They say our country has never been more divided. We're being torn apart, they say. And maybe they're right. But they're probably wrong.
They say our country has never been more divided. We're being torn apart, they say. And maybe they're right. But they're probably wrong. A much smaller version of our nation, after all, did embark on something known as the Civil War. Maybe it's more accurate to say that our nation, in any living person's memory, has never been as polarized politically and perhaps culturally and morally as it is right now. One side has all the facts on their side and always speaks the truth, the other side is universally ignorant and spews nothing but lies. And vice versa...
But even if all of that is true, an even more truthful statement is that, even back in the days when Democrat and Republican lawmakers would eat together and grab a beer together, golf together and sponsor meaningful legislation together - not easy-to-pass, feel-good legislation, but truly significant legislation - you never heard a Republican trying to sound like a Democrat. You never heard a Republican trying to get re-elected attempting to come across to voters as someone who sees eye to eye with Democrats more often than most would probably think.
But many Democrat lawmakers sure work themselves into a lather trying to convince voters that on the big issues, they're less like liberal, progressive Democrats and more like Republican-lite.
There's no greater example than the one found in our neighbor to the west, the deep crimson red state of North Dakota. U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, finds herself in perhaps the most hotly contested 2018 re-election bid in the country, against U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, a Republican and perhaps the most passionate devotee to President Donald Trump than any of his 534 colleagues in the U.S. Congress. Trump visited Fargo last week and called Heitkamp a "liberal Democrat" and yet not only does she vote with the president more often than she votes against him, she's currently bragging about that fact in her campaign commercials as part of a desperate attempt to get re-elected in a state home to a solid majority of voters who think Trump is nothing less a superhero. Sure, Heitkamp voted against Trump's tax cut and his attempts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, but, make no mistake, she's a Democrat campaigning as someone who looks out for her state before her party, and the political demographics of her state and her state's dominant industry are Republican-supporting to the core.
The only thing worse than Democrats having an identity that's often hard to discern from Republicans' identity is having no identity at all. And, no, if you're primary identity is being 1,000 percent anti-Trump, that's not much of an identity.
Which brings us to Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez. She was a bartender not too long ago, and now the 28 year old has fast become a household name across the country as the Puerto Rican progressive, liberal firebrand who unseated an entrenched, big-bucks Democrat in New York's 14th District, the most ethnically diverse congressional district in the country. The guy she beat, 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley, is the poster child for a Democratic party lost in the wilderness. More than half of his constituents are non-white, and yet in two decades he hasn't bothered to learn a lick of the Spanish language, and he basically lives in Virginia. And yet, before his earth-shaking defeat to Ocasio-Ortez around a couple weeks ago, Crowley was a popular name mentioned in discussions as the possible successor to U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House. In an interview a couple weeks before her stunning upset, Ocasio-Ortez, who took no corporate donations and was outspent by Crowley in the campaign by a more than 10 to 1 margin, couldn't stifle a chuckle when she asked with exasperation, "What has he done?" to be considered for the third most powerful political seat in the nation.
What had Crowley done? Raised a mountain of cash, that's what. Become a "machine" incumbent over two decades, that's what. But most of his biggest special-interest donors also give Republican lawmakers a trough full of cash to feed from as well, so who does Crowley really care about? Who is he really answering to? Ocasio-Ortez nailed it when she said it's a mistake to equate the ability of a party power-broker such as Crowley to raise money, with leadership. How does lining your pockets with cash from contributors who want your subsequent votes to benefit them get confused with leadership? It’s a safe bet that the votes Crowley is expected to make hurt most of his constituents more than they help them. What good is earning a 20 years' worth of clout if you're not putting that earned influence behind anything that really helps anyone who’s checked the box by your name on 10 different election days?
Either Democrats are afraid of what their party is supposed to stand for, or they simply want to get re-elected. Both stances are cowardly. The Republicans have this down to a science, and their latest hypothesis has led more and more of them to line up behind Trump. The president may make their stomachs churn daily as they hold their noses, but they are tantalized by and addicted to power, which is what this is mostly about, all the time. Do you think it's a mere coincidence that the only Republican lawmakers who will speak out forcefully against Trump are the ones who have announced their retirement from elected office, or are dying of cancer?
For the foreseeable future, the idea of a "moderate" Republican or Democrat is a dreamy vision of the past. You might as well be reminiscing through misty eyes about the 1950s. So, Democrats with any intestinal fortitude at all had better take a serious gander at their party's current platform, and they'd better notice that nowhere does it say "hate Trump and only hate Trump," nor does it say, "try to sound like Trump-lite so you can keep your job."
Stay on your current path, Democrats, and in November you will have proven yet again that perhaps your best talent is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.