Saturday, July 07, 2018

Democrats - This Is NOT The Time For Civility

Recently, some Trump officials have been bothered while eating out in a restaurant. One (Sarah Sanders) was even asked to leave by the owners.

This has spiked a huge discussion by the talking heads on cable TV about how Democrats are not being civil to Trump supporters. They seem to be equating these minor incidents with the activities of the right -- the mocking of the disabled and dying American heroes, the caging of immigrant children separated from their parents, the support for racists and white supremacists and nazis, and other things too numerous to list.

These talking heads want Democrats to be silent in the face of the viciousness from the right (and from the current presidential administration). That's ridiculous. Fighting intolerance with tolerance or incivility with civility is tantamount to surrender. The right has made the rules of the current political war very clear, and we must fight fire with fire.

Here is just a part of an excellent article by Amanda Marcotte at on this subject:

With the country slouching towards fascism, it's important to note what the national news media considers a majority priority for coverage: Scolding the left for being too upset about the white nationalist agenda of the White House and trying to drum up intra-Democratic drama. Unfortunately, too many leaders on the Democratic side are falling for this, which can be easily avoided by a simple strengthening of backbone.

Endless amounts of column inches and cable-news airtime are now devoted to two propositions: That the left is getting too rowdy in their opposition to Trump's racist agenda, and that Democratic leaders have a responsibility to scold left-wing activists about the importance of not resisting authoritarianism too sternly. In some cases, this takes the form of getting the vapors at progressives who are "uncivil" by protesting Trump officials in public places like restaurants. In others, it's about scolding those who support supposedly radical notions like the abolition of ICE, even though similar lectures are not directed at conservatives who supporting far more radical proposals to abolish the IRS.

The typical structure of these arguments is that of a concern troll: The person telling progressives to simmer down will inevitably cast himself as a concerned party who wants Democrats to win, but believes these tactics are only hurting that agenda and believes the best path forward for the party is to maximize internal sniping over nonsense. . . .

As Simon Maloy at Media Matters notes, this argument rests on a presumption that is beyond laughable, which is that moderating one's views will cause Trump and the Republicans to tone down the demagoguery. . . .

I'll take this argument a step further and note that not only does trying to placate Republicans never work, history shows that it will often backfire. For one thing, it gives political opponents ammunition to paint Democrats as hypocrites or as secret saboteurs of the progressive agenda. 

We see this happening with Obama now. The deportations he authorized to pander to House Republicans are now being exploited by conservatives who want to use a "both sides do it" argument to excuse Trump's family separation policy. This argument is based on deliberate lies, of course, but there's just enough truth to it to confuse the issue: Obama really did deport a lot of people before abandoning that strategy, after it became clear it wouldn't soften Republican opposition to immigration reform. Furthermore, there are still a number of self-proclaimed socialists out there ready to amplify any argument, no matter how badly sourced, that equates Democratic policies with Republican ones and argues that the two parties are no different. . . .

I'm generally fond of Nancy Pelosi, who was an effective House speaker and has been a strong progressive voice throughout her career in Congress. But this past month, she's been letting the concern trolls get to her, first by scolding Rep. Maxine Waters for calling on people to protest Trump officials in public and then for seemingly being salty about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beating Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York primary race. (To be fair, Pelosi's comments about Ocasio-Cortez appear to have been exaggerated by journalists eager for any hint of intra-Democratic conflict.)

This is just bad politics on Pelosi's part. Giving into pressure to rebuke members of her caucus, on any level or for any reason, will do nothing to persuade Republicans to curtail their hysterical claims that Pelosi is a secret Marxist who is coming for your children. It only helps fuel anger and distrust and gives rise to a thousand clickbait articles championing the intra-Democratic conflict narrative.

This was an easy trap to avoid, if only by demurring. When asked about Waters or Ocasio-Cortez or whoever the media wants to paint as some kind of leftist radical, the correct response is, "I'm proud of our diverse coalition and I support our caucus in their efforts to resist Trump's dangerous agenda." Rinse and repeat, and they'll give up soon enough. The same goes for ambitious young Democrats who are invited by reporters to dis Pelosi in public: Offer noncommittal compliments and move on.

None of this is to say that every Democrat needs to adopt the same exact platform or that legitimate policy debates are out of the question. But if decisions are being guided by an urge to seem "moderate" in order to appeal to Trump voters or placate Republicans, remember this basic rule: Republicans can not be placated, but progressive voters can be alienated. And that's something Democrats absolutely cannot afford.

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