Saturday, May 7, 2022

Ted Rall: Better a Pretend Fight than None at All

 A friend and I were at a bar when someone opined that France didn't resist the German invasion in 1940. "It's true, France lost fast," my friend replied. "But they fought hard. They lost 90,000 troops in six weeks. It was a bloodbath. We lost 58,000 over a decade in Vietnam but we're still whining about it."

Every conflict ends with a winner and a loser. There is no shame in losing -- only in not trying. 

Democrats need to learn this lesson. Voters want their elected representatives to fight for them.

This administration is not without accomplishments: Last year's coronavirus stimulus package saved millions of Americans from bankruptcy and prevented a recession; though poorly executed, President Joe Biden deserves praise for the withdrawal from Afghanistan; and, inflation aside, workers are benefitting from rising wages and record-low unemployment. The pandemic seems to be in our rearview mirror. Now, The New York Times reports, party bosses are trying to decide on a unified message for the midterms: "Should they pursue ambitious policies that show Democrats are fighters, or is it enough to hope for more modest victories while emphasizing all that the party has passed already?"

Democrats have been bragging about their accomplishments for months. But "Democrats deliver" -- their flaccid midterm slogan -- hasn't delivered.

The news that the United States Supreme Court plans to overturn Roe v. Wade may well sweep aside the other issues that have been percolating in voters' minds over the last few months. But conservatives are just as energized as liberals when it comes to abortion. And many progressives are asking themselves: Why didn't Democrats pass a federal abortion rights law when President Barack Obama had a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate? At other times, why didn't they go on the record with a vote? Abortion repeal probably helps Democrats, but not as much as they think and not enough to keep control of Congress.

Before the Supreme Court leak, Biden's own pollster was repeatedly warning Democrats that disaster loomed in November. The president's approval ratings stubbornly refuses to budge above a dismal 40%, hobbled by incredibly shrinking support among voters under age 30. Vegas bookies give the GOP 3-1 odds of recapturing the Senate and a 90% chance of taking back the House. "We haven't sold the American people what we've actually done," Biden moaned recently.

Messaging isn't the only problem. "Allies and some voters note that polling is partially driven by anger over extraordinary events, including the war's impact on gas prices, that the White House could not fully control," the Times says. Of course, it was Biden's decision to get involved in Ukraine and to impose sanctions against Russian oil and gas. Gas prices wouldn't be soaring if Democrats hadn't gone after Russia. It was an unforced error.

When you control Congress and the White House, and voters are angry at you because they don't think you have done anything for them, you don't calm them down by telling them that they are wrong and stupid and that, actually, you have done all sorts of good things for them that they have been too ignorant or ungrateful to recognize. There's only one way to campaign: tell people that you get it, you understand their pain and you're going to fight like hell to make them feel better.

"People can forgive you, even if you can't get something done," Nina Turner, a progressive challenging an establishment Democrat for an Ohio congressional seat, argues. "What they don't like is when you're not fighting. And we need to see more of a fighting spirit among the Democratic Party."

For Democrats, however, not fighting -- not even going through the motions of pretending they are fighting -- is longstanding procedure. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi maintains a strict policy of not putting a measure up for a vote unless she is certain that a Democratic bill will pass. Like other corporate Democrats, she believes a losing vote is a sign of weakness.

Thus the refusal to try to federally legalize abortion rights.

Refusing to hold losing votes in Congress has led to one disappointment after another for progressives. After counting votes in the Senate, Obama decided in 2010 not to hold a vote on a "public option" in the Affordable Care Act. He blamed recalcitrant Republicans. Without forcing them to oppose this wildly popular idea on the record, however, Republicans could never be held to account in attack ads. ("Congressman Jackson hates people like you. That's why he voted against health care for your babies!") Meanwhile, Obama took heat from the left for breaking his campaign promise. 

You can argue that you secretly, in your heart of hearts, wanted something that you never put up for a vote. But who will believe you?

Obama betrayed his promise to close Guantanamo for the same reason: He didn't think he had the votes in the Senate. No one remembers that now. Americans who care about the issue remember that Obama was unwilling to spend political capital to shut down the camp.

Biden's adherence to Democrats' count-votes-first practice on his Build Back Better infrastructure plan was more understandable. After conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced that he wouldn't support it, the White House pulled the $1.75 trillion bill from Senate consideration because it would have highlighted internal divisions within the party. Sometimes, however, a rogue member of your own caucus must be reined in. If Democrats wanted to show their left-leaning base voters that they were fighters, they would have disciplined Manchin by taking away his committee memberships and held the vote despite inevitable defeat. Then they could have run ads against Republican senators who opposed a giant jobs package.

Democrats have failed to hold votes on increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, student loan forgiveness or bold action to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. While it is true that these ideas might go down to defeat against a united GOP and Democrats in Name Only like Manchin, young voters in particular would like to see them put up for a vote and fought for. And those "nays" could be leveraged against vulnerable Republicans.

Republicans understand the optics of appearing to fight for a cause dear to their voters even if it's doomed -- (SET ITAL) especially (END ITAL) if it's doomed. Knowing full well they didn't stand a chance at succeeding, the GOP voted 70 times to repeal Obamacare. After Donald Trump won in 2016, however, they didn't move to repeal or truncate -- because the ACA was popular. "Now that it makes a difference, there seems to not be the majority support that we need to pass legislation that we passed 50 or 60 times over five or six years," Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama admitted. Fighting and losing -- even pretending to fight only when defeat is assured -- gets more results than pointing at your supposed actual accomplishments.

It may well be that corporate Democrats are too beholden to their major donors to, say, increase the minimum wage. Unless the polling changes in a big way, Democrats will have an opportunity to virtue-signal about the minimum wage and student loan forgiveness the same way the Republicans did on the ACA beginning early next year.

Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of a new graphic novel about a journalist gone bad, "The Stringer." Order one today. You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.



Anonymous said...

France rolled over in WW 2. Not everyone, but in general, they rolled. As for Democrats, they suck at politics. Republicans are so much better at politics. At least historically. Today’s wack job Republicans maybe not so much.

Anonymous said...

So the Democrats are convinced that the majority of Americans are opposed to their state having a democratic say on abortion? They may find that beating that drum only stirs more votes against them.

Anonymous said...

President Joe Biden deserves praise for the withdrawal from Afghanistan;

How many did he leave behind? How many fell from the sky? How much equipment did he leave behind? There is nothing Joe has done that could be praised. He makes Carter look like a hero.

Anonymous said...

As a conservative, I'd love to see the democrats campaign on Biden's "success" in Afghanistan. Biden left behind to the Taliban more arms and material than possessed by most countries in the world. The blood of every victim of these terrorists will be on the hands of the democrats and on the people who voted for them.

Campaign away on Afghanistan!

Anonymous said...

Both parties, especially the Republicans must recognize the stark reality of the last two national elections. Neither party gave the American people a descent choice! The Democrats ran a whole platoon of lunatic radicals and an old senile party hack was the only clown people felt safe enough to nominate. Sadly the Republicans cannot shake a sick attraction to a self-centered ego-maniac who will do anything to rule the world. If we could shake him off, the GOP would cake walk to dominance in Congress and the White House. But we like things to be competitive, so.... Democrats rejoice! MAGA?

Biden to Congress - send mo money! said...

Biden's handlers (people behind the curtain) are inventing another Covid-19 crisis (can't let that go to waste).

"The Biden administration is issuing a new warning that the U.S. could potentially see 100 million COVID-19 infections this fall and winter, as officials publicly stress the need for more funding from Congress to prepare the nation." (Courtesy of WAPT)

The sky is falling, the sky is falling, send more money.

Anonymous said...

Republicans were set up for a landslide in November. This Roe v Wade thing may be the spark that keeps it interesting. I'm pro life for sure, but the timing of this ruling does not help the GOP in November.

Anonymous said...

4:06. That’s so good.

Anonymous said...

@4:06. I'll never vote Republican again until Trump is eradicated from the party.

Anonymous said...

@7:27 So you'd vote to re-elect Biden over a Trump backed candidate?

Anonymous said...

I would say 7:27 was Joe himself but everyone knows Joe is not even capable of turning on a phone or computer. Maybe 7:27 is the person who is in Joe's ear.

Anonymous said...

The average voter is stupid BECAUSE they believe their rep is their to fight to begin with. He or she is there to enrich themselves and were never meant to save you. Stupidism folks.

Anonymous said...

7:27 :Gas hit 4.00 a gallon this morning and 12 chicken tenders at Kroger is 13.00 ! You must be sitting on a pile or selling dope for a living.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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