The Democratic Party Owes Us Some Candor
The plan it put in place after 2020 is not working—so what are they going to do about it?
I have not seen the Democratic establishment more shaken at any point in Joe Biden’s presidency.
The precipitating factor was the political subterfuge Robert Hur smuggled into his special counsel report on Biden’s retention of classified documents, issued seemingly without any effort by the Justice Department leadership to strip it of gratuitous smears.
The White House, the Biden campaign, official Democratic Party organs, leaders, and surrogates alike are caught up simultaneously in a fit of damage control, media criticism, and internal recriminations.
It would be supremely odd if they didn’t react to the Hur report with some defensiveness. But if Biden had held a steady lead in head-to-head polls with Donald Trump for the past few months, I think the reaction would’ve been much less frenzied. They are worried, and coming to terms with it.
That’s all natural. What’s missing, and what we can’t likely expect until they reach the stage of acceptance, is any effort to account for how the party, under Biden’s leadership, helped create the conditions for today’s peril. Both the specific challenge of the Hur report, and the broader one of Trump’s quickly clearing path to a third act in politics.
They may never admit responsibility for any aspect of the political status quo. Recent reporting suggests even old colleagues from the Obama-Biden years can’t get straight dope from the people running the Biden re-elect. They want everyone else to think that everything’s going according to plan. But it’s obviously not. They must know that, and must have some thoughts about what’s gone wrong and how to fix it. Rank and file liberals should thus demand clarity from them on where they plan to go from here.
Republican voters and elites naturally deserve most of the blame for Trump’s momentum. Senate Republicans could have provided enough votes to convict Trump of inciting insurrection, and disqualify him from federal office. Kevin McCarthy brought Trump back into the good graces of the national GOP. Republican media has lied to voters about the 2020 election and the insurrection for years. Republican voters have developed horrendous civic hygiene, bathing daily in bias-confirmation, scapegoating, and other forms of self-indulgence.
But politics in the United States is much like one-on-one combat; even candidates and campaigns that cheat and steal are meant to study their opponents, understand their strengths and vulnerabilities, and build their strategies around that understanding. That goes doubly so for rule-following campaigns like Biden’s.
In the days after he won the presidency, his approach to preparing for two terms became clear, and had remained largely unchanged at least until last week. I’d whittle it down to something like this: