The Democrats Have Already Lost

It’s time to turn this ship around before we’re too far gone.

Shannon Ashley
Jan 26 · 9 min read
Image credit: Ted Eytan

During the Georgia Senate runoffs, I kept thinking that the Democrats better not fuck this up. In the back of my mind, however, I knew that they likely would fuck it all up as soon as they could. And wouldn’t you know, they did.

See, many, many Democrats made a very specific promise to Americans: Get Ossoff and Warnock elected, and we’ll send you $2K stimulus checks. Until then? Our hands are tied.

Biden specifically said, “If you send Jon and the Reverend to Washington, those $2,000 checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency and honor for so many people who are struggling right now.”

All-day, every day, $2,000 was the number the Democrats brought up. Nobody was saying, “If Ossoff and Warnock win, we’ll send you $1,400 checks.”

Yet that’s where Biden backtracked, as soon conversations turned back to relief checks. Yes, I grasp the logic behind $1,400 checks. I understand that $600 plus $1,400 equals $2,000.

Worse yet, Biden told Americans at the Atlanta campaign rally just one day before the Georgia senate vote,

Immediately, huh?

Hey, I get it that politicians are going to play politics, but haven’t we all reached the point where it’s way too old and exhausting? Words matter. I’d argue that right now, words matter more than ever. This is not the time to make promises to Americans about sending “immediate” relief if you cannot or will not keep those promises.

As it stands, Americans don’t even know when or if we’ll see these third checks. It might not be until the end of March that we see direct checks under the Biden administration. So, about a year since people first began staying home. And about 3 months after Trump’s second stimulus check.

Knowing that, why the hell wouldn’t President Biden and the rest of the Democrats want to do as much aid as absolutely possible at this point? Why leave any room for doubt that you actually mean what you say?

An unprecedented pandemic calls for unprecedented action. What makes that so tough for the President to grasp? The Democratic Party is simply not delivering value to the people.

They broke a very important promise — whether folks want to admit it or not. It’s also one of the worst possible times in history to lie to Americans. You might twist this into a simple “misunderstanding” or an issue of semantics, but it’s still wrong. After four years of one administration that couldn’t be trusted plus the proliferation of Far-Right disinformation online, Americans on all sides need to be able to trust our government again.

But the President and most of his fellow Democrats have made that impossible right now. They just gave Republicans an excuse to say, “See? The Democrats lied to you just to get those votes in Georgia.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the President can’t, won’t, or hasn’t accomplished some great things. But Biden and the rest of the Democrats who walked the check back to $1,400 have lost their sense of urgency. After nearly a year of the coronavirus pandemic, an urgency to benefit the people is exactly what the people need.

Hell, let’s talk about the minimum wage. Democrats just introduced legislation to bring the federal minimum wage up to $15. Finally, right?

Except, no. Not really. This initiative will raise the minimum wage to $15… by 2025. So, while some of you folks are all doe-eyed and heart emojis, I am rolling my eyes at the fact that we’ve been fighting for this increase for 10 years. A decade of pushing for a livable wage, and now we’re going to wait four more years and by the time this actually happens, $15 an hour will still be too low.

Twitter screenshot

For fuck’s sake, people. Two years ago, studies showed that $15 an hour is in fact not a truly livable wage. But hey, I’m sure it will all fix itself by 2025, right?

From where I stand, Democrats are losing the war and it’s everyday people who are paying the price. All in the middle of a fucking pandemic. We’re at such a precarious point in our history where half of America doesn’t even believe in taking precautions against the coronavirus — they don’t trust science, they don’t trust the news and now they don’t trust elections. They honestly don’t trust anyone who doesn’t spout their crackpot conspiracy theories which mostly benefit the wealthy, the elite, and the white.

There is no time for indecision here. Americans are dying and the tragedy doesn’t even end there. There’s the trauma of everybody who loved or depended upon the people who have died. Children, parents, students, spouses, etc. There’s the trauma of folks who are battling — or watching loved ones battle — long haul COVID-19 symptoms. The trauma of losing work and social interactions. The trauma of such massive societal change.

More than 421,000 Americans have died in less than a year because of this virus. With those deaths, we are talking about millions of traumatized people. Though honestly, by the time this is “over” or even remotely behind us, everyone is going to experience some trauma in one form or another as a result of the pandemic.

What’s really scary about that is knowing we are not equipped to handle that sort of traumatic response. We don’t have the healthcare or the resources. We don’t even have social empathy.

Everyone is just winging this, which means a lot of people are going to handle all of it very badly. Very few people can say they were even slightly prepared for this.

And what do hurt people do? They hurt people. It’s unfathomable to imagine what the next 5, 10, 20 years will be like with so much unhealed trauma.

Without deliberate, intentional, and expedient action, all of this is set to get far worse before it can ever get better. You simply cannot have this level of trauma in a nation — or a world — and expect it to just go away on its own. That’s not realistic. That’s not how trauma works. Trauma is something that requires intentional management and processing. It’s something we have to actively get through if we want to heal and become healthy again.

That’s why Democrats need to move swiftly and progressively. Show the naysayers that people really can get shit done. Give Americans direct relief. And adequate relief. Get healthcare going for everyone that also includes access to mental health care. Make it easier for people to stay home. Support our frontline workers who are taking on the most risk. Make quality education affordable. Give people hope. Help them dream again.

It’s imperative that the Left show the Right how it’s possible to actually take care of people without everything falling apart. Because right now, we are still doing the half-assed, pussyfoot thing. It’s not going to work out in the end. All of this talk about unity and bipartisanship is getting us nowhere. This is truly not the time to play it safe with politics and attempt to appease everybody on all sides.

This is the time to focus on doing actual good and turning things around in this country.

Frankly, I haven’t been a Democrat or a Republican for many years, and all of this above is basically why. I see both sides as two arms of the same damn dysfunctional monster. However, the Republicans are so much better at what they do. They’re better at unity with each other, though I’m sure it helps that they’ve all got a common enemy in “big bad, scary socialism.” OoOoOooh.

Republicans are so damn scared of these really off-the-wall threats. The threats and propaganda like America is going to start locking up Christians. They say these absurd things, and then they band together politically to push the rest of the country closer to their shockingly anti-people agenda.

Twitter
Facebook

It’s just so damn exhausting and I suspect it’s probably most tiring for those of us who come from the Far-Right because we know just how serious and committed these people are.

I’m not saying the Far-Right isn’t hypocritical because it absolutely is — and that’s much of the problem. However, they’re also committed to every bad take no matter how hypocritical they might be.

Meanwhile, Democrats are losing partly because they can’t seem to agree amongst themselves upon any humanity-first agenda. We’ve got all the moderate or corporate D’s telling the progressives to slow down or quit being so idealistic. What they really mean is that nothing will fundamentally change. And l suppose, why should it? Most of our lawmakers are so far removed from the needs of regular Americans. It shows when you look at how both sides are willing to spend money.

Leaders are just hemming and hawing over the idea of “more” direct checks when they spend truly insane amounts of money on war, corporate bailouts, other countries, and a litany of failing or wasteful programs, yet they are so worried that someone making $70K a year might get a stimulus check they don’t need.

Twitter

How is this even real life? Most of our lawmakers have millions of dollars to fall back on. Few Americans have a nest egg for emergencies. “Since 2014, the percentage of U.S. adults who would tap cash reserves to cover a $1,000 emergency has hovered between 37% to 41%.”

Add to that the mental and emotional stress of a global pandemic and this is a nightmarish situation.

Now is not the time for Democrats to let Americans down. To make everything worse, we already have a problem with fascism and white supremacy. These are problems that only grow the more people have to scrimp, scrape, and struggle. So much of the power behind the Far-Right’s disinformation machine is just unhappiness.

Throughout history, disgruntled people gravitate to extremes, and especially to fascism. How did Hitler rise to power? Well, he did give unhappy people a scapegoat. Sadly, the use of a scapegoat is a pretty powerful tool. That’s just another reason why Republicans are better at pushing their agendas, uniting their followers, and gumming up the wheels of progress.

The past four years should have been enough to convince the Democratic Party that playing it safe and moderate isn’t really working. People are more divided. People are angrier.

It doesn’t matter how much leaders like Nina Turner, AOC, or Ro Khanna talk about things like universal healthcare or a universal basic income. Not when Democrats as a whole refuse to get there.

Twitter

I just keep thinking about this quote I saw on a magnet back when I was a teenager:

“It came from the tolerance of mediocrity.”

This, I think, describes exactly where we’re at. We (the collective We) can’t win if we’re not putting people first and making meaningful choices for positive change. We can’t afford to do too little because we’re talking about real human lives, real families, and real trauma. We can’t afford to keep offering the same mediocre solutions to such enormous and culture-shifting experiences.

Make no mistake. We are in the middle of a collective trauma. According to VeryWellMind, “Traumatic experiences may cause a massive shift in the way people in a culture behave, feel, work together, and raise their children.”

We’ve seen what the Right has to offer, haven’t we? That all came to a violent head on January 6.

And we’ve what mediocrity gets us. More than 421,000 — and counting— Americans dead. Not to mention needless trauma upon trauma.

The last thing we the people need is more of the same old impotent thing. By breaking their promises, moving too slowly, and sticking to these mediocre messages of unity with people who literally don’t care who dies — the Democrats have already lost.

If they don’t change course and start prioritizing radical action to make the most of these four years, I don’t know if there’ll ever be a chance to try again.

The damage might just be too great.

Honestly Yours

Essays with heart

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store