How the Democrats Went from Being the Party of Optimism to the Party of Despair
In yet another blow to left leaning Americans, yesterday’s loss of icon and heroine Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has left most progressives reeling. My social media feed is flooded with tributes to her amazing life; people are changing their profile pictures to images of the Notorious RBG, and sharing her most famous quotes. Undoubtedly, the American left is filled with despair.
“I can’t stop crying,” one of my friends posted last night. “I am heartbroken. Have the bad guys really won?”
Other friends posted images of themselves with their daughters, writing that they fear for their girls’ futures with the Supreme Court in the sure grips of a conservative majority.
The unprecedented events of 2020 have left our nation stunned and dazed, but progressives and left leaning voters especially are running on fumes. The party that once proudly proclaimed “Yes We Can” in 2008 and 2012 as America’s first Black President sailed into office has come up short in countering Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mantra.
“America is already great,” some Democrats quipped back prior to Trump’s 2016 victory, but do progressives truly believe that? Even in 2016 the party that once identified as the party of hope adopted a Chicken Little mentality. The nation that was filled with optimism and potential only four years earlier became plagued with a plethora of social evils: institutional racism and sexism, mass shootings, failing unions, police brutality, unchecked climate change, wage gaps, and political corruption at the highest levels.
Flash forward to the shit show of 2020 and everything is amplified: we’re in the grips of a global pandemic with nearly 200,000 Americans dead. We’re seeing a new reality from the climate change that I mentioned above: the entire American West is on fire and every week seems to bring another hurricane. If that wasn’t enough, it seems that all of the strides made in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s was all for naught as we continue to witness Black Americans die at the hands of law enforcement. No wonder the American Left feels like it’s losing — it’s spiraled into a loser mentality, shifting blame to the most obvious scapegoat — President Donald Trump.
The moment that RBG’s death was announced, my friends began posting about how the spineless President and unscrupulous Mitch McConnell will push for Senate confirmation of a new Justice before November. “Hypocrites!” my fellow left leaning friends shouted across social media, while at the same time posting quotes by the late RBG about leading in a way so that others will follow.
And herein lies the problem: can the Democratic party truly come to victory while in the grips of anger and resentment? The party of John F. Kennedy, who asked us not to think about what our country can do for us, but we what we can do for it — is now stuck in a cycle of blame. Donald Trump and the Republicans are exploiting our anger to their advantage, and we’re playing right into their hands. We’re not the party that wants fair and just policing — we’re the party that hates police officers. We’re not the party that wants a healthier, more sustainable planet for our children — we’re the party that puts coal workers out of jobs. We’re not the party that echos the words etched on the Statue of Liberty “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. . .” we’re the party that wants unchecked immigration, opening our boarders to drug lords and criminals.
But instead of countering Trump’s talking points, we continue to cry that the sky is falling, and it’s all the President’s fault. The wildfires that have killed dozens and caused billions of dollars in damage? Trump’s fault — he’s done nothing to combat global warming. The 200,000 dead Americans due to COVID? The result of Trump’s poor planning and clumsy leadership. The unwarranted police brutality that seems to be sweeping the nation? Trump’s fault for appointing a corrupt and unethical Attorney General. The increase in hate crimes, mass shootings and gun violence? The result of Trump inciting hatred and anger in an already polarized nation.
Last week, as I was working at a client’s house, I listened to FOX News’ coverage of Trump as he gathered with a group of Hispanic Americans in Arizona. Trump gave his usual stump speech that was sprinkled with extra praise for the Hispanic community, but it was what the crowd said that really struck me. These were a group of Americans who truly came from nothing; the sons and daughters of migrants, janitors and low-earning factory workers. They worked hard, scrimping and saving and now they are doctors and teachers, lawyers and business owners. They spoke proudly about their love for America and the opportunities this country offered them. And as I listened to this group of citizens speak so glowingly about our nation, I found it refreshing. I found it inspirational. I found it touching. And it made this card carrying liberal feel something that I haven’t felt in years: patriotism.
If you would have told me four years ago that I would feel patriotic watching a gathering of Trump supporters, I would have sent you packing. But here’s the thing: I am tired of losing. And if I were a new resident of this nation and I had the option of sitting in with this group of Hispanic Americans talking about all the good qualities of our nation, or a Biden/Harris rally, filled with rhetoric about everything that’s going wrong in our country — I would choose the former. It feels good, after all, to win — or to at least feel like we’re winning.
There’s a wide belief among the left that true patriotism is the act of questioning what’s wrong in our nation and working to make it right. But I’m afraid that that the Democratic Party has fallen into Trump’s trap — we’re doing everything he expects of us. We’ve abandoned hope and have become a complaining, blame shifting party of resentment. The Debbie Downer that no one wants to sit by at a gathering. We’ve buried ourselves in a pity party, and it’s hard to find any optimism — any hope — when we are so blinded by our anger.
Yesterday I visited with an 86-year-old gentleman. “What do you think is going to happen in November?” I asked him.
“I think Trump’s going to get voted out,” he said, sounding almost certain.
“I don’t know,” I responded. “Our country is a mess right now.”
“Yeah,” he said. “But it’s still a pretty great place.” He looked me in the eye and smiled, and I thought about all that he’s lived through — the Great Depression, WWII, the assassination of a President and Civil Rights leaders, riots and chaos, terrorism and turmoil. And through it all — he still thinks America is pretty great.
Unless we on the left can adopt his attitude, unless we can coalesce around Biden and Harris with the same fire in our bellies as Trump supporters, I’m afraid we’re facing a Trump presidency for four more years. And we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.