|The Gunpowder Plot conspirators, not Democrats, via Wikipedia. Guido Fawkes, third from right, looks nothing like that stupid mask—he did not wear a fucking soul patch.|
Just in case you think I'm being overoptimistic about the Democrats' exit from the government's weekend shutdown, you're not alone. So does Michelle Goldberg, the New York Times's new Voice of the Left (more relaxed than Krugman, less relaxed than Egan, and almost as fashion-forward if that's possible as Kristof), who's downright enraged ("Schumer Sells Out the Resistance"), vicariously:
It’s hard to overstate how disgusted many progressive leaders are. “It’s Senator Schumer’s job as minority leader to keep his caucus together and stand up for progressive values and he failed to do it,” Ezra Levin, a co-founder of Indivisible, a left-wing advocacy group modeled on the Tea Party, told me. “He led them off a cliff. They caved.” (An Indivisible chapter is planning a Tuesday evening protest outside Schumer’s Brooklyn apartment.) Representative Luis Gutiérrez, Democrat of Illinois, said in a statement, “This shows me that when it comes to immigrants, Latinos and their families, Democrats are still not willing to go to the mat.”
....Democrats reinforced their reputation for fecklessness. “Make no mistake: Schumer and Dems caved,” tweeted Fox News’s Brit Hume. “What a political fiasco.” It makes me sick to say it, but he’s right.And it's not just savvy Brit Hume, but world-class concern troll David F. Brooks ("Democrats Go for the Jugular! (Their Own)"), making me suspect that I must have been right in the first place.
Brooks is in his good old Iraq-era snarky mood, too, more cheerful than I've seen him in years, as if he were smelling a real war coming:
The Republicans are led by a bigoted, incompetent president whose approval ratings are near historic lows. The Republicans in Congress embrace one unpopular policy option after another, so that all the signs pointed to a G.O.P. blood bath in the midterm elections.
All of this has left those of us in the pundit class with a frustrating problem. Obviously, the Democrats were going to find some way to screw this up. But no matter how much we pulled and stretched our imaginations, we couldn’t quite figure out how exactly they were going to do it.
Et Voilà!That's practically Jonah Goldberg–level, with attention to the fine editing details (spelling "bloodbath" as two words, mysteriously capitalizing the exotic French expression).
Democrats have committed, in just one weekend, five important tactical errors, according to the Brookster:
1. The "Guy Fawkes option" in which we tried and failed to blow up the legislature.
I don't think Mr. Fawkes and his followers sent ten million tweets explaining that it was James I who was blowing up Parliament (#StuartShutdown trending!). Once again, on Friday night 44 Democrats and Independents and 5 Republicans (including McConnell, for technical reasons) voted against cloture in the Senate, 46 Republicans and 5 Democrats voted for it, with 60 votes needed to win. The shutdown was not a Gunpowder Plot on the part of one party but a bipartisan failure, caused in the first place by the president's inability to take fewer than two positions (the most important factor in resolving the standoff on Monday was his taking no position at all over the weekend, when he was busy mourning the tragedy of having to miss watching the money roll into his Mar-a-Lago party and reportedly sat in the boudoir watching video of himself denouncing Obama over the shutdown of 2013), and, as Thornton pointed out in the comments, the House Republican leadership of Ryan and McCarthy, who had assured the radical "Freedom Caucus" that there would be no House vote on a bill including a DACA solution.
“I felt I was actually in a deliberative body,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who had a starring role in the proceedings as he shuttled back and forth between at least three different packs of lawmakers. “Rather than giving floor speeches and making cable TV appearances, we were actually deliberating. We fell short, but Friday night made me and a bunch of senators talk to each other.”I think in the end McConnell decided the only way to blame the inevitable collapse on the Democrats was to stick with the unacceptable bill he had. Trump, Ryan, and McConnell in that order, in the Senate cloakroom, with the candlestick.
2. Paying attention to the "all-important Michel Foucault swing voters".
Brooks points out that Democrats don't win elections on the strength of our support from the "Middlebury College faculty lounge" where they believe that "The American story is a story of systemic oppression" and "the cultural discourse that privileges white hegemony is the world’s single most important problem".
Aside from the fact this is not a position especially identified with Foucault, Brooks is unable to understand that Democrats can no longer hope to win a national election without the very enthusiastic participation of people of color who experience systemic oppression every day of their lives, so that even if we were to give up our 70 years of increasingly powerful commitment to civil rights, in the aim of getting the votes of those 12 old white guys in Pennsylvania that the Times keeps interviewing, they'd still vote Republican. If that makes David Brooks uncomfortable, well, he's not going to vote for us either. Fuck him.
Because in the meantime the oppressed, who include not just people of color but poor white people (who as I've repeatedly explained are not Republicans but nonvoters), intellectuals whose living is more and more seriously endangered by the commodification of everything, and above all women white or otherwise, are growing in numbers and awareness of their potential voting power, and—this is the thing people like Brooks or for that matter Bernie Sanders wholly fail to understand when they're griping about "identity politics"—solidarity with one another. It's not just one's own identity classical music fans, half-Asians, transgender persons, opioid abusers and so on are identifying with, but all of us e pluribus unum together. The only people practicing the politics of a single identity are the white nationalists and those, like Brooks, who love them. They are all going to die soon of the consequences of a limited gene pool. Sorry, but if you can't distinguish these two kinds of identity politics You Might Be a Racist.
3. The "brilliant Tao Te Ching messaging strategy" of asserting that
We bravely shut down the government to save the Dreamers even though Donald Trump is responsible for shutting down the government.That's Daodejing (The Classic of the Way of Power) in current scholarly usage, and normally Dao De Jing in the Times since 2012, following the Hanyu Pinyin system of romanization which the newspaper adopted in 1979, the name of a book and not its author as Brooks appears to suppose (the author is an at least semilegendary sage of the 5th century B.C.E. known only as Laozi, "the Old Master"), and the quote Brooks uses (from a translation Stephen Mitchell got a $130,000 advance for in 1988, I don't know why Dr. Google is bothering me with this stuff today)
The ancient Chinese master informs us, “Being and not being create each other. … Before and after follow each other.” In this way, he teaches the paradoxical infinity of ultimate truth.is meant to be an illustration of nonsense, though it's perfectly intelligible as far aa I can see.
I don't think Democrats were boasting about shutting the government down at the same time as they were denouncing Trump for doing it either, although some, like Michelle Goldberg's sources, were complaining bitterly about having failed to shut it down after it ended in yesterday's vote, around the time I was writing my last post and David Brooks was writing the one we're talking about. I warned everybody then not to start saying that Democrats were responsible, precisely because people like Brooks were going to start taking it up, and here he is doing it.
4. The Democrats' "series of devastating blitzkrieg assaults on themselves":
Minutes after the Democratic leaders announced their capitulation, the entire left wing of the Democratic Party went into uproar. Kamala Harris was furious. Ezra Levin of the Indivisible Project called it “morally reprehensible and political malpractice.” I don’t even want to think about how many tears of rage must be streaming out of Cory Booker’s eyes.There you go. Everybody seems to be quoting Ezra Levin, so he's getting something out of it.
Another of the great features of Schumer's maneuver is the chance it's given a bunch of Democratic Senators to show how severely left they are on the road to 2020, not just Harris (whose leftist cred has been treated with some suspicion recently, I think somewhat unfairly) and Booker and Gillibrand (who both deserve the suspicion in my view), but even Dianne Feinstein, who's facing a serious primary this year from the California State Senate majority leader, Kevin de León, and now wants to be considered a leftist herself, for the first time in her long career. Thanks, Chuck! Similarly, Bernie Sanders gets to show what an identitarian he is, since the "No" position is that too, as well as being leftist.
Booker, once famous as a champion of private equity firms and charter schools, is thrilled to be singled out for his tears of rage. Schumer, who has so much sense that he'd rather be majority leader than president, will gladly be the villain so these proud leftists can shine at our moment of crisis. And I know I'm sounding cynical here, but I really believe that's the way things should work, for these politicians to be able to find their way to their progressive selves.
5. The way Democrats have "set themselves up brilliantly for future capitulation": while we angry Democrats expect McConnell to simply break his promise to bring a DACA solution to the floor, Brooks expects him to diabolically keep it, by way of keeping the same promise he made to Flake.
But when he does, the hypothesis goes, he'll pair it with some unacceptable Trumpery (I assume the literal end of family reunification in favor of the "merit-based" system of giving out green cards, to make sure all our new foreigners are young Pakistani and Bangladeshi and Jordanian and Saudi male techies unable to form family units, also known as the Terrorist Recruitment Act of 2018; and getting rid of that Diversity Lottery, though it only accounts for 5% of immigration to the US as it is, including probably better than a quarter of our new Norwegian permanent residents each year):
Mitch McConnell had already promised Jeff Flake a DACA vote down the road. Now the Republicans get to hold it knowing that the Democrats are not going to want to walk into another shutdown buzz saw. Stephen Miller, Trump’s immigration aide, has always wanted to trade DACA in exchange for some onerous restrictions on legal immigration. Now it looks more likely he’s going to get them.Uh, no. In the first place the DACA bill McConnell has promised isn't going to be a shutdown buzzsaw. The next buzzsaw will be emergency funding or proper appropriations bill that has to be passed by February 8, which must originate in the House and won't have any immigration language in it at all unless McConnell adds some after the House passes it, which will give the House Republicans the same opportunity to shut down the government that McConnell saved them from in this round. The promised immigration legislation, if it ever actually exists, will be a big thing originating in the Senate and also dealing with disaster relief for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and California, money for the opioid crisis, and community health centers, do-gooder stuff that the House is supposed to find it hard to resist, with a "level playing field at the outset and an amendment process that is fair to all sides," McConnell said [Update: According to Schumer on #Maddow, the immigration bill will be "clean", the other stuff will be other bills]. Crafted by the Durbin-Graham team, it could be a lot more useful than anything we've thought we could expect coming out of this administration, and given the mood in the Senate, the amendment process could get rid of much or all of the poison. If, as I say, McConnell keeps his word, which is still pretty hard to believe.
Also, and this is kind of key, the funding bill that has to pass on February 8 isn't going to have any leverage in it on the scale of renewing the Children's Health Insurance Program. It's going to be a lot easier for Democrats to vote against than this one was, if McConnell has let them down and that bill still doesn't exist. Brooks, and Michelle Goldberg, thinking the Democrats will be more frightened of shutting down government on February 8 than they were last Friday, are wrong.
Brooks ends with a restatement of the rotten bothsiderist concept of "identity politics" discussed under point 2 above:
there are some of us who are uncomfortable with the whole identity-politics drill. We believe that while racism is the central stain on American history, it's just not that central, for goodness' sake! [Sorry, I've messed a lot with this paragraph, which I felt was a little unclear in the original version—ed.]
One of these days some party should pay attention to us folks.Maybe one is, maybe one is. But the "folks" are really too much.