Friday, December 20, 2019
You can't draw Republicans out of a fantasy with facts
The first question at Thursday night's debate of Democratic presidential candidates was a good one. A lot of Americans, PBS's Judy Woodruff asked at the start of the sixth and final debate, do not perceive the need to impeach and remove President Trump: what are they going to do to convince those Americans otherwise? It cut to the heart of the problem—a lot of Americans like this guy, despite everything he does and says, so even if—please God—Trump is voted out of office in 2020, then the Republicans will just revert to the fanatical opposition they were during the Obama years, dragging their feet at every improvement, pining for power to be returned so they can get back to dragging this country back to the Mayberry 1958 box diorama going on in their heads.
Six of the seven Democratic candidates punted, regurgitating their various talking points. Only Andrew Yang even tried to answer, but his response—we're going to address policies that matter to them and eventually the scales will fall from their eyes, and damn the media for focusing on this impeachment nonsense—was infused with the wishfulness that trips up Democrats so much.
“What we have to do is we have to stop being obsessed over impeachment, which unfortunately strikes many Americans like a ballgame where you know what the score is going to be and start actually digging in and solving the problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place," he said. "The more we act like Donald Trump is the cause of all our problems, the more Americans lose trust that we can actually see what's going on in our communities and solve those problems.”
Which could work, were Trump backed with fanatical frenzy because he was solving the problems of white America, other than the problem of living in a fearful fantasy world and being desperate for a strongman messiah to tell them everything's okay. No clever twist on clean energy is going to sway those people. What Democrats need is a counter image of their own for everyone to gather behind. I don't think promising policies will do the trick. Obamacare was an important, necessary change in America's policy toward health insurance, and it was still maniacally opposed by the people it would help most, the way areas of Britain that most benefited from the European Union were also the places most dead set against it. The sad truth is that much of America lives in a Fox-fueled alternative reality where no exciting new policy is going to reach them.
That's the bad news. The good news is the Democrats don't need to reach them all, only to peel off a few percent and lure them away from the newly-impeached liar, bully and traitor leading our country to ruin. It's possible. But pretending the deep schism in America doesn't exist, or that the fact-averse can be lured across the divide if only you bait your hook with the right big wriggling juicy fact, strikes me as unhelpful, at best, and at worst the kind of losing strategy that, well, keeps Democrats losing. The key to overcoming nearly half of America lost in a dreamworld is not to enter a dreamworld of our own.