Democrats need to defend themselves better in the media by speaking up more
Whether you get your news from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Watauga Herald (Boone, N.C.), anywhere on television or even your next-door-neighbor, chances are good that it is dominated by stories about the latest comings-and-goings of inanities, hilarities, faux-tantrums, obscenities, generalized criticisms of anything Obama and/or demagogic rants posed as policy statements uttered by Republican/Conservative candidates/string-pullers.
The chances are not so good that you will read much of anything that Democrats/Progressives other than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders has to say. Many in the progressive community interpret the disparity in coverage as nothing more than a reflection of conservatives’ entertainment value. I get that and don’t entirely disagree with it.
After all, a solid, detailed Hillary Clinton policy paper on the benefits of Pre-K education for children who live in poverty doesn’t sell papers quite like a story about GOP presidential candidates enthusiastically and unapologetically participating in a revival/conference led by a pathological preacher who has determined that homosexuals should be “put to death.”
However, much of the blame for the disparity in coverage can be laid on the respective doorsteps of leading Democrats/Progressives. The media cannot report on what the American Left had to say about this or that if the American Left had nothing to say about this or that. Indeed, a comparison of each group’s response to the president’s recent State of the Union address is exemplary of my point.
Faux policy-wonk, straight-laced, straight-faced liar – unlike Republicans, I don’t use that term loosely – and self-proclaimed “friend of the poor” Paul Ryan, who apparently hasn’t shaved since he auditioned for a part in “The Revenant,” did not, to put it mildly, like President Obama’s eloquent and, per usual, learned State of the Union address.
The new Speaker of the House, in a moment of cognitive dissonance that bordered on hilarity, claimed that the speech “disgraced” the tradition of the SOTU because it was, uh, “political in tone.”
Now, this was the same Paul Ryan whose office actually tweeted out a blatantly partisan critique of the speech before the president even reached the halfway point of it. But that, of course, wasn’t “political in tone.” And this was the same Paul Ryan who released a post-speech statement saying that he wasn’t really disappointed by the speech “because I wasn’t expecting much.” But that, of course, wasn’t “political in tone.”
The Speaker also suggested that it had taken a right fair amount of energy for him to “not appear disrespectful” while sitting behind the president as he spoke to Congress, the nation and the world. Given that showing disrespect to what a former South Carolina state GOP representative called “the Black Man in the White House” has become competitive entertainment for Republican office-holders pandering to the racist element of the American Right, I don’t doubt that it took Mr. Ryan a fair amount of energy to resist becoming part of the fun.
Though, of course, the classic passive-aggressive form of showing disrespect involves one saying he/she had to “work hard to not be disrespectful.” But the Speaker’s statement, of course, was not “political in tone.” Nor, of course, passive-aggressive. Memo to Paul Ryan: Hypocrite much? Second Memo to Paul Ryan: Shave!
Nikki Haley, who is apparently trying to enhance her “brown-ness” via a tanning bed and is clearly using a new teeth whitener didn’t like the president’s speech much, either. Her, uh, thoroughly objective analysis was that, under Mr. Obama’s leadership, the country had descended to what, for all intents and purposes, was the edge of Dante’s Inferno. But she did hold out a sprig of hope: Elect a Republican president and a country teetering on the edge of a dark, 14th-century fantasy would be instantaneously transformed into a reasonable facsimile of a late 1st-century apocalyptic vision “the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven…”
Governor Haley was as long on generalities and short on specifics per how Mr. Obama occasioned our descent into the Valley of the Shadow as she was per how Republicans will occasion our ascent to the Promised Land. But that is the wont of the Grand Old Party; hyperbolic anger, fear-mongering and pricey black boots with elevator heels are its strengths, while specifics are most definitely not.
The Palmetto State’s chief executive also made a right glaring historical error when she intimated that neither race nor religion has ever been a consideration in U.S. immigration laws passed by Congress. The first of such laws was passed in 1790. The last of which I am aware was passed in 1923 and, given that it prohibited immigrants from India from becoming naturalized citizens, one would think Ms. Haley might be aware of it, her parents, after all, immigrated to the U.S. from India. However, Republicans have a curious relationship with history, they would rather revise it than learn from it. So perhaps her mistake is understandable. Not forgivable. But understandable.
The responses of other Republicans were along the same critical lines as that of Ms. Haley, except that they were generally more hyperbolic, apocalyptic, racist, nativist and several of them used the words “chilling” and “feckless.” They can be summed up thusly: President Obama, who is “feckless,” “chilling” and “the most divisive president in American history,” is responsible for every “bad” thing happening in our local communities, our states, our nation, and our world today and, on the new Republican president’s first day in office, he/she will repeal/erase every “bad” decision/action made/initiated by this Kenya-born Muslim Socialist during his time in office.
Was I disappointed by the Republican responses?
No. After listening to incessant Republican insult and invective directed toward this president for the past seven years, I wasn’t expecting anything different. After all, this is a political party within which saying anything positive about Mr. Obama – or, hugging him after he has sent federal aid to your state following a devastating hurricane – can cost one his/her career.
But I was disappointed by the responses of Democrats. As I have been disappointed in them for the better part of these last seven years.
Understand, I am not interested in progressives trying to match the clowns of the conservative movement insult-for-insult or invective-for-invective. But it galls me that Democrats/Progressives are so reticent to speak out about the ferocious policy headwinds generated by congressional conservatives against which Mr. Obama has had to sail the ship of state since his first day in office.
It galls me that they are so reticent to speak out about Republican/Conservative/Tea Party economic policies which have not only created, over the past 35 years, the largest wealth/capital/income/opportunity gap since the Gilded Age but which, still in place, continue to stagnate income growth for American workers and continues to increase the size of the gap.
It galls me that Democrats/Progressives are so reticent to not only defend but laud the president’s economic record, given that he took office just as the budget-busting and deregulatory policies of George W. Bush had put the country at the edge of the economic cliff and had forever changed the lives and future hopes of millions of Americans, young and old.
It galls me that Democrats/Progressives are so reticent to counter Republican accusations that “nothing got done with Congress” because the president “didn’t like schmoozing” when they knew that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, at every turn, turned down invitations to White House social events.
It galls me that Democrats/Progressives are so reticent to rebut the fools who have created a narrative about this president being “the most divisive president in U.S. history” when we all know who is responsible for putting dynamite in the country’s racial/social/cultural fault lines and lighting the fuse.
And it galls me that Democrats/Progressives are so reticent to “tell it like it is” per what the Republican Party has actually become; a scary circus of visceral, reflexive, angry, aggrieved white people whose anger and fear, racism and nativism are manipulated by politicians so deftly that, at every turn, they vote against their own interests.
Count me as one galled Democrat/Progressive.
And count me as one Democrat/Progressive who will remain galled until those leaders I support begin to stand up and speak out, offering a stout, factual defense of this president and emerging progressive policies and engaging a stout, factual offensive against the lunacy of both Republican leaders and their already-failed policies.
Memo to Democrats/Progressives: Stand up. Speak out. LOUDLY!