Republicans are eating our lunch. I want a 2020 Democrat tough enough to eat theirs.
I wrote a book about political compromise, but I am getting less interested in it all the time.
For decades as a reporter I covered politicians in both parties, and admired them for making deals that inched the ball forward for everyone. My personal views were liberal, but I saw the value of each side acting as a check and balance on the other: Republicans asking practical questions about big new programs, Democrats blunting the plutocratic aspects of conservative-style capitalism.
Win-win was what it was all about, I believed, and wrote. Both sides come away with progress, the country benefits, and the people who make it happen are heroic.
I’m over it.
To be clear, I'm not over wanting international engagement and trade agreements, less deficit and debt, more nuclear power and a practical approach to climate change. I still prefer a public insurance option over "Medicare for All," and I wish 2020 Democrats like Sen. Kamala Harris of California would be clear about where they stand on that (and stop talking about busing). I wouldn't say no to incremental progress in any area if, realistically, that was the only kind possible in a particular moment.
Time to heed the will of the people
But I’m no longer interested in conciliation as a campaign plank, because to me it signifies caving in advance. It’s not the right time to call for peace, love and understanding.
It is time for a Democratic presidential nominee like Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who in her book explained her failure as a tennis student this way: “Once I had a weapon in my hand, I gave it everything I had.” Or Harris, who showed on the debate stage that she would and could take on anyone, from Joe Biden to Barack Obama to Donald Trump.
We need a nominee who understands, as today's Republicans seem to know from birth, that paeans to bipartisanship won't cut it. Not after the decade we've had.
This is a time for Democrats to be as clear as Republicans about their hopes and dreams, whether they are achievable or not. It is time for them to be as tough and relentless as Republicans. And it is time for them to make sure their gains cannot be erased by technicalities that thwart the will of the people.
Nothing is more telling than my own evolution on statehood for the District of Columbia. When I moved to Washington in 1982 and became a taxpayer with no voice in Congress, I believed that my right to vote for senators and a House member would be served just fine if the district were absorbed back into Maryland. I scorned Washington's "shadow" senator and House candidates as lobbyists for the pipe dream of statehood, and skipped those lines on the ballot every time.
Until last year.
In 2018, I reversed my view on statehood and voted for the lobbyists. Adding one Democratic House seat to Maryland and tens of thousands more votes for its two Democratic senators would change nothing, and we need change badly.
Trump and McConnell drove me to it
I owe this transformation largely to the party of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, President Donald Trump and former House Speaker Paul Ryan:
►McConnell for galactic-class hypocrisy that includes, but is not limited to, blockading Obama’s judicial nominees and brazenly robbing him of a Supreme Court seat, then changing the rules to speed Trump’s pro-business, anti-voter judges and justices to confirmation; pressuring Republicans to oppose the Affordable Care Act modeled on many GOP ideas; refusing to protest Russian interference in the 2016 election; refusing to safeguard future elections; and steadfastly protecting a president who is accused of sexual assault and has cozied up to dictators, spilled secrets to Russians, let Saudi Arabia off the hook for murder, started destructive trade wars, attacked the “enemy” news media, and is implicated in illegal behavior from obstruction of justice to violating campaign finance laws.
Never Trumper plea: I'll vote for almost any Democrat, but lurching left won't beat Trump
►Trump for all of that and more. The tragically divisive immigrant-baiting and race-baiting that are his trademark. His unfulfilled promises on health care, "Dreamers," worker pay raises and so much else. His degrading and monetizing of the presidency and the impunity he thinks he has to ignore Congress. And, almost inconceivably, ruining and even ending lives on the border by separating children from parents and failing to care for them.
►Ryan for setting the pace on evidence-free policymaking with his dedication to supply-side tax cuts that do not, repeat do not, "pay for themselves.” Trump’s 2017 tax law is creating a windfall for the rich and huge deficits for the nation, while failing to fix real problems like income stagnation and economic inequality. Never mind the failed reality, for America and in particular for Kansas. Trump just gave Arthur Laffer, the father of supply-side economics, “a tremendous award” — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Obama and Clinton made mistakes
What can't I blame on the GOP?
Hillary Clinton, who made every point she needed to in her debates with Trump (read the transcripts, it’s all there — even calling him Putin's "puppet" and anticipating the Mueller report with "you continue to get help from him because he has a very clear favorite in this race"). But she couldn't overcome the headwinds of Russian interference, James Comey interference and her own heavy baggage.
Nor is the GOP responsible for Obama’s milquetoast responses to the Merrick Garland debacle and Russia’s election intrusions. Obama's restraint, whatever its roots, may have helped Trump get elected, with enormously damaging consequences for his legacy and the country.
I want to say that the work was not in vain, that the legacy can be reclaimed. But so much hinges on structural changes like D.C. statehood, independent redistricting commissions and voting rights expansions.
First run the table, then worry about deals
These are not mere process issues. They will shape decisions affecting everyone’s lives, and determine the permanence or transience of what either party achieves. We need Democrats to fight for them as well as for Democratic solutions to pressing problems.
Anti-Trump conservatives and moderates are fretting about what they see as Democrats' unremitting march to the left. You could lose us, they warn. You could hand him another term. Some seem downright overwrought. But when have conservatives worried about appeasing moderate Democrats? Republicans have moved so far right, they don't have majority support on many major issues. And yet they keep getting elected.
The balance is out of whack. The pendulum must swing. Democrats need a nominee ready to wield the weapon of the presidency with everything they have. There is a time to talk about political compromise. It's after Democrats are running the table.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Republicans are eating our lunch. I want a 2020 Democrat tough enough to eat theirs.