Stabenow, Peters slam GOP Senate for dropping Flint aid (Grand Haven Tribune)
When will millennials start liking Hillary Clinton? (USA Today)
During the 2004 election, and to a lesser extent the 2000 election, Democrats expended a lot of time and energy trying to silence Ralph Nader and David Cobb, their presidential campaigns and their supporters. Democrats lost both of those elections. In 2008, and again in 2012, there really wasn’t that same push, at least by the Democratic Party establishment, to obstruct and silence the presidential candidates to the left of Barack Obama, and instead Democrats focused their energies on defeating the Republican candidates. Obama won both those elections somewhat handily. You’d think that the Democratic Party and its supporters would have learned a lesson from this, and focused their energies on defeating this year’s Republican presidential candidate to get Hillary Clinton into the White House, right?
If only. This year has seen Democrats bare their fangs and claws at the Green Party and its supporters more ferociously than they have in over a decade, to the point where it often feels perilous to publicly support Jill Stein. As with their previous attempts to silence those to their left, Democrats are far more vicious against them than they are against the Republicans whom they purport to be their chief opponents. As I’ve remarked repeatedly, if Democrats would only fight against, say, the red state governors and legislators whose refusal to accept the ACA Medicaid expansion is estimated to eventually cost up to 17,000 Americans their lives with the same kind of ruthlessness that they use against Green Party politicians and supporters — or, say, Republicans use when they talk about the four Americans who died in an attack on a Libyan consulate in 2012 — then maybe they wouldn’t have this “enthusiasm gap” that has cost them so dearly in the last two midterm elections, and may prevent them from keeping hold of the White House after Obama leaves office.
Nowhere has this lack of Democratic outrage against Republicans been more painful than in their response to the Flint water crisis, a crisis that is still very much ongoing right now despite the dearth of media coverage. Water in some parts of the city remains undrinkable even with filtration, many Flint residents are having trouble getting to water distribution locations on a regular basis, and the ruined infrastructure of Flint’s water system is being replaced so slowly that I’m not sure if it will be completed in my lifetime. With so many Flint children suffering permanent neurological damage due to lead poisoning, this story will never really be over, and it’s to our shame that so many of us (and I include myself among this number) have paid so much attention to comparatively trivial things when Flint is still in such bad shape.
What happened in Flint should have been Issue Number One for Democrats across the country from the start of this election cycle. Even setting aside the whole issue of how Michigan Republicans have misused the state’s Emergency Manager law since they gained total control of state governance in 2011, the fact that a very historic town was essentially poisoned, and some of its children suffered permanent brain damage, all because conservatives wanted to save a few bucks, is nothing short of mortifying. Governor Rick Snyder should be an albatross hung around the neck of every Republican running for office nationwide, even the ones running for dog catcher in small-town idaho. If “Republican austerity measures poison kids” isn’t a galvanizing narrative then this country is beyond repair.
It’s not like Democrats don’t understand the power of a narrative like this; for years now they’ve kept their immigration focus on the DREAM Act for the same reason. Regardless of how you feel about immigration laws, it’s undeniable that focusing on immigrants who came to this country when they were only a few years old, and who’d be forced to return to countries they don’t really know (and may not even speak the native languages of) if they were deported, makes it easier to sell immigration reform than to also include people who willingly broke American immigration laws when they were adults. Not only does the logic of assisting DREAMers make more sense, but children, as always, evoke emotional responses in many voters that makes it easier to convince them of an argument.
As with ACA Medicaid expansion, though, Democrats haven’t really “fought” this issue like Republicans and conservatives fight for the issues they care so much about. There’s an argument to be made that today’s overheated right-wing rhetoric is toxic to the body politic at large, and it’s certainly a reasonable argument, but again, it’s hard for many liberal and moderate Americans to feel like Democrats are really fighting for their issues, and their needs, when the “battle” consists of a few simpering floor speeches from Democrats in the Senate that get forgotten in a day or two when the latest manufactured right-wing media outrage is forced on the American public at large. Again, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue if Democrats fought weakly on every issue, but the fact that so many of them are unspeakably vicious with liberal and progressive Americans who don’t fall in line with them goes to show that they could stand up against Republicans if they wanted to. They just choose not to, and then they expect everyone to go along with that choice without the tiniest hint of criticism.
Now that Congressional Republicans are messing with the Flint recovery again, playing games with federal recovery funds as they engage in yet more budget brinkmanship, this should be even more of an issue for Democrats from Hillary Clinton on down to exploit. Particularly given the Republican presidential candidate’s missteps in Flint just the other week, there need to be national television commercials focusing on Flint, and similar ads for every Democratic candidate for Senate this year, holding up what happened in Flint as an example of Republican policies hurting everyday Americans, and promising that Democrats will make sure that what happened to the children of Flint will never happen to another American ever again as long as Democrats are in charge of government. It’s hardly a panacea to what ails the Democratic Party in this election, but it would go a long way towards closing that enthusiasm gap and helping Democrats meet their election goals.
What are we getting from Democrats instead of justified outrage over what happened to Flint? More fear-mongering about a “spoiled” election if people vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, regurgitating their damnable lies about Ralph Nader’s role in the 2000 election. Even back after the Democrats’ convention, when the Republican candidate couldn’t stop tripping over his own feet and sank so deeply in the polls that states like Arizona and Georgia looked to be in play, Stein supporters found themselves targeted by Hillarybots intent on forcing liberals and progressives to bow to their will. With the polls consistently tightening since then, publicly supporting Stein and the Green Party has become riskier and riskier, and I don’t see that changing any time soon, probably not even after the election.
Nowhere has Democrats’ naïveté, ignorance and all-out sense of entitlement been on more obvious display than on their recent “outreach” to millennial voters. In all fairness to Hillary Clinton, a good deal of her likability problem isn’t her fault; she and her husband have been a near-constant target of Republican attacks since before many millennial voters were even born, and even though I have many problems with Clinton and her policies, I’ll be the first to say that a lot of those attacks have been ridiculous fabrications. With so many of them being constantly repeated in right-wing media for over two decades now, it’s impossible to deny that Clinton is having to dig herself out of holes that she didn’t create for herself when it comes to her image.
That being said, however, the Clinton/Democratic message to millennials in this latest outreach attempt seems to boil down to, “Why don’t you like us, you stupid idiots?” The utter tone-deafness of this message would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that they’re now just barely beating a Republican presidential candidate who is so toxic to large swaths of Americans that a blue ping-pong ball should be able to win against him in a landslide. More to the point, this kind of messaging is going to turn many millennials off of the Democratic Party for the rest of their lives, and while that may ultimately benefit the Green Party in the long-run, I don’t want the Democratic Party to self-destruct like it seems to be threatening to do right now. If a democracy is going to have political parties, then it’s important for the sake of that democracy that all the parties are healthy and able to get their messages out to the public without being hamstrung by internal strife. Even the parties we disagree with.
This whole election has felt like one continuous dumpster fire, and regardless of who wins in November, I just know that a lot of the battles we’re fighting right now will continue to be fought past Election Day because large portions of America will refuse to accept that their candidate lost. As much as I may dislike the fact that Jill Stein has next to no chance of becoming our next president, at least I can accept that inevitability. I just refuse to vote for any candidate whose values are so diametrically opposed to mine that I can’t support them in good conscious, and that includes Hillary Clinton. To any Democrats who might be reading this: You’re not going to change my mind on this, so please just leave me alone and focus on trying to beat the Republicans. Someone has to.