning I read a piece in the HP, which led me to another in the WP, and I’ve been thinking about the pair of them off and on all day. The headline of the HP article is incredibly provocative: “Ocasio-Cortez Aide Calls Democratic Party ‘Cowardice’ The ‘Greatest Threat To Mankind.’” Corbin Trent, the AOC aide who made the statement, did so during an interview with WP columnist, Ryan Grim, in support of his piece entitled “Haunted by the Reagan era: Past defeats still scare older Democratic leaders — but not the younger generation.”
You really need to read the two pieces together (and if you read only one of them, theoretically you should go with the WP article, but for you, the HP one is probably the better choice because it’s about 1/10th as long and way less detailed). The HP article cuts to the chase and lays out the grave concerns many of the new House Democrats have about all the capitulating and timidity demonstrated by the old guard Democrats. It’s a big, bold statement that the Democrats are the greatest threat to mankind and I bet if you saw it, you were tickled pink and giddy with delight over the blatant infighting it signals, not to mention the deflection of blame away from the GOP.
I’m generationally pretty smack in the middle between the young, fiery Democrats and the old guard Democrats so maybe that’s why I’ve been mentally and emotionally bouncing back and forth in my head all day over this and can’t decide if I think Trent is correct or playing with fire. Or both.
I’ll circle back to that dilemma in a sec.
First, though, I think it’s important to recount Grim’s (rather grim) premise, which is that when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter, the Democrats took a horrible shellacking in the Senate and lost it (though they retained the House) and have been in a defensive posture ever since, afraid to be too boldly progressive for fear of another intense backlash. Grim explains that Newt Gingrich and his posse pretty much convinced the electorate that the direction the Democrats took the country through the 1960’s and 1970’s was too progressive and not in line with core American values (e.g., ‘everyone must pull themselves up by their own bootstraps’ and all the “Christian” nation-crap). This was only hammered in further when Reagan was reelected in a landslide and George H.W. Bush beat Dukakis in the next election cycle. When Clinton finally won on a centrist platform (and Hillary’s universal health care push led to the House flipping to the GOP), it further solidified the idea that the country would not support a strong, progressive Democratic agenda, so best to play it safe and not rock the boat.
But the younger Democrats are arguing that this playing it safe deal hasn’t worked; it hasn’t appeased Republicans or brought many (if any) over to the Democratic side. Plus, here we are saddled with you after another fairly centrist Democratic President (though there is clearly a strong argument that you and Russia were able to capitalize on the deep seams of racism dividing the country over President Obama and thus your presidency represents serious backlash regarding his blackness). Basically, for the younger Democrats, the old guard’s cautious, conciliatory stance in the face of you and your administration does not make sense.
And in typing out that last sentence, I helped myself get clear about my aforementioned dilemma. I actually reject the idea that the Democrats are the greatest threat to mankind; that is patently absurd – you and whoever is propping you up are the greatest threats to not only mankind, but to the viability of the entire ecosystem. Full stop. It makes for a good headline to shift the blame to the Democrats, but that is stupid and unhelpful.
What I do think is important to salvage from Trent’s argument is that cautious half-measures on the part of the Democrats in response to the threat that is your administration are not likely to be effective at all. It is imperative that the Democrats engage in a full-court press. Among dozens of other things, they need to effectively address the humanitarian crisis on the border, go after your damn taxes in earnest, get the full Mueller report and the supporting documentation released, and start impeachment inquiries (at least).
Our situation is dire and while I do think it could get worse if the 2020 elections result in further losses for the Democrats, if they/we don’t stand up on the right side of the copious moral, ethical, and legal issues you’ve foisted on us, then what’s the point of saying we have a democracy at all? Essentially, if the Democrats are not willing to take risks and do the right things by the country (and help the country come around and see that it is absolutely necessary to do the right thing), then we are hosed. Shit. I still don’t think they are truly to blame, but at this point, it does seem the weight of the world is on them.
May we be safe from destructive infighting.
May we have the will and courage and take a strong stance against the mortal threat of you.
May we have the will to nurse our democracy back to health.
May the old and new guard Democrats make peace and find a path forward before it’s too late.