Wednesday, June 23, 2021


Democrats have the House, the Senate, and the White House -- and are always on the defensive. They just lost on one big issue (a sweeping election bill) and are setting themselves up to lose again (oh look, here's the Biden administration's comprehensive strategy on guns).

Meanwhile, Republicans are always on offense, focusing on issues -- or, usually, non-issues -- with high emotional content.

The king of this strategy is the man who's working hardest to be the next president of the United States, Florida governor Ron DeSantis. Max Boot writes:
Appealing to Trump voters who think that the 2020 election was rigged, DeSantis went on Fox News to sign a bill making it harder to vote in Florida. DeSantis won’t say if he thinks President Biden won legitimately.

Appealing to right-wingers mad that Trump has been kicked off Twitter and Facebook, DeSantis signed legislation that would fine social media companies that suspend state or local candidates close to an election and make it easier to sue tech companies....

Appealing to social conservatives mad about LGBTQ rights, DeSantis used the first day of Pride Month ... to sign a bill banning transgender girls from playing on girls’ athletic teams at public schools. The next day, DeSantis used his line-item veto to eliminate $50,000 for housing homeless LGBTQ youth and $150,000 for mental health services at an LGBTQ center treating survivors of the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando....

Appealing to nativists alarmed by undocumented migrants, DeSantis vows to send Florida police officers to help secure the border in Arizona and Texas....

Now DeSantis is appealing to White voters who aren’t quite sure what critical race theory is but know they don’t like it. At DeSantis’s urging, the state Board of Education just banned public schools from teaching about critical race theory....

Mask mandates. Vaccine passports. Voter fraud. Tech company censorship. Transgender athletes. Undocumented migrants. Critical race theory. DeSantis pushes every single right-wing hot-button issue. He understands how to demonize and polarize for political advantage — and he doesn’t care about how much collateral damage he inflicts.
Democrats look for sweeping solutions to serious problems that affect a broad range of Americans. Republicans create tempests in teapots, persuade their voters that sideshows are the main issue, and pick their battles based on the potential to stir up rage.

What would Democrats be doing if they operated the way Republicans do? Maybe they'd have come into power in January targeting small, specific, easily comprehended things that make their voters hate their opponents. Maybe, for instance, they'd have tried to pass bills targeting some of Donald Trump's grifts. How about a bill that makes it illegal for a president, former president, member of the president's family, or company controlled by the president to charge the Secret Service money? Trump did that for years as president and continues to do it now that he's left office. It doesn't matter that there probably won't be another president who's in a position to do this. Demorats could have made it a big deal.

Or how about a bill doubling the sentence of anyone who batters someone with an American flag? That's the kind of pandering, superpatriotic bill you'd expect from Republicans -- except they'd oppose this one, because the people who'd beat people with American flags are folks like the January 6 pro-Trump rioters (or, in my youth, rioters opposed to school integration).

But apart from the fact that Democrats probably couldn't pass these bills either, given the usual solid wall of Republican obstruction, Democratic voters don't turn out to vote because they want their rage stoked. Democratic voters want substantive change that really improves lives. Unfortunately, they want something Democratic officeholders still can't find a way to deliver.

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