Speaking of tribalism …
If Hillary and Pelosi have been vilified to the point of being a perceived liability, fight the vilification, not them.
— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) June 21, 2017
Daou has become a reliable holdout soldier for Clinton, constantly insisting that she’s really awesome, trying to tie every story back to her and demanding that the world embrace her. But this tweet (and the sentiment behind it) is illustrative of something deeply stupid in American politics and in the Democratic Party in particular.
I was recently chatting with a British friend about the snap election. He predicted that Theresa May would be out of power by Christmas at the latest, July at the earliest. The reason, he said, is that the Conservatives tend to be fairly ruthless about leadership. When a politician leads them to disaster — as May has — that politician does not tend to last very long.
I agree with the prediction but I wouldn’t use the word “ruthless”. I would use the word “smart”. Parties have limited political capital. When a politician starts becoming a liability, the party should not expend one ounce of that capital propping that wounded duck up. Dump them and invest that energy in someone new. It doesn’t matter if the damage to the politician is “fair” or not. What matters is that you are wasting time and energy complaining to the refs instead of trying to move the ball downfield.
Maybe the criticism of Clinton and Pelosi is unfair (I happen to think it’s very fair). But that doesn’t matter a wit. Neither of them is a young once-in-a-generation political talent. Or a political talent at all. Defending them isn’t about fairness or political wisdom. It’s about tribalism. It’s about defending “their side” from the awful awful Republicans. It’s about not letting the Republicans “win” by not letting them dictate who runs your party.
But here’s the thing … denying the Republicans a “win” on Pelosi and the Democratic leadership has given the Republicans win after win at the ballot box. The Democratic leadership is old and out of touch. The most popular Presidential candidates right now — Warren, Pelosi, Clinton, Biden, Sanders — are all on the wrong side of 70 and have big political liabilities. This leadership, which the base seems to love so much, has led the Democrats to one of the lowest political ebbs in history — Republicans in both houses, Trump in the White House, most state legislatures and governorships controlled by Republicans, a party confined almost entirely to big cities and the coasts. For Pete’s sake, why are you wasting energy defending these people? The batting coach of the Tampa Bay Rays is held more accountable than these jack-a-napes.
Granted, some of the young Democrats — Preening Preet Bharara, Fascist Kamela Harris, Dumbell Andrew Cuomo — aren’t exactly inspiring. But there have got to be young political talents out there who can rebuild the Democratic brand. Take Jon Ossoff. He was wet-behind-the-ears but he moderated a bit and could get elected (maybe in the district he lives in). In my own state, Tom Wolf just worked with Republicans to pass what was once unthinkable: a massive reform of state employee pensions that will cap our future liabilities and keep us from becoming Illinois with mountains. There are thousands of Democratic politicians out there and 60 million people who voted for them. There’s got to be someone better than these old farts.
If there were any accountability in the Democratic Party, Pelosi would have been forced out after 2010 and the entirety of the leadership would have been forced out after 2016’s disaster. But the Democrats don’t seem to want to face reality.
One of the reasons the Republican Party has been successful is that they’ve been better at holding their leadership accountable for what happens in the polls. Newt, for example, was forced out in 1998 after a poor mid-term performance. They’re not perfect — there’s far too many former whatevers running around Fox News. But they are better. And they have been way better at promoting the young wave of conservatives like Rubio, Haley, Martinez and Jindal.
Look, I’ve been following politics for a long time and I know how the Cult of Personality works. But the Cult of Personality afflicting the Democrats right now is deeply deranged. It’s one thing to have a Cult of Personality around successful politicians like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. But building one around losers like Pelosi, Hillary and Schumer? What the hell is that even about?
Around the country, Democrats are lamenting their losses, wondering why they can’t win. They’ve resorted to blaming Republicans and voters for being awful people. They’ve been throwing up their hands and saying, “How can you appeal to racist sexist bigots?” That’s comforting, I guess. But the country isn’t really that awful. Your leadership is.