Thursday, February 18, 2016

                             THE TOOTH FAIRY VS THE DENVER BRONCOS

The Democrats are at it again.  Shades of George McGovern in 1972 and the rejection of Hubert Humphrey in 1968.  Liberal Democrats indulged themselves and stroked their egos in 1968 when they turned on Humphrey (until the last minute when it was too late), the epitome of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, because he failed to denounce LBJ's Vietnam war (who ironically was the last President to enact any part of the progressive agenda favored by the liberal Democrats until Obama).  So what did they get? Richard Nixon, their bete noire.  Having learned nothing, they went for McGovern in 1972 who was about as liberal as you could get and was destroyed in the election, again by Nixon.

So here we are in 2016, and the Democrats are toying with Bernie Sanders.  Bernie is a wonderful guy, and in the best of all possible worlds we would have a single payer health system with free health care, free public colleges and expanded social security, as he advocates.  That's fine if you believe in the tooth fairy.  In the real world, there are no tooth fairies.  There is only the American public (read electorate), whose intelligence, in words attributed to H.L. Mencken, can never be underestimated. More to the point, there is the Republican Party, which sees as its principal goal the destruction of the federal government or any government which they cannot control.  (An interesting note: the Republican right (actually there is no Republican right, because there is no Republican left or center) is chasing its own tooth fairy in people like Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Carson, disregarding their own ideological disaster in 1964 with  Goldwater.)  Sanders cannot win a national election; as a self proclaimed socialist promising what will be characterized as a European welfare state, he will be road kill for the Republicans.  The last socialist to run for President was Norman Thomas and you know how far he got.  Sanders will be fair game for the Republican simplistic rubrics, "tax and spend Democrats", "big government", etc.  It's true that Republican politicians have bumper stickers for brains, but take a look at the bumpers in front of you; it works in H.L. Mencken's world.

Which brings us to the main point.  Politics is about winning elections, not providing salve for one's conscience or indulging one's self righteousness.  For those who say they are sick of politics and want to do what's right and the hell with the politicians, let me put it on a more fundamental level - democracy is about winning elections.  If you don't win, forget about your progressive programs. Bernie, for all his good intentions, is not a winner on a national level in this political climate, or, for that matter, perhaps in any likely political environment.  Bernie deserves our thanks for highlighting the issues in his program, but the time is not yet ripe for them; perhaps in another generation or even two.  Keep in mind that much of what Norman Thomas advocated eventually found its way into law in one form or another through the efforts of more pragmatic politicians and the gradual evolution of concepts of social justice.  For the young idealists who are enamored by Bernie Sanders, the person, and his ideas, don't let the perfect destroy the good.  In Hillary Clinton there is an attractive alternative.  She is someone who in a long public career has demonstrated that she strongly supports the principles that lie behind Bernie Sanders' programs and has a far better chance of moving those principles forward.  Democrats are aghast at the Republican's denigration of compromise; yet Sanders' approach is exactly the same.  Of course, Sanders' positions are good and those of the Republicans are, quite simply, bad, but there are no points awarded for losing even if you are right, or think you are.  We Democrats need someone who can get the best possible deal under all of the circumstances (no, not Donald Trump's deals).

So how do the Denver Broncos come into the picture?  For those who follow professional football and watched the recent Super Bowl, you know outstanding defense can win games even when your team's offense is anemic.  And that's where we Democrats are today.  Our top priority has to be to protect the gains we've made during the Obama presidency.  Unfortunately this is not a time when we can expect to make broad progress on social justice issues.  The Republicans are rigidly opposed to such progress and seem to have no shame, much less guilt, to which Democrats can appeal.  Sanders wants to institute a single payer health care system.  The Republicans are not only opposed, but are determined to eliminate Obamacare which, even if it does not fulfill the ultimate goal, is a vast improvement on the previous system.  The Republicans will try to roll back financial and environmental regulations, reduce taxes on the super rich, and not only stifle immigration reform but deport 12 million undocumented residents.  With a Republican House assured for the foreseeable future and a Republican Senate again a strong possibility and in any event captive to Republican filibuster, the Democrats' last line of defense is the Presidency.  Democrats will have their hands full just trying to maintain the status quo.  The upcoming election is all about defending the White House, a la the Denver Broncos.  With that in place, a Democratic President can look for opportunities to move the ball forward without Congress, much as Obama has done or tried to do, i.e., environment, immigration, or through compromises with Congress when circumstances permit.  The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton is the best defense.  You might say she is the Von Miller and the DeMarcus Ware of the Democratic Party all rolled into one.

As I have written in an earlier blog on the 2012 election, it is the nature of a two party system that in general elections it is more about who you vote against than who you vote for.  In this election, it is crucial to vote against the Republican candidate for President, whoever it may be.  The corollary is that in the nominating process you must vote for the candidate who is least likely to lose in the general election.

In the last few days the premium on choosing the right Democrat to run for President looms even larger.  With the death of Justice Scalia, the next President will have the opportunity to put his or her stamp on the Supreme Court for the next generation or more, and, if it is a Democratic President, preserve the progress made under Obama and stop the hemorrhaging of progressive principles imposed by the conservative cabal on the Court.  It seems highly unlikely that the present "know nothing" Senate will approve, vote on or even report out President Obama's nominee to replace Scalia.  Thus, it will be left to the next President (and the next Senate; don't forget that in those States with a Senatorial election coming up).  The views one holds on the comparative merits of Sander's and Clinton's positions on social and economic issues pale in comparison to the  significance of nominating the next Supreme Justice (or for that matter, probably several more in the next 4-8 years). This is an unexpected opportunity to promote the progressive agenda.  Its significance cannot be over emphasized.  Losing the White House is not an option.  Clinton is far and away the best bet.  The Denver Broncos trump (pardon the expression) the tooth fairy.

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