The coming confirmation hearing of Amy Coney Barrett is something of a double-edged sword for both parties. It’s being done at a time when the US, and even the planet, are exhausted by Trump’s grand guignol show, the pandemic, collapsed economy, Mother Nature going ballistic, people running around with absurd conspiracy theories in their heads, in short, end times feeling. It is, however, a battle, and as such should be a lesson in self-discipline and focus, especially for the Democrats.
The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, while a shock to so many – and a source of despair – has in fact opened a large window of opportunity for the Democrats.
Over the past eight months or so, Trump and his Republican enablers have literally gotten away with what is tantamount to negligent homicide. Over 200,000 Americans (at last count) have been carelessly thrown under the pandemic bus, and continue to be, all for the sake of a re-election campaign. Thanks to a total lack of leadership, too, the US economy has crashed, the country is exhausted and on the brink of serious violence, and there seems to be no end in sight to this carnage (which Trump promised right at the start).
If Obama been nearly this cruel and dishonest, he would have been frog-marched out of the White House well before any election, of course. But Trump is the anti-Obama, he is protected by his party and by vociferous base that nods and lock-steps docilely behind him with each of his vile and undignified attacks on the opposition, on decency, on intelligence, on truth.
And if the Democrats are not careful, he will get away with it in November and then he’ll feel even more empowered to trash the Constitution, after which all bets are open.
How does he get away with it? Backtracking briefly: During
the 2016 campaign, it looked as if DJT would lose easily. Every norm he could
find was broken, and yet…. He won, squeezing out a few votes in key states
where the Clinton campaign had, irresponsibly, failed to read the political tea
leaves*. Already back then, it was obvious that the Trump playbook was to stoke
the outrage machine till all the valves blew out and a
large part of the electorate could barely tell truth from lie from alternative
fact. It was a fairly transparent strategy, a classic for any con man: blue
smoke and mirrors.
Ask Trump about his platform, and he would just say anything, the more outrageous the better (the “fake news” was a terrific Big Lie). And then the talking heads would be out there filling up hours and hours of airtime with useless deconstructions of his absurdities. Before the cock crowed on a new day, this gesticulator-in-chief and his majordomos were preparing a new salvo of absurdities so the next round of chattering could start.
So he got away with one-liners, while Hilary Clinton was “boringly” reciting a litany of good ideas. Who do you think got the TV spotlight?
The surrogates were in on the game, embarrassing themselves daily with the most egregious transformations of reality into weird reconstructions of the same reality. They excused the boss, they screamed, they ignored, they obfuscated, they pretended that pussy-grabbing was just boys-being-boys, and thus acceptable, even if you had been saved by Jesus, they smiled coyly, they pretended they hadn’t heard, they pounded their chests, they invoked God, they yelled “Bill Clinton,” they said “both sides do it,” but for the Democrats it’s worse…
Here is the most absurd aspect of this little scenario: In reporting every “outrageous” statement, including all the “You are fake news” expectoration, the media was indeed producing fake news. How many times have I emailed anchors and journalists asking them why they didn’t just send a reporter with an iPhone to Speaker’s Corner? It would be more instructive and less repetitive. Trump’s twaddle could be reported after the weather as faits divers, along with cats giving massages to Labradors.
So why does Trump still have so much support in spite of the massive death toll and the crashed economy? Because he never stopped using the same process, and the media, partly for economic reasons I suspect**, has continued to play the game. Every book detailing his outrageous stuff…. is merely red meat for the base and keeps him in the spotlight. Nothing touches him. His base, absurdly, loves it. The country is burning down, and they are bringing the cans of gasoline.
Bear with me:
The late-night comedians were thrilled. And still are, because the material, as one said (was it Colbert?) writes itself. One of Trump’s latest attention-getters was to, once again, suggest he may not leave office. The fact that this might cause a lot of violence regardless of the outcome of the election (I’ll write about this at another time) doesn’t bother him. Occupying about 80 % of the airwaves and Internet tubes is the point. Even Bill Maher keeps amplifying this point. He admits himself that he may even have given Trump that line …
The result: Biden and Harris can’t get a word in edgewise. I’ve pointed this out for years. But maybe if a real prof says it, it will sink in? This morning, Smerconish from CNN let Michael Sandel, Professor of Government, say it:
“We shouldn’t take his bait and become entangled in a fever-pitch outrage at every new outrageous thing he says. Trump is not a dictator, he plays one on television. And we should not play along as his supporting cast. We should focus instead on his failures to help the working people who elected him in the first place (…) and on the Democrats’ alternative.”
So what does this have to do with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that frail judge who had her finger in the dyke holding back the torrent of authoritarianism…?
Her death, and the pending confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett is a golden opportunity, so close to the election, to break this hammerlock Trump has on the communication channels. Barrett (ACB) is unassailable. She has outstanding conservative credentials, even if you don’t like the idea that she belongs to a strange religious sect. She does her work, has seven kids, is apparently happily married… She has Saturday Evening Post appeal, and whether you like it or not, she’ll play more or less in Peoria. What she is doing cavorting with the likes of Trump now is irrelevant, because we should know that Trump is merely a Trojan Horse for the GOP power grab. They, Trump and most of the GOP, hate each other, because they depend on each other, and one will try to get rid of the other soon.
Play to win
When your forces are too weak to win a battle, draw the opponent to a place where you feel more comfortable. The Battle of Sakarya River in late August 1921 is a good example (for history buffs), where the weaker Turkish forces drew the Greeks, with feints and spoiler work, into difficult terrain, and forced them to capitulate. Trying to tear ACB down will lose the election for the Democrats and could jeopardize the Senate flip. It will give more fuel to the GOP, which still can’t get over the ripping of Bork and then Kavanaugh. It may not even be necessary. She may turn out to be a conservative but fair judge. Who knows. After all, she got to where she is because RGB cleared the way…
The confirmation hearings, however, will be an ideal platform to respectfully tell the candidate that the GOP flipped and lied and trying to ram her through is not really a respecting her own dignity, and they feel that is not a proper way to handle the Supreme Court and above all the American People. They must express willingness to look at the candidacy after the election, and the Democrats might really like to confirm her, but it simply would not be fair, as the judge herself said!
There are too many issues at stake that could seriously impact the country in the future, notably the ACA, Roe v Wade, and whether Trump would like, as he says, to dispense with elections altogether. Also, does the country accept the 200k-plus dead as a human sacrifice to the re-election of Donald Trump. In short, they have to make this not about her, and it should not be, but about Trump.
Respectfully, and regretfully, they must say, they simply feel that the process is rushed but the GOP should have waited. She will get pushed through, the Democrats must congratulate her warmly and ask that she respect the will of the majority of Americans who voted AGAINST Trump. No histrionics. And that should apply to the peanut gallery. Histrionics and cosplaying will dissolve the small lead the Democrats seem to have. Restore dignity. Don’t play the GOP game. Show the American People and the planet at large, which has lost some faith in democracy, that there is a real alternative, a mature, fair and respectful leadership to be expected from the Democrats, as opposed to the ridiculous games played by the likes of Ted Cruz. That’s my take. I used a few hours writing this, so if you want to help me pay bills…. Feel free.
* I’ve had long and acrimonious debates about her “deplorable” comment, pointing out that it was a profound mistake. I’ll come back to this some other time, if merely to clear up the record: it has to do with the self-victimization of many Trump voters and their deep feeling of being ignored and inferiority artificially enhanced by their news media and, to an extent, funny but slick late-night comedians.
** It’s expensive to send TV teams around the world to report on other things, and a lot cheaper to have Trump just deliver the stuff for free, get the same old talking heads together, and fill up the airwaves. So obviously American TV audiences are not very well informed about the world at large. On the other hand, it’s a lot cheaper to have a stringer do it on paper/radio, by the way, or even a social medium. So if you want to do something revolutionary: Subscribe to a good newspaper. And read it slowly.