No, we do not have to be polite … ever

Wednesday, November 11, 2020 - 10:20am

Former Vice President Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States at noon on Jan. 20. This is only disputed by the most authoritarian menaces our nation has to offer. In 2016, faced with the unimaginable prospect of a known misogynist, racist, liar and complete imbecile becoming president of the U.S., Democrats made the long-precedented choice to respect the outcome of the election. Hillary Clinton walked onto the stage at the Javits Center in New York, sporting a purple pantsuit to symbolize the red and blue areas of our country coming together once again. 

That’s what we do in America. We fight hard for what we believe in. We scratch and claw for every last vote we can find, but we accept the will of the voters and honor the sacred duty they undertook when they cast their ballots. Granted, that’s not always how it’s been. But, at least for a while, that’s how it used to be.

Now, Republicans have decided that outcomes they don’t like are rigged and that they’ll scratch and claw to delegitimize every vote they can. Republicans have no respect for American democracy. They despise the voters because with every election the country shifts further and further left. For four years, Democrats and Independents treated these Republicans as peers, as if they were our partners in good-faith governance. How naive. The more than 70 million people who voted for that are now lost forever. Many of Donald Trump’s voters twice supported a man and a party whose prejudices were already public knowledge. 

Now, former Sen. Rick Santorum, a Republican and CNN political analyst, says that we need to “give people time” to process the outcome of the election. When faced with a similar prospect at the 2016 Republican National Convention, many basically told Democrats “Fuck your feelings.” Now, while cognitive dissonance is as essential to Trumpism as hair plugs, it’s striking to see it play out in real time. But it’s not surprising — you just knew this was what would happen. You just knew the people who have spent 10 years calling people “snowflakes” for standing firmly for their progressive values were going to cry like children the second things stopped going their way. 

But this should be cathartic for the 77 million Americans who voted to preserve our democracy. The real snowflakes have spent the last number of days rage-tweeting neo-fascist conspiracy trash and hosting press conferences that would make North Korean state TV anchors seem timid. We should be enjoying this. They’re melting down like the Wicked Witch of the West. They’re terrified of your vote counting, because of the implications of what those votes mean for them. To understand why, we have to think about what Republicans had, what they lost in this election and what they’ll have left.

Republicans came into this election with a two-seat Senate majority and an illegitimatepartisan Supreme Court that was explicitly put into place to hand Trump a win in an election he knew he’d lose. We don’t have to assume that, Trump and his associates have said so on national television. To believe otherwise is willful ignorance, though that is arguably the Republican Party’s most noteworthy skill. In fact, according to a study from Slate, disseminating and believing lies is at the core of the conservative mind. So the Republican Party, as of Nov. 2, had the court in its pocket, as well as a legislature that it could stall from passing any meaningful legislation to help the millions devastated by the pandemic. 

Most importantly, it had a brainwashed following, which believed that all of the GOP’s craven assaults on our democracy were legitimate. Trump has also repeatedly deemed opposition to his party’s degradation of our democracy as treason. Now, all of those facades have begun to crumble. As of Nov. 11, Republicans have the fight of their lives ahead of them in Georgia to save their Senate majority, the last true, short-term safeguard of everything that hasn’t been taken from them in this deeply embarrassing electoral defeat. They still have the Supreme Court, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, R-Ky., decision to end the filibuster for judicial nominations in 2017 now means only 51 votes are needed to confirm a judge to the federal bench. 

It stands to reason that if Democrats take the Senate, they will add at least two (for a total of 11), if not four (to bring the total to 13 — a justice for each Circuit Court), justices to the Supreme Court, restoring a desperately-needed balance to the nation’s ultimate decision-making body. President-elect Joe Biden has said that he will form a commission to examine Supreme Court reform. The aforementioned possibilities would likely be under consideration as a more moderated version of Franklin Roosevelt’s less-altruistic endeavors after his own landslide victory in 1936. And in case the implication was unclear: President-elect Biden did indeed win a landslide. 

They also have to deal with what to tell their voters. When a party has spent the better half of the 21st century lying to and gaslighting its voters, fleecing their working-class white base of millions of tax dollars while giving corporations a nearly-50% tax cut (from 35% to 21%), it makes sense that a lot of them are going to have trouble believing and accepting what they’re seeing. Well, it’s not on the Democrats to coddle people who were too stupid to figure out that they were duped by a man with a bad tan and the world’s most obvious hair plugs, an anthropomorphic tortoise from Kentucky and two Oklahoma oil kingpins. No, ignorance is not an excuse. These people got what was coming to them, and if the shoe was on the other foot, they’d be beating our brains in with it. 

The most important political asset the Republicans have had working in their favor since Gingrich’s Republican Revolution in 1994, though, has been the political incompetence of their Democratic counterparts. The Democratic leadership of the 2000s and 2010s has been so shamefully embarrassing that it’s a permanent stain on our party that we’ve allowed these leaders to remain for so long. They’ve allowed presidents who lost the popular vote to appoint five of the nine Supreme Court Justices. They’ve managed to build a Senate minority that represents more voters than the majority. 

Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have been in the Democratic leadership since before the vast majority of University of Michigan students were even born. Democrats are living in the political stone age. McConnell isn’t some political mastermind, he’s just the leader of a party whose opponents are politically impotent. They need to be replaced with people who look and talk like the average voter, and who care about the same issues as the average voter. Look for answers in people like Reps. Katie Porter, D-Calif., and Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., or Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va. and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. If either Jon Ossoff or Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Democrats running for Senate in Georgia, win in their runoffs, either would also be a welcome breath of fresh air in Senate leadership. 

In case that wasn’t blunt enough; Democrats need to pull it together — now — or they will lose to a much more competent authoritarian in four years. They have an opportunity to develop an electoral monopoly for a generation, if, for the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson was the Democratic Senate leader, they can meaningfully govern. Precedent suggests that presidents who have done a poor job of crisis management cede not only their own elections, but often damage their party for decades to come. Democrats have a four-year-long opportunity to prove to voters that they didn’t just elect “not-Donald Trump,” but that they elected a strong, caring, compassionate man leading a strong, caring, compassionate party. 

It’s been a generation of playing from behind, declaring that they’re aghast that Republicans would take such brazenly anti-democratic measures, and then crawling back to their corner, battered and bloodied, after their legislative priorities are shrugged aside by McConnell and his fascist goons. Look no further than the fight over Obamacare for an example. Republicans, as outlined above, have lost just about everything. Democrats have two choices: let them back into the game, or step on their throats and shut the lights out. 

Democrats, and all Americans who favor our current, free society, should be doing much more than just dancing in the streets with Gritty — though some of those videos are probably the most heartwarming images of America we’ve seen in quite some time. Democrats need to be planning an aggressive method of governance, ready to step into the ring with McConnell and go punch-for-punch with America’s legislative boogeyman. Social Security and Medicaid will crumble in the next decade without decisive government action, which Republicans oppose. Daily COVID-19 cases are currently at all-time highs in America. And quite frankly, Americans viscerally hate each other. That last one would suggest a more conciliatory tone is in order, but it’s not. 

That Americans hate each other is a symptom of Republicans and conservatives deciding that they can’t win elections, and have decided the best plan of attack is to burn the building down on the way out. So, no, we should not be conciliatory toward Trump and his voters. Democrats should be on social media, on TV and in the streets if need be, not just repudiating the lame duck in the White House, but every one of the 71 million “Americans” complicit in his attempt to end our democracy. Treat them like garbage. It’s exactly what they are. “They’ll like us when we win.

Jack Roshco can be reached at jroshco@umich.edu.


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