The Right is Wrong And So Is The Left: Both Sides Actually Are In Complete Agreement about Democracy
They Only Think It Can Work When Their Side is In Charge
There has been a disturbing trend in recent elections in both parties as well as one that makes up the loudest voices of each party. They believe that the moment you become an elected official you are part of ‘the system’ and must be forced out. They increasingly believe that the best candidates for any national office are the ones who have a history of losing general elections. And they all believe that compromise — not only with the opposition but with members of their own caucus — is a sign that you are no longer someone who can be trusted and must be thrown out for the next generation.
To be clear, the Republicans are by far guiltier of it and have thought this way for far longer. But among Democrats over the last several elections, it has increasingly become clear among ‘progressives’ that the traits that condemn as offensive when Republicans do them are virtues when members of their tribe do the exact same thing.
For years the left has loved to rant about how primary voters in the Republican party have loved to nominate first Tea Party and then ‘MAGA extremists’ for candidates for Congress and state offices that will win primaries and then go on to lose in general elections. They also mock how the GOP will argue elections being stolen and then nominate those same horrible candidates for office again. Their most prominent example is Kari Lake. Last year she was the Republican nominee for Governor of Arizona before narrowly losing to Katie Hobbs. Lake spent weeks protesting that the election was stolen, lost every single appeal and judgment against it but has yet to concede defeat. Lake is now considering running for Senate against Krystin Sinema next year and has eyes on being Trump’s running mate should be win the Presidential nomination.
Progressives delight in mocking Lake for her obliviousness to reason. They do not consider the possibility that she might be taking a page from the Democratic playbook. In 2018 Stacey Abrams narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race to Brian Kemp. There was accusation of voter purges and that Kemp had manipulate his office as Secretary of State to steal the election from Abrams. But almost from the moment of her loss in 2019, the left turned her into a national hero. When Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won both seats in the Senate in 2020 and Joe Biden narrowly carried the state in the Presidential election, Georgia was considered a swing state again. That being said, it might have been a better idea for the Democrats if they had wanted to carry the governor’s race in that state to nominate someone who had become a figure of less vitriol on the right than Abrams had against Kemp, who had already defeated her. The fact that Kemp had managed to fend off a challenge from David Purdue that same year would seem to have indicated to many people that his popularity in the state was separate from the traditional Trump baggage.
But no one paid any attention. Abrams was nominated practically unopposed in the Georgia Democratic primary last year. And its worth noting that in a midterm where Democratics managed to buck trends not only at a Congressional but a national level almost entirely across the board, one of the few states they could not do so was Georgia. Raphael Warnock managed to defeat Herschel Walker by roughly the same margin he had won election 2 years earlier, both in the general and the runoff. But Brian Kemp defeated Abrams by a larger margin than four years earlier, winning by more than 300,000 votes. Nor was this election ever really close: from beginning to end, Kemp had a comfortable lead over Abrams in the polls. Much of it may have been due to disgust over Walker as a senatorial candidate, but it does not change the fact that Abrams lost by a greater margin than she had four years earlier. None of this has done much to diminish Abrams’ national standing.
But this has become an increasing trend among the progressives of the Democrats who seem to believe that purity matters more than electability. In 2016 when Bernie Sanders had his remarkable run in the Democratic primaries, many progressives chose to interpret that as a national acceptance of his policies by the party rather than the more reasonable idea that it was essentially an anti-Hilary Clinton vote. A sizable percentage of Sanders votes chose to vote for Trump in the general election that fall. Four years later when Sanders ran again in a far wider field, he did far worse against Joe Biden and I have little doubt were it not for outside factors, not the least of which was the anti-Trump feeling, a percentage of Sanders voters might very well have sat the 2020 election out.
Electability and governing have increasingly become contradictory among extremists in both parties, especially in the House of Representatives. This has been going for far longer in the GOP, possibly since Gingrich’s revolution; certainly since the rise of the Tea Party. Ever since Gingrich took over the Speakership in 1995, there have been six different leaders of the GOP caucus and most have resigned rather than have to deal with it for a further election. And it has long since spilled over into every aspect of the membership. It was one thing when Liz Cheney was primaried out; when Marjorie Taylor Greene and Ken Buck are too mainstream for the Freedom Caucus, then not even the inmates are crazy enough to run the asylum.
