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If the Democrats would just get it together and pass the very popular planks of their policy program, the conservative movement would be in some trouble. This seems like wishful thinking, both because history tells us the "if" there is doing so much work, and also because the Republican Party, despite its manifestly unpopular policy agenda, has remained competitive in state and federal politics for years now thanks at least in part to its ingrained structural advantages—some longstanding, as with the Senate, and others cranked up to 11 in the modern era, like extreme partisan gerrymandering. But the other element fueling Republican viability is Democratic fecklessness whenever the party is handed the reins. They need to use the power the public gave them in the 2020 elections to address the issues most of the public thinks are important.
I mean, this is where the conservative movement is at right now: on The Fox News Channel on Tuesday, High Priest of the Rageclowns Donald Trump Junior could be found yelling about Mr. Potato Head, the Muppets, Oreo cookies, and Dr. Seuss. In fact, Fox has had wall-to-wall coverage of Dr. Seuss on this fine March morning. Vox's Aaron Rupar reports the doctor has been mentioned 32 times on Fox News and Fox Business, along with 22 mentions over on Newsmax, the network for people who think Fox is insufficiently right-wing. Last week, the most devout acolytes paid actual money to worship a golden idol of their rageclown demigod. Meanwhile, there is a pandemic and widespread unemployment and four decades of wage stagnation and the climate crisis and racial injustice in policing and the criminal justice system and the affordable housing shortage and the growing threat of corporate concentration and monopoly power. Nobody outside the right-wing infotainment vortex—people who have neither the time nor the resentment-conditioning for this crap—is worried about Dr. Seuss right now.
Republicans have marshaled basically no coherent or unified opposition to the COVID relief bill backed by Democrats, much less suggested any kind of alternative solution, and a majority of their own voters support many provisions in the proposed bill anyway. They have no policy platform at all beyond one-off bills proposed by one or two Republican senators at a time, which are often opposed by their own colleagues in the caucus. Mitt Romney's child allowance bill is a step in the right direction, but it's opposed by Marco Rubio and plenty of other Republicans. Two of the more popular American political narratives of our time are Dems In Disarray and The Left Is Out of Touch With Everyday Americans. At the moment, both of these apply to the Republican Party.
The path forward for Democrats ought to be exceedingly clear. Pass the COVID relief bill immediately. If it's too much to ask that they just send $2,000 checks, at least get the additional $1,400 in people's hands right away. Get rid of the filibuster, raise the minimum wage, pass H.R. 1 and the new Voting Rights Act—which would address the structural anti-democratic advantages Republicans use to entrench themselves against popular opinion—and roll out another bill to shore up America's crumbling infrastructure while introducing new elements, like green infrastructure and care infrastructure. As an olive branch that would simultaneously address a major problem facing our society, Congress could create a Bipartisan Commission on Antitrust in which any and all ideas—including kooky right-wing memes about conservative discrimination on social media—could get a fair hearing. Then we can decide how to move forward to dismantle the monopoly power. Eventually, it would be nice for Congress to reassert its constitutional role in American warfare. In the meantime, Uncle Joe up the street could stop dropping bombs on people.
In general, it falls on the Democratic Party to make the case that government should take an active role in shaping our political economy, acting as a counterbalance to the runaway power of capital that has steadily eroded the social fabric of this nation over four decades and left us on the brink of the abyss. This might also lead, a few years from now, to a Republican Party that is forced to return to reality. Or they can keep the filibuster, fail to enact their agenda, and in a few years we'll go back to government-by-rageclown, all the while sliding towards authoritarianism and climate catastrophe. Tough choice there!
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