The following essay was written by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous.
It’s time… It’s time to realize that we lost. It’s time to move on to the next battle. It’s already started, and our failure to realize that has put us two steps behind a ruthless and effective opponent.
No. I’m not talking about the Presidential election. That was done months ago. The ‘drama’ over recounts and electoral votes was just noise.
I’m talking about something more fundamental. The ‘game’ has changed, and we’re still stuck in the old system- where facts were important, institutions had independent (or at least a semblance of independent) power, government was respected, and politicians followed long-established norms.
Those of us, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who valued the stability and fairness provided by that system have lost. And, the next battle is beginning now. This battle is for the fate of our Republic… Can we keep it?
I don’t mean to paint an idyllic picture of an earlier time, nor do I want to imply that this is the first time our Republic has been in jeopardy. There has never, even in the time of the Founders, been a state of Eden in our country, and numerous times our experiment has almost failed. But, this is the first time in most of our lives that we’ve found ourselves – or more correctly, put ourselves– in such a precarious position.
But, today we face an opponent that no longer plays by the rules that we do. He and his team have discarded facts, belittled or sought to destroy institutions, and distorted cultural norms of propriety beyond the point of recognition… and they are winning.
Why is this different from other transitions of administrations? After all, it’s not uncommon for new leadership to lead to radical policy shifts. But in this case, we have put into nearly unchecked authority a group of individuals whose main goal is not the advancement of a particular political agenda. As nearly every pundit on both sides of the aisle has acknowledged, our new president and his puppet masters are not traditional politicians. Their principal goal is power, its acquisition and consolidation.
Which leaves us two options: 1. We keep playing by the same rules. Maybe we change our message and strategy – try and channel Bernie or focus on redistricting, voter registration, and campaign finance reform—but fundamentally we keep playing the same game. In short, when they go low, we go high.
In this case, our hope is to wait his team out until the midterms, at which point we have an opportunity to win back a modicum of power through the ballot box. But, remember, our opponents aren’t going to play by our rules. We’ve already seen their willingness to gerrymander and disenfranchise, and those processes are about to be turbocharged.
It’s already nearly impossible for Dems to back the House in 2018, and the new administration has indicated it plans to rig the system as much as possible over the next few months. Stop dreaming of impeachment. It’s not going to happen.
If we keep playing by the old rules, it’s a near certainty that power is permanently consolidated in the hands of the current kakistocracy and its offspring.
Which leaves us Option 2, a route that is based upon the notion that when they go low, we go down and fight like hell. What does this mean?
There are lots of forms Option 2 could take. For brevity’s sake, I’ll just mention a couple of the most basic tactics. Why not start with what we know works: the ones that the Right used in the early days of their break from the norms of the past?
First, this path means obstruction at all costs. They held up virtually everything on Obama’s agenda as much as they could. They offered no compromises. They held government operations and our credit rating hostage numerous times. They denied Obama appointments all the way up until last year when they deprived America of a Supreme Court justice for the better part of a year… and no one cared.
We screamed and yelled. There were dire predictions that voters would make them pay for their obstruction in November. Congressional approval ratings dropped below anthrax. Yet, instead of draining the swamp, voters consistently sent back their own individual representatives while decrying the group as a whole.
Next, they created their own ‘alternative facts,’ and unsurprisingly those ‘facts’ were whatever best suited their needs. They ignored anything that was off message and doubled down on anything that got traction.
We have the advantage that actual facts mostly (but not always) agree with us. Generally speaking, the clear majority of people like our policies and understand why a reasonable, proactive government is good for them and their families.
This is not the usual missive about honing our message. Obviously, that’s important, but it’s only the first (and frankly the easy) part. The really important and much harder part is the discipline to stay on message and avoid the temptation to be reasonable and balanced. Don’t get me wrong, we want to remind everyone how ‘fair and balanced’ we are, all the while being exactly the opposite.
We need to only focus on issues that make our cause look good or our opponents look bad. We need to present those issues in the most advantageous light, and we need to stop equivocating. If you start a statement or Facebook post with ‘to be fair,’ either stop the sentence right there or proceed but be as unfair as your conscience will let you. Remind yourself that your opponent has no conscience.
There are several potential risks with this option. For example, what if ceding the moral high ground weakens our base rather than strengthening it? That’s a real possibility, but I’d argue that the number of people who voted for despotism that have “Strict Constitutionalist” in their Twitter description demonstrates that people are willing to bend on tightly held principles to win.
Also, there is the philosophical issue. Do the ends justify the means? Aren’t we destroying the thing we want to save in the process of saving it? This is a complicated issue with many facets.
Cicero, who famously turned down Caesar’s offer to share power as part of his Triumvirate for fear it would end the Roman Republic, also committed numerous acts he considered to be against the spirit of the Republic he sought to save. Ultimately, he failed either to preserve his moral high ground or to stop the rise of the Empire.
But, in the end, I struggle to see another option with a reasonable chance of success. If we continue to play by the old rules, we’re essentially placing our bets that our current would-be dictator will either be too incompetent to accomplish his goals or will be satisfied with something less than absolute power. I, for one, don’t like those odds.