In the run-up to the 2018 midterms, a major element of Democratic Party messaging was that the party would serve as a check on President Trump and the Republican Party. Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi "will place the emphasis on investigations by Democratic-led committees in the House to keep the Trump administration in the crosshairs," predicted The Guardian in December 2018.
There's just one problem: Great swathes of the Democratic structure are permeated to their very marrow with moral rot and cowardice, unwilling to do anything but the most superficial acts to check the GOP — and indeed often conspiring with them to preserve Republican dominance, as Democrats in the North Carolina state legislature did Monday.
If America is to be purged of the Republican Party's lawlessness and corruption, only somewhat less serious problems in the Democratic Party must also be rooted out first.
I have written before about the party's incoherent reasons for not convening an impeachment inquiry or seriously investigating the Trump administration's awesome corruption, their inexcusable foot-dragging on getting Trump's tax returns, and the exhausted, helpless leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. It turns out the top of the party is also totally unwilling to do anything about Justice Brett Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulting multiple women in college, per a recent New York Times report (not to mention apparently perjuring himself in his confirmation hearings). "Get real," Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Il.) told Politico.
Now, this is no excuse. Impeachment is the morally and constitutionally obligated solution to wildly corrupt or unfit people in the nation's highest office. But at least there is the thin justification of Senate Republicans being 100-percent guaranteed to vote against convicting Trump or Kavanaugh for anything. They could bisect a toddler with a katana on national television and not get one single Republican defection in either house of Congress.
That is not the case for a recent betrayal from the Democrats of the North Carolina state senate. For years now, activists and civil rights groups have been pursuing expensive legal action to overturn the egregious Republican gerrymandering of the state's district boundaries (at both the state and federal level). They recently succeeded with a state Supreme Court ruling tossing out the current maps and asking the legislature to draw new ones.
Then Monday night Republicans proposed a new gerrymander only somewhat less bad than their previous effort — and about half the state's Democratic senators voted for it. Daily Kos elections analyst Stephen Wolf demonstrates that the median senate district on the new map supported Trump by 10 percentage points — 6 points higher than his actual margin of victory in the state as a whole. Princeton's Sam Wang calculates that a 50-50 popular vote split would result in a 6-vote Republican majority.
North Carolina Democratic Senate Leader Dan Blue claimed on Twitter that he supported the gerrymander because his party had to participate "in a flawed process to advocate for progress, even if it's not the perfect outcome." But Daily Kos's David Nir points out, this is completely preposterous, as the state Supreme Court has already retained a redistricting expert that Democrats could demand be used to draw genuinely fair maps. (Besides, politicians in general should not be able to select their own voters, Democrats included).
No, the real reason Blue and company voted as they did is because Republicans bought off Democratic support by making a few of their districts less competitive (which also happened in several other states during the epic Republican gerrymander binge of 2010). Better for Blue and company to cruise to an easy reelection victory in a powerless minority position than have a real chance of governing the state — and thus face demands from their constituents to do something to improve their lives, which might infringe on future consulting or buckraking careers.
Meanwhile in Oregon, where Democrats hold both houses of the state legislature and the governorship, the cowering leadership is considering holding a special session of the legislature to roll back an anti-death penalty measure passed earlier this year. As Chris Geidner explains, there is no reason to do this aside from caving in to bullying from prosecutors. Indeed, there are only a few dozen people on death row in the state, and an actual execution has not been carried out there in over 20 years.
In Phaedrus, Plato compared the human soul to a two-horse chariot. The charioteer was akin to reason, while one horse represented eros, or base human appetites, and the other thumos, or spiritedness. A healthy person gets all three to work in tandem. But all too many Democrats seem to have had this last quality removed in a laboratory somewhere. They have not an ounce of hot blood in their veins — no desire to even win and exercise power, much less make aggressive moves to stop Republican corruption and confront dire problems like climate change.
If America is to survive as a democratic republic into the medium term, these tepid dishwater Democrats have to go.
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