“I am not a member of any organized political party – I’m a Democrat!” So lamented (bragged?) Will Rogers.
The beloved cowboy humorist of my home state of Oklahoma found the right touch to describe Democrats of his day. It was like “herding cats” to organize them into a coherent force. Perhaps not too different today?
Rogers’ influence lingers. He often claimed he “never met a man he didn’t like.” But in the halls of Congress, good ol’ Will winks at those who pass below his gaze. If they are mean spirited or hypocrites, might there be some he wouldn’t like? His statue (donated by Oklahoma), stands in the Will Rogers “Stakeout,” often a site for media interviews and photographs between the Rotunda and House Chambers.
Will would surely despair at the rancor, at most of the members of the GOP (or POT—Party of Trump) who pass by. If they touch his statue for luck, as Democrats do, will their hand be burned? It could happen, if they are not true to his spirit of patriotism, true to the Constitution he loved. Perhaps his spirit also despairs about the few Democrats who abandoned their party for a pro-POT vote on Wednesday.
The Democratic Party, the oldest political party in the U.S., in its multi-hued nature, with its multi-ideological currents, looks much “like America.” That is great for Democracy. It is certainly a refreshing contrast with the ideologically (and racially) rigid POT. It held together for the historic impeachment, but what of their hopes to regain the presidency?
Leaders such as Senator and former Vice-President, Joseph Biden, present a strong possibility. Also, Senators Warren, Sanders, Harris, Korbachar, Booker, et. al., vie for that honor. One of them will emerge by next summer as standard-bearer for Fall 2020 elections. Currently, seven candidates qualified (via votes in polls, funds raised) to appear on the Thursday night debate stage. One of them will emerge by Spring to be selected to accept that challenge.
President Obama is symbol of the moderate center of the Democratic Party, standing in stark democratic contrast to the POT. But, a political “party” is more than the sum of its parts. It includes its history, its accomplishments, its heroes—FDR, Kennedy. Parties were not even mentioned in the Constitution, but were inevitable. They were and are integral parts of Democracy and rational government.
Likewise, the famous “two-party system” was inevitable, due, in part, to the democratic requirement of majority rule (50 percent plus one). Also, the “winner-take-all” nature of the Electoral College has tended to guarantee us this system, smothering not only minor parties, but diminishing even the party in close second place.
Like it or not, this is our system, not perfect, but one that “fits” the Constitution and custom. However one may long for a “third party” to rise to governing power (viz: Republicans under Lincoln) that phenomenon happens rarely. More recently, such parties have played the role of “spoiler” (viz: Ralph Nader, denying the election to the much more qualified Vice-President Gore. The dominant Republican majority on the Supreme Court chose Bush. One could wish for a multi-party system but, for now, we follow the rules we have in place.
Democratic candidates for President have spoken (this past Thursday night)–with several interesting “big” ideas and a few others, more doable. There will be no real Republican debate; the die is cast. It is, indeed, POT, the Party of Trump. Will he just be crowned? Will there be a gilded carriage? Livery? There might be Republicans to his “right” (Miller? and/or some Libertarian?). But, to his “left?” Perhaps only an “old,” traditional Republican – some John McCain protege, who stubbornly believes “no one is above the law?” (So, loving the Law is now “leftist”?)
No, the event is more likely to be a Trump redux in November 2020 vs (if they are smart) the Democratic, experienced “Centrist“ or moderate–Vice-President Joe Biden (with Korbachar or Harris as his running mate). Probably the Democrats won’t be fooled into nominating of a Warren or a Sanders. (As they say in Spanish–“tonto, pero no TANTO”–dumb but not THAT dumb). There is so much hate, so much misinformation out there, they probably wouldn’t win those crucial four or five Midwest states. What a shame, since those candidates would probably be old populist Will’s favorites. Sanders is a good, four-square American, fighting for working men and women. Warren is desirous of using some of billionaires’ wealth to re-build infrastructure in the U.S. Trump/POT would crucify such a candidate as “socialist.” However, to compare, neither is anything like a true socialist in Europe. So, for most Democrats, eager for change of the current administration, the mantra is “electability, not purity.”
“Meanwhile” (channeling Colbert), all we have to judge either side are their actions. “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7: 16-20, Holy Bible). We know something about Democratic actions in Congress. They include the Paycheck Fairness Act, increasing penalties for businesses that discriminate against women (Bill McCarthy, “What is Congress Doing?” Politifact, 14 Nov 19). Trump accuses Democrats of “doing nothing.” Yet, they have passed over 400 bills; McConnell will not respond, even though several are bipartisan bills (e.g., gun purchase registