Three years ago, too few African Americans — no, make that too few Americans — in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and Wisconsin gave serious thought to what turned out to be one of the most consequential presidential elections in modern history. They apathetically stayed at home, thus helping to hand the White House to a man whose monumental defects were staring them in the face — a danger they either refused or were too blind to see.
Unless Democrats wake up and change the trajectory they are on, history could repeat itself next year.
Since President Trump assumed office on Jan. 20, 2017, some of our worst fears have come to pass. Gone is the need to speculate about the powers of the presidency in his hands.
Dire predictions of Trump’s Supreme Court justices and his federal bench appointees have become a frightening reality. He has reshaped the courts, pointing the federal judiciary in a rightward direction that will take at least a generation to change.
True to his words, Trump has led an administration that has landed body blows to voting rights, consumer and reproductive rights and environmental protections. He has changed the political landscape, reducing members of Congress to sniveling supplicants. Legislative demands are ignored with impunity. He thumbs his nose at subpoenas, and laughs off senior congressional leadership.
Under Trump, rights and privileges of citizenship are reserved for his “Make America Great Again” crowd. All others must wait for their number to get called.
And he’s turned the lights back on in the federal death chamber.
But, as in 2016, Trump’s ineptitude, bullying and demagoguery seem not enough to take attention off ourselves.
Respected New York Times political columnist Thomas B. Edsall, whom I’ve known since the ’70s when he was with the Baltimore Sun and I was a legislative aide to Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.), has written an incisive piece about the Democrat Party’s inner turmoil. It paints a convincing portrait of a party electorate pulling itself apart over political agendas having less to do with defeating Trump and more with scoring ideological victories among themselves.
Even as Trump’s Justice Department is arguing in favor of a Texas judge’s decision to invalidate the Affordable Care Act — which has extended health coverage to millions of low-income people — Democratic presidential candidates are at each other’s throats over whether all private health insurance should be eliminated or be allowed to compete with federal programs.
Fat chance that a Medicare-for-all proposal will help drive Trump from office. But that idea means all the world to progressives who want their health-care vision to prevail, and nothing less. And, I venture, the candidate they support, and nobody else.
While Trump moves to end asylum protection for migrants fleeing persecution and torture, Democratic presidential hopefuls are going back and forth over whether unauthorized border crossings should be a civil or criminal offense.
Meanwhile, voices for job creation, tightening stitches in the safety net, sticking to bread-and-butter issues and making Trump’s first term his last are drowned by the sounds of wannabe political celebrities and rookie gurus tooting their own horns. Edsall quotes Democratic strategist Paul Begala as saying Democratic candidates and their staffs are “turning the nomination contest into ‘some kind of purity game to see who can be the most leftist.’ ”
We saw this game get played out between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary. Progressive purity vs. political pragmatism. How did that turn out?
But it is the same direction in which the Democratic Party is headed today — resuming a war that pits the left-leaning faction against ideological moderates.
The polarizing Clinton-Sanders contest gave the spectacularly unqualified candidate Trump much to work with.
The current crop of Democratic candidates appears to be geared up to give the lying, racist and Constitution-offending President Trump more of the same.
All of which leads me to approach next week’s Detroit Democratic presidential debates in despair.
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