Part 3—Our tribe's sad state of affairs: So cool!
All last night, our liberal tribe was chasing Jeff Sessions around. Has he been committing bad crimes too?
Dearest God, let it be so!
On cable, our favorite stars keep pimping our cry: Lock him up! We're thus exposed to the thrill of the chase. We're pleasured this way each night.
This morning, Bernie Sanders demurs.
His demurral isn't explicit. But in this morning's New York Times, Sanders notes a troubling point. Even as we chase the crimes of Donald J. Trump, we live in a world in which our tribe can no longer win elections.
Bernie Sanders' column tops the Times' op-ed page—but oof! Headline included, this is the way he begins:
SANDERS (6/14/17): How Democrats Can Stop LosingOof. As facts like those keep piling up, we keep following corporate pied pipers as they sell us the thrill of the chase and urge us to say, "Lock him up!"
In 2016, the Democratic Party lost the presidency to possibly the least popular candidate in American history. In recent years, Democrats have also lost the Senate and House to right-wing Republicans whose extremist agenda is far removed from where most Americans are politically. Republicans now control almost two-thirds of governor’s offices and have gained about 1,000 seats in state legislatures in the past nine years. In 24 states, Democrats have almost no political influence at all.
If these results are not a clear manifestation of a failed political strategy, I don’t know what is.
Lock him up! It's straight from the mindset of General Flynn. Today, though, this dull-witted, thrilling cry represents who we are.
Oof. The first fact Sanders cites ought to be chastening. Last year, our party managed to lose the White House "to possibly the least popular candidate in American history!"
From there, Sanders presents a familiar set of facts about the liberal world's increasing political haplessness. Increasingly, we can't win an election to save our lives, whether on the federal, state or local level.
But in the face of our tribal haplessness, we proceed in predictable ways. We say it's because The Others are racists. Having offered that diagnosis, we utter our thrilling cry.
Sanders offers a very brief overview of our political spiral. Let's provide the basics about the political lay of the land in this, the era of the craziest Republican chief executive of all time:
At present, Republicans hold 33 governorships. Democrats hold only 16.
On the federal level, Republicans control the Senate. Given the seats which are up for election, Democrats are facing a stiff uphill climb next year.
Republicans hold a substantial majority in the House. We liberals say that, if things go right, Democrats might possibly maybe have a chance to win narrow control next year.
On the local level, the numbers are hell. Have Republicans "gained about 1,000 seats in state legislatures in the past nine years?" After November's election, Reid Wilson described the lay of the legislative land in this report for The Hill:
WILSON (11/18/16): The Democratic Party will hit a new nadir in state legislative seats after suffering more losses in November’s elections, highlighting the devastation up and down the party across the nation.Liberals, we'll always have Pawtucket! You must remember that!
Republicans will control 4,170 state legislative seats after last week’s elections, while Democrats will control 3,129 seats in the nation’s 98 partisan legislative chambers. Republicans picked up a net gain of 46 seats in Tuesday’s elections, while Democrats lost 46 seats, according to the latest vote counts from The Associated Press.
In total, Republicans control nearly 1,000 more legislative seats than they did when Obama took office. The Republican share of state legislative seats has grown from just under 44 percent in 2009 to 56 percent after Tuesday’s election.
After the latest losses, Democrats will hold just 42 percent of legislative seats in the nation.
Beginning next year, Republicans will control 67 of the 98 partisan legislative chambers, after winning new majorities in the Kentucky House, the Iowa Senate and the Minnesota Senate. Democrats picked up control of both the state Assembly and Senate in Nevada, and the New Mexico state House.
Since Obama took office, Republicans have captured control of 27 state legislative chambers Democrats held after the 2008 elections. The GOP now controls the most legislative seats it has held since the founding of the party.
When the new year dawns, Republicans will control both chambers of the state legislature and governorships in 24 states. Democrats will hold total control in only five states—Hawaii, California, Oregon, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Sanders and Wilson describe a rolling political meltdown. In the face of such disaster, we parade around each night, in thrall to multimillionaire cable hosts who sell us the political equivalent of thrilling "True Crime" drama.
In fairness, this is very good for ratings, and for those multimillionaire hosts' bank accounts and careers. Is it good for progressive interests?
Most likely, no. Most likely, it is not.
Let's be fair! When we manage to lock them up, it sometimes gives us a lift. After Nixon was dispatched, we actually managed to win the White House by the skin of our teeth.
Then too, we'll always have 2006! Wilson recalls the greatness:
WILSON: Democrats say they have nowhere to go but up. In 2006, the last time a Republican president was in office during a midterm election, Democrats regained control of ten legislative chambers.Indeed, 2006 was a great year for Democrats overall. The leading authority recalls a significant part of what happened that glorious year:
The Mark Foley scandal, which broke in late September 2006, centers on soliciting e-mails and sexually suggestive instant messages sent by Mark Foley, a Republican Congressman from Florida, to teenaged boys who had formerly served as congressional pages. Investigation was closed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on September 19, 2008 citing insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges as both "Congress and Mr. Foley denied us access to critical data", said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. The scandal grew to encompass the response of Republican congressional leaders to previous complaints about Foley's contacts with the pages and inconsistencies in the leaders' public statements. There were also allegations that a second Republican Congressman, Jim Kolbe, had improper conduct with at least two youths, a 16-year-old page and a recently graduated page.Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! We managed to lock a few of them up! This helped us gain control of the House, even if ever so briefly.
The scandal led to Foley's resignation from Congress on September 29, 2006. In some quarters, the scandal is believed to have contributed to the Republican Party's loss of control over Congress in the November 7, 2006 election, as well as the end of House Speaker Dennis Hastert's leadership of the House Republicans. Kirk Fordham, chief of staff to Rep. Tom Reynolds and former chief of staff for Foley, also resigned as a result of the scandal.
Sad! A cynic would say that we modern liberals laze around the pool, hoping that one of The Others will commit a high-profile crime (preferably one that's sexual in nature), or will start human history's dumbest war.
Because they involved gay sexual misconduct aimed at teens, the crimes of Foley and Hastert were absolutely perfect! We locked them up, as with Nixon of old, and managed to win some elections.
Sanders reminds us that those glorious days are gone. In our view, he offers a limited prescription for how to proceed from here.
How should liberals, progressives and Democrats address the "failed political strategy" that leaves us in our current miserable state? Sanders says this of the Democratic Party:
"Without hesitation, it must take on the powerful corporate interests that dominate the economic and political life of the country."
We can't say that's false. We'd also say that the liberal world should challenge the powerful corporate interests that dominate the "journalistic" life of the country. That domination is on display each night as our favorite cable stars mug, clown, dissemble, cavort and send brain cells to the gallows.
As his column proceeds, Sanders prescribes a narrow political path as we attempt to address our downward spiral. We don't necessarily disagree with the various things he says, but we think his field of vision is somewhat narrow.
What explains the gruesome facts Sanders presents at the start of his column? Is it the gerrymandering we love to blame? Is it really all those racists Over There?
We think Sanders' field of vision is perhaps a bit narrow. Tomorrow, we'll suggest a few of the ways we've reached the pathetic state of affairs in which our tribe can think of little but this:
Dearest god in heaven, please! Help us lock him up!
Tomorrow: Basic thoughts on Ojibwe math
Friday: A truly remarkable lineup