The Democrats have managed to maintain stability in terms of leadership for the past sixteen years but over the last several there has been an increasing divide within their own caucuses about what path to take. Ever since the midterms of 2018 the more strident members of the left, most prominently ‘the Squad’ have been outshouting those among their own caucus who wish to compromise, something that has repeatedly frustrated the moderates.
In December of 2021 Florida Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy announced that she would not run for reelection. Murphy had been elected to the House in 2016 and had been a member of the ‘Blue Dog Coalition’ the Democratic collation in Republican districts. Murphy had been on the Ways and Means committee and in July of 2022 was one of the members on the January 6th committee. Some considered that the state legislature had been planning to gerrymander her district into a Republican one in May of 2022. But even before than Murphy has been expressing her frustration about Congress. She had one of the best reputations for working across the aisle and getting legislation passed but compared to AOC and Ilhan Ohmar, ‘nobody knows who I am.” As the Democrats have increasingly become progressive, the progressive mindset has shrunk the moderate wing throughout the caucus. Many progressives are inclined to see this as an overarching good as they have come to see negotiation not only with Republicans but within their own party as something to be avoided.
Progressives have increasingly begun to argue that when running for public office one must believe in every bit of the platform or be a Democrat-In-Name-Only. This was clear last year when Henry Cuellar, the last pro-life Democrat in Congress was challenged for the second consecutive time by Justice Democrat Jessica Cisneros. Cuellar managed to beat her again in 2022 but only after a second recount. Cuellar had never been challenged in a Democrat primary since 2006 and it should be very clear that a Texas Democrat has to face greater challenges than one who has to run in New York or California. Nevertheless because of his position on one issue in a swing district, he was targeted by the progressives. In the minds of many leftists, if you don’t agree with 100 percent of their ideas, you might as well be a Republican.
And all this takes place in an increasingly cutthroat electoral environment where every single elected race is considered a life-or-death matter. This is a belief that is bipartisan and no healthier on the left that the right. There are some in the Democrat party who seem to genuinely believe the only way to preserve democracy as an institution is for the Republicans to never win another national election and for them to be a minority in every party of government. In other words, the only way to preserve the rights of American democracy is to more or less assure that one side’s voice always counts less than the other. How is that not a dictatorship?
In this world it’s increasingly become clear that there is little to be gained for either side to work with the other. In my own state of New York where the battle for control of the House may end up being fought Joe Biden recently came under fire by the DNC because he praised Congressman Mike Lawler as a model Republican for working across the aisle against MAGA extremists. Lawler was elected to the House this year and has frequently worked across the aisle. He also been very long in condemning his caucus, most recently in their efforts to shutdown the government. But in the eyes of the DNC, he’s still a Republican and therefore must be defeated. In one of the few states in the country where there are still moderate Republicans, if they are condemned as the enemy what benefit is there for any Republican to work with a Democratic President or across the aisle now or in the future?
Unlike so many of my colleagues on this site, I have no intention of offering some kind of token impossible solution. I do not have one and I’m rational enough to know that a difficult one may not be possible, certainly not in the short term. What I know is that for a democracy to function we can not be perpetually trapped in a zero-sum game. We can’t continuously live in a state where the other side is universally as inhuman with no room for redeeming virtue, no potential to change. We have to accept that whether you try to limit one side’s rights is wrong, whether it be by gerrymandering or the electoral college or by trying to simply outnumber them at the polls until they are perpetually a minority. And we have to accept that America has to work for every single person in it — not merely the people we like.
I expect that I will very well get the same pejorative remarks from this post from all of those ‘tolerant people’ who raise the usual progressive talking points which all come around to: “Well, they started it. Why should we be compelled to fix it?” or “It’s not our job to clean up a mess we didn’t make.” The Internet, as we all know, is where the loudest voices love to gather and shout how intolerant everyone else is. Then again, perhaps I will be lucky and they will continue to gather among themselves, certain in their hearts that the other side is destroying the world as they know it or that both sides have no one’s interests at heart or that everybody is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. They’ve spent their careers ignoring what people who even remotely challenge anyone that tries to penetrate their bubble. Maybe I’ll be just as lucky with this. Or maybe this will penetrate some bubbles of their own. I can hope.