WTF is Happening?

Or, Two Years Before the Blast

By Robert M. Herzog

Think they’re going to reach across the aisle?

Have a vegetarian in your family, or a friend who is one? When you invite them for dinner (remember those days) I’ll bet you went out of your way to make food they would be willing to eat. Without comment on its lineage.

Here’s a question. Did they do the same for you? (Some do, but most…)

There’s nothing like self-righteous certainty to cut you off from your fellow human.

It seems like there have been countless articles, news stories, analyses from liberal-oriented media trying to understand the Trump voter, exploring the perturbations they are going through, seeking to fathom their grievances, their sense the world is moving away from them, searching for the why of their beliefs and actions, what can we do about it, how we can bridge the divides.

I’ll bet the ratio of such articles vs. comparable attempts in the right wing media to understand, empathize, or relate to the Biden voter to be around 1000:1. They don’t give care. Driven by their self-righteous politics of grievance, it would never occur to them to try to understand the Biden voter, the non-Trump True Believer.

Every time I hear Biden talk about reaching across the aisle, it makes me slightly nauseous. Stick your hand in that direction and it will get bitten, flayed. Have the Democratic leaders learned nothing in the past decades? These are people who shouted “Liar” when a President of the United States was speaking about the State of the Union. They are lawmakers who have relentlessly crafted a tax system which eviscerates services by taking from the majority of the country to consolidate the wealth of the few who are their primary constituents.

They are the people who deny climate change because that’s the self-serving way to keep the oil and gas money flowing into their coffers. They’ve separated children and infants from their families at our borders. They stood up for extremists shooting people down in the streets, and attacking the Capitol. Stood up and applauded QAnon conspiracy traffickers and their hate, their venom, and bald-faced stupidity.

The danger is that after all that, Biden & Co. continue to project their values and sensibilities on the folks across the aisle. There’s still a part of them that thinks, surely, this time, they will do the decent thing, surely this time they will care about someone outside their own cadre of special interests, ideological mates, and fellow true-believers. Surely, surely.

Well, I have news for you. I’m a Sixties guy, grew up (and believed in) peace, love, freedom and happiness, but I have news for you.

It ain’t gonna happen.

I know that’s a hard pill to swallow, and it doesn’t lead to the kind of belief in negotiations and recognition of the value of other viewpoints that liberals nurture in their souls. But unless Biden & Co. come out of their self-induced narcosis, the opportunity, perhaps a fleeting one in the light of recent years and the rise of demagoguery and concurrent attacks on democratic institutions by the people inside those institutions, the opportunity to restore equity, fairness, decency and comity to the public space will be trampled.

How to effect real change. And coincidentally, return sanity to national policy.

Democrats, get your hesitant ones in order and ram the ending of the filibuster down their throats. Have you forgotten so soon that that’s exactly what McConnell and the right wing did to you to install their ideologues on the Supreme Court. As the Merrick Garland fiasco shows, they don’t play by rules, they play by expediency, they play to win, so a year later they changed the game completely, and hapless Dems got screwed coming and going.

Let’s not confuse the terrain by calling them conservatives. I can respect people who cherish tradition, extol family values, take pride in country. But I just don’t see those values now in a Republican Party that does what it needs to do in order to consolidate wealth and power, feeding their base whatever it takes to keep them in tow. They are clearly willing trample any norm or precedent to do so. Just look at the Bush v. Gore decision, or the end of the oversight of the Voting Rights act, or Citizen’s United.

They purportedly defend the rights of minorities to secure a say by maintaining the filibuster — oh wait, except when it gets in their way. They express love the Constitution, so long as they can interpret it any way we like to suit their ends. They’ll do what they need to do in order to pick off pluralities, that keep them in power, so screw the kids who get killed by easy access to guns, screw the people who simply want to express the gender of their choice, screw the women who want to control their bodies, screw the black kids slaughtered by police, screw their own alleged belief in law and order if they can incite mobs to do their bidding.

There are wonderful, smart people noting what this time means, what the Democrats must do to restore an America that can look itself in the mirror without seeing pandemic deaths and endemic malnutrition, poverty, attacks on the institutions that, under the barrage of recent years, have shown their vulnerabilities. Just see the recent prescriptions from Ezra Klein, or the ongoing assessments and remedies of Paul Krugman or Tom Friedman, which experience has borne out. But as Shakespeare would put it, such missives are “more honored in the breach than the observance.”

People projected so much hope on Obama. They didn’t vote for him because they wanted him to lead a new campfire of bipartisanship. His failure to recognize that, to cede his bully pulpit and leadership, cost him the loss of the House in his first mid-terms, cost him the ability to really govern, and in the end cost him and us a Supreme Court nominee, embedding lasting damage. Biden has two years to use all the tools at his disposal to fulfill what the people who elected him voted for. They care about results, not philosophies.

The stark reality is that Democrats stand to lose both chambers of Congress less than two years from now. Republican state legislative forces across the country are already organizing to limit early and mail-in voting. So Biden has under two years to ram through what he was elected to do, what the country needs. Set aside the illusion that Republicans will cooperate.

If Biden can demonstrate strength and deliver on the big stuff, curbing Covid, enacting massive infrastructure programs that put people to work in meaningful jobs, climate change bills that not only address the threat but create jobs in the process, get medical care bills that protect and restore the nation’s public health, and get these programs in place in time for them to have impact, then he can avoid being a half-term President shackled once again by an opposition that only cares about its own interests, leaving democracy itself vulnerable.

Joe, you may think the people who voted for you did so because of the unity and healing message. But what they really wanted was for you to deliver. Not just the return to norms that over the past four years we have learned rely on the willingness of all parties to adhere to them, but pushing legislation, programs and policies that do the things that need to be done, on the pandemic, in the economy, health care, the environment, overcoming racial injustice — in short, to align our country with its core values. That’s true patriotism, not the faux version of mobs who carry the flag only to desecrate its meaning.

If you don’t decide at some point to put your head down and stop reaching across the aisle, but instead blow through it, then not only will you have squandered the opportunity you have been handed but the nation will be more vulnerable to the horrors of demagogic, dangerous, arrogant people destroying the foundations of our nation for their own putrid interests.

See my other works here on Medium, and more prescient commentaries from the past 20 years about America, how we got to where we are and what we can do about it, in my new book, Views from the Side Mirror: Essaying America, which ranks highly on Amazon in Political Commentary and Historical Essays. I’d love to hear what you think about it. https://amzn.to/2H4SmDz And more of my writing, fiction, stories, film and such, at https://www.thezog.com/ Let me know what you think, and what you’re thinking!

Published author exploring they dynamics of America, in Views from the Side Mirror: Essaying America, and novel, A World Between, see my writing at thezog.com

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