The Problem Isn’t The Democrats’ Lack of Vision. It’s The Madman With The Bat.
The argument making the rounds on social media, every post-election autopsy thinkpiece, cable news talk shows, and even coming from heads of the party, is that Democrats don’t stand for anything. The party isn’t talking about its values. We’re just against things and not for anything. We aren’t doing enough. We aren’t proactive.
Okay, take a break from the intraparty griping for a second. We are fighting, but it’s a defensive strategy right now and not an offense. Everything we could get passed under the Obama administration, every small step toward progress, Republicans are trying to tear apart. If Obama did it, Republicans are hellbent on undoing it. If Democrats fixed it, Republicans must break it.
Imagine cultivating something, like say, an art museum. A curator put together a gallery, choosing themes and artists and mediums that fit their vision. You could argue that you don’t like the art they chose or that you would have made different selections, but you couldn’t argue that there was no art. There’s clearly something up on the walls and it is reflective of the curator’s values.
Then, imagine some critic came in and said, “We don’t need any more artists or curators. What the gallery needs is a lunatic eccentric billionaire to shake things up.” He comes in with a baseball bat and threatens to smash everything in the gallery. Now the curator, who worked very hard and values the art, says, “Put the bat down, let’s debate the merits of the art.” It’s at this point that the madman with the bat, the critics, and even the patrons of the art gallery turn on the curator to ask, “Well, what’s your plan? What’s your vision? What’s your alternative?”
During the Obama years, we cultivated a vision for our future. We expressed our values through legislation like healthcare reform, environmental regulations, marriage equality, protections for LGBT Americans, pay equality, advancement of science, and so on. Those are our values, our priorities, a vision we have demonstrated. And every act that President Trump, the Republican House, Senate, or cabinet appointees take is aimed at taking a bat to those steps forward.
I’ve heard complaints that Democrats need to do more than just oppose Republicans who want to repeal Obamacare. “But what are the Democrats for? What’s their plan?” Um, Obamacare was their plan. I thought a year of debates and seven years preventing its repeal made it clear where the party stands. On the campaign trail, Clinton, who has fought for universal health care step by step since the 90’s, acknowledged that the ACA was good but not perfect. It helped people, but it could do more, and she intended to expand on its successes. Democrats made a huge compromise offering up an improved version of Romneycare that Republicans used to love. They had a yearlong debate with an obstructionist Republican party. They passed the legislation, and fought off repeated attempts to kill it. But now it’s up to the same Democrats to come up with an alternative when the Republicans are in a position to repeal their progress?
Trump sent a surprise announcement that he intended to reinstate a ban on transgendered troops serving openly in the military. This was a ban that Obama, in his last year in office, lifted. And Trump’s announcement was such a surprise that military leaders didn’t even seem to know it was coming. When Democratic leaders made statements against the reinstatement of the ban, they were met with criticism from the left for not doing enough, for not being more proactive. “Democrats say they stand with transgendered troops but what are they actually doing?” Again, Democrats made their vision clear when they lifted the ban in the first place. Now it’s the Democrats’ fault for not doing enough to fight the Republicans’ out of the blue reversal of the Democrats’ progress? Democrats lifted the ban, that was the proactive, progressive move.
So clearly the problem isn’t that the curator has no vision. The problem isn’t that there’s a barren gallery, devoid of any art whatsoever. The problem is the crazed billionaire with the bat, attempting to smash everything in sight in an angry spiteful rage.
So, if you want to argue that you don’t like the progress the Democrats have made, or the platform they’ve put together, you’re free to hold that political viewpoint. But you cannot look at what we gained during the Obama years, or what Clinton argued for as a candidate, then look at what the Republicans are attempting to do, and tell me that Democrats lack vision. We are naturally in a defensive mode, and as soon as the bad man puts down his bat, we can get back to cultivating our vision. Right now, we’re focused on not letting all our stuff get smashed.