This is a guest post from my friend Jim Benton. Let me know what you think. If it works out, Jim may be posting here regularly.
I am by no means a doctrinaire Marxist, but it is true that Groucho and Chico occasionally made wise and pertinent comments on political matters. One of my favorites is the Ball Park routine. Chico is on the stand, reporting how he, as a detective, had followed the suspect. “On Friday we go to the ballapark, but he foola us. He not show up. Saturday he go to the park but we foola him, we nota show up. Sunday was a doubleheader – nobody showa up.” (Apologies for the bad rendering of the accent.)
So what’s that got to do with politics. Hmm, “Iffa we nominate-a Cruz, the ones with the reda caps, they noa show up. We nominate-a Trump, we noa show up. Ryan’s a double header, nobody showsa up.”
Which is more and more looking like the problem the Republicans are having, and we should be smiling, gloating, and only worried about possible overconfidence keeping our voters from coming out. To toss another metaphor in the blender, we should be standing beneath the piñata, arms wide open, waiting for it to break, knowing there will be plenty for everyone.
We have never had -- no party with two possible exceptions, has ever had -- the advantages we have. Not only are we on the popular side – as well as the right side – of almost every issue, both candidates are backed by supporters so extreme that they will be turning off milder bigots on the same subjects. (Even people opposed to SSM, to catering an SSM, even people who wish we could return to before Lawrence, when sodomy laws were shown and declared to be unconstitutional, might well be horrified at Kevin Swanson’s calling for gays to be Biblically stoned – along with Girl Scout leaders (for encouraging lesbianism). But Ted Cruz proudly lists Swanson as a supporter.)
We know that we are far from a post-racial society, but even welfare-starvers and ‘throw the book at them’ commenters on criminal matters, even those who regretted Loving even before it was a step to Obergefell, might refuse to be associated with someone with the number of White Nationalists among his supporters as has Donald Trump.
And the master Insult Comic of the political circus rarely has anything worse to say about these endorsements than he said about David Duke’s passionate plea to his supporters, “Bad man. I denounce.” Meanwhile his surrogates, both his son and his ‘token blacks’ Diamond and Silk have appeared on radio shows run by White Nationalists, Holocaust deniers, etc., Jarod Taylor, the current main face of ‘intellectual racism’ is a frequent supporter, as is Morton Heimbach – This would be even longer than my usual screed if I listed all the references, but SPLC’s HATEWATCH and PFAW’S RIGHT WING WATCH are good places to start.) And I don’t have to mention the Muslim-haters that both attract, or the Christian Nation and even 7 Mountain Dominionists – a phrase I use only when it is accurate, not as a general ‘snarl word’ for ‘evangelical’ -- that surround Ted Cruz and fill his advisory staff – including, of course, his father and main surrogate, Rafael.
This might not matter were it not for the battling going on now. Both sides are good haters, and, after their misogyny, Islam-hatred, gay-hatred, and black despisal (many of them wouldn’t consider blacks even ‘worthy of hatred) they have plenty of hate left over to direct at the supporters of the other side. There certainly will be some ‘coming together’ against Hillary, but a good proportion of the losers will not vote for his opponent after the hatred.
(I am ignoring, for now the effects that having two groups filled with 2ndAmendment Absolutists coming together in an ‘open carry’ state may produce. I don’t expect a ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’ situation, even they aren’t THAT crazy. But I’m a regular reader of SOUTHERN BEALE’s “Tennessee Gun Report” and “2nd Amendment Hero du Jour” sections. I DO expect that someone is going to have a gun slip out of his pocket, go off – 2nd Amendment heroes are too responsible to need things like holsters and safety catches – and before anyone realizes what happens, Cleveland’s ambulance service is taxed to the limit.)
Okay, I don’t have to quote Will Rogers to show my doubts that the Democratic Party would be aggressive enough and daring enough to take full advantage of the opportunities we’re being given.
Ideally, no Republican candidate for state or national office should go unchallenged on questions of racism, religious bigotry, misogyny, women’s health, gender and orientation, and even anti-Semitism, and we should demand he choose to embrace or denounce not just his Party’s candidate, but the platforms of both the national and state parties. In fact, ideally where filing deadlines have already passed, some of us – yes, us, simple ordinary Democrats – should consider running write-in campaigns, just to highlight exactly what Republicans stand for – and if we avoid wasting money on fancy TV and Internet ads and concentrate on print – billboards, flyers, handbills, and newspaper ads -- and radio – commercials even on sporting events are frequently more affordable than you’d think -- it wouldn’t even require a gigantic bank account or a lot of rich friends.
Those of you who have heard this particular rant of mine (don’t worry, I’ve got a new shipment of rants on order from Acme) know my main dream is to see an openly gay candidate challenge a Louis Gohmert – with a ‘you’ve said these nasty things, now tell them to my face’ theme.
Would we lose most of these efforts? Sure. But some of them – like the Gohmert one – would bring national attention to the race and to the Republican policies that we discuss – too often – on a district-by-district level but never as a feature of the entire party.
Even more, we would be providing a (virtual, at least) ‘community center’ for Progressives, much the same as there are LGBT Community Centers – and with the same result. People who thought they were alone, who were convinced there was no one like them within miles, could find out different, and draw strength and ideas and networking from the virtual clubhouse – and next time the odds might turn out better for us. (Especially if we don’t go back to sleep for the midterms – fail to fight hard, have attractive candidates, or go after the Republicans on where they are truly vulnerable – like we did in 2010 and 2014. I will, in these columns, have plenty nasty to say about some of the younger voters, but those two elections were Party failures, not laziness from kids who weren’t concerned. We didn’t give them any reason to BE concerned, only the Republicans and the comedians saved us from Crazy Chrissie, the Obtuse Angle and the Wrestling Queen – and an even earlier loss of the Senate. And not even “Leapin’ Lena” Ernst could figure out how to lose to Bruce Braley, last time.)
The polls may not look as good as the possibilities I see, but the prediction poohbahs keep acting as if this is a normal election – when there has never been anything like it in the past, except maybe the 1924 “103 Ballot” Convention – there was real hate between the McAdoo/KKK faction and the Al Smith/Catholic/Urban/Liberal faction. (Smith was to become Conservative later, but wasn’t in 24.) Even the 1836 Whigs – who ran three different candidates in three regions hoping to get the vote into the House – weren’t this divided on issues, preferring at all times to ignore them. (When I mentioned the Poohbahs, I started to search YouTube for some songs from ARGENT, btw.)
This is like nothing I’ve witnessed or experienced. Not in a run-up to an open-seat election. (Goldwater and Rockefeller people had plenty of hate, but they knew they were running against LBJ and the memory of the death in Dallas. They didn’t exactly go into the race with much hope, while this year the Republicans could have been a competitive force.)
But, sadly, there is one problem in the way, besides the Democrats’ history of ‘never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.’ I had originally planned on starting these columns with a discussion on him, but there will be plenty of those. That obstacle, of course, has fuzzy hair, a rasping voice, and a talent for running one of the dirtiest campaigns I have seen one Democrat run against another while -- supposedly – remaining above the fray. And yes, I know, for peace, harmony, and the chance of saving more votes, we’ll have to start shaping the pretty fiction of “The St. Bernard and the Bad Puppies.” I’ll try to remain honest enough to avoid adding to it, and Democratic enough to try and refrain from challenging it, basically side-stepping anyone who wants to bring up the past few months, but for now, can we actually admit, among ourselves, that, for whatever reason, it is Bernie, and not just his supporters, who are bringing brandy to the parched Republicans. It was Bernie who started the lies about the Super-PACs, Bernie who encouraged his supporters to use words like – well, I’ll avoid misogyny myself and not quote them – even though he’s careful not to use them himself. It is Bernie doing the best Romney impression as he continues to claim a following of working class supporters who somehow never show up. And it sure is Bernie who is arguing that, whether “Black Lives Matter” or not, Black VOTES don’t , as he describes Hillary’s victories in the South as unimportant, while his own victories in Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Alaska, and the Dakotas show his great momentum.
All of which, along with, most of all, his refusal to rein in his supporters or to get them behind even other Congressional candidates, and his unwillingness even to state – until he was in a corner – that his opponent is both honest and trustworthy, and his arguments made by Weaver, his, (no. I missed the first name and position. But he’s obviously authorized to speak for Bernie) – all of them have done a job of voter suppression of Democrats that a Republican State Legislature could only envy.
We can get a lot of those votes back, and some of the Bernie supporters are far too far over the line to be worth bothering him. But there’s a reason not to give up, entirely, on the most obnoxious – and youngest – of the Barnburners.
But that’s for later. Thanks for having me, Ted, hope I wasn’t weird enough to get the invite cancelled.