It really is time for some soul-searching
Much to my union Democrat parents’ dismay, I cast my first presidential vote for a Republican and stayed loyal to the GOP for pretty much the next two decades.
As I’ve said here before, I bailed off the elephant after simply realizing that Austrian neoliberal economics hadn’t lived up to its promises but the party was by that time permanently bonded with it. My departure happened before the party went bat-crap crazy.
But that doesn’t mean the Democrats have anything to say to me, though. They don’t. Every reason I wasn’t a Democrat before still exists but now it’s amplified. The recent election presents the party of the mule with an opportunity, if they’ll take it.
Honestly, I would’ve thought they’d have done it in 2016. That year, with an astonishing lack of self-awareness, they nominated a candidate who was thoroughly reviled among a wide swath of the country. The GOP, in its turn, fielded a sketchy real estate mogul and over-the-top reality TV star and that guy edged out an Electoral College victory. Rather than do the soul-searching I thought they would and should, the Democrats instead blamed sexism instead of the candidate’s character and then continued spiraling into an upside-down world they want to drag us all into.
At one time the Democratic Party was noble. They fought for civil rights and labor rights. They made a bold, if ill-advised, attempt at eradicating poverty. I went with the Republicans because, in my mind, Reagan made some kind of sense at the time but the Democrats were still anchored in a semblance of reality. In the intervening decades, they’ve come unhinged, just as unbalanced as the Republicans, just unbalanced differently.
In 2020, they ran against a bloviating, narcissistic demagogue who spouts unhinged conspiracy theories as fact, punched the Western Alliance in the nose and sucked up to the worst dictators in the last 30 years and, instead of scoring a landslide, they eked out a squeaker while the GOP advanced its lead in governorships and state legislatures, chipped away at the Democrats’ lead in the House and seems poised to retain its edge in the Senate. This despite the party’s persistent enabling of Trump. Why?
Because as bad as the Republicans are, the American people by and large hate the Democrats.
The party that used to fight for the workers and minorities has shifted its focus. Here’s how:
Although half of Americans oppose abortion in at least most cases, unrestricted access has become a litmus test and Democrats who disagree are intentionally purged from the party. While Martin Luther King Jr. dreamt of a society where skin color was irrelevant, Democrats now insist race permeates everything everywhere at all times. Comedian Bill Mahr, never famous for his right-wing views on things, said in a recent interview that “this is the view of the KKK!” “Woke” activists bar people with views they disagree with from speaking at college campuses and applaud parents who conclude their 6-year-old boy is a girl and work to “transition” him.
In the meantime, the workers are ignored.
For all his faults, and The Herald doesn’t give me enough space to list them all, Donald Trump spoke to workers’ concerns. He took on China, where most U.S. manufacturing had gone since the 1980s. He renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement, which we denizens of the Rust Belt hated. He at least pretended to care about what they care about.
Barberton had been so solidly Democrat that the Republican Party had outright abandoned it. All our races were decided in the primaries. But in 2016, the Magic City went hard for Donald Trump. They went with Trump even harder in 2020. In 2019, Barbertonians put two Republicans on City Council, unthinkable just a few short years ago.
The Democratic Party has a couple choices. It can either continue to build its little bubble, catering to the fringes in its base, or it can wake up to the fact it is a stench in the nostrils to a wide, broad swath of the American people and start working for them again.