When I was coming of age in the mid-to-late 1980s, being a Democrat was something like being a Boston Red Sox fan: we never won, we were starting to feel that we never could win, but we were lovable losers and, oh yeah, we were in the right. Saint Ronnie of the Blessed Eye-Twinkle might be popular, but he was ruining the country. We were stuck with those feelings, because, jeez, look at the candidates we kept putting up. Walter Mondale promising to raise your taxes, with what the comedian Mark Russell called his “Norwegian charisma–charisma that falls somewhere between that of a Presbyterian vicar, and a tree”! Michael Dukakis and his infamous tank ride! In a recent opinion piece, Caitlin Flanagan of the Atlantic well captures the feeling many of us had about this.
“It’s always the Democrats’ election to lose,” my wife likes to say, ironically echoing the Very Stable Genius. The rap on Saint Ronnie used to be that he was much too extreme of a right-winger to be electable, before he became unbeatable. (If he were alive today, he would be a scorned as a “RINO” by the MAGA-tized Republican Party.) And of course the rise of the Orange Menace was supposed to have assured Hillary Clinton of an easy election. So it is dismaying, to say the least, that this year, many Democratic candidates and party officials, such as Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro, have decided that the best way to beat the transformed fascist GOP is to goad its voters into nominating the most rabid supporters of the January 6 putsch, the Big Lie, and Q-Anon (in Pennsylvania, that would be Doug Mastriano). The theory is that such goony birds will be easier to beat because the American electorate always turns away from extremists and crazies.
This is a monumental error, at a time when the anti-fascist side can afford no mistakes at all. Shapiro and company seem to think they can relive the glories of the 1964 presidential election, when a nation still grieving JFK”s assassination less than a year before gave his successor Lyndon Johnson a landslide victory, after the latter successfully painted Republican nominee Barry Goldwater (pictured above) as a nutjob liable to start World War III (with, it must be said, considerable help from the Arizona senator himself). But even that wipeout ended up proving the opposite point; as many political historians have noted in the decades since, Goldwater’s campaign marked the beginning of the “conservative” takeover of the Republican Party, by making his views seem mainstream. White Southern racists’ shift from Democrat to Republican also began with that election; in addition to his home state, Goldwater won Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Four years later, Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” would build on those victories, leading to the Republican lock on the electoral college in the Reagan era twenty years later and endangering the nation to this day. (Goldwater would also be deemed a RINO and a traitor to his party and “conservatism,” were he with us today, because he was a man of integrity who led a delegation of Republican Congressional representatives to tell Nixon his crimes as revealed in the Watergate scandal had cost him their support and he could no longer remain in office.)
Let us be plain: It is never a good thing for “crazies” to gain political power and influence, even when they don’t immediately win elections. Remember, we are talking about helping the most violent, hateful elements complete their takeover of one of America’s two political parties. Yes, it would be best for the country were the transformed fascist Republicans to simply collapse and leave the Democrats as the sole party, as was the case with the “Democratic-Republicans” during the so-called “Era of Good Feelings” in the early 1820s. Dissension would soon erupt and a new party would form, as happened back then, or who knows, we might even end up with multiple viable parties. But there are no signs of such a thing happening. That being the case, Shapiro and company are making the same kind of mistake as non-fascist Republicans: they are putting narrow partisan interests over the good of the country. (In case anybody cares, Shapiro happens to have been a student of my father’s in the same private Jewish high school I went to, and I certainly hope he wins his election.) The more Marjorie Taylor Greenes we have in Congress and the statehouses, the greater the level of hate speech and political violence we will confront. The risk of outright genocide that minority groups face will rise as more and more of these fascist agitators tell easily duped white Christians that they face death themselves if they “don’t fight like hell,” to quote the Greatest Genius Queens Ever Produced. Time to wake up and smell the fascism, clueless Democrats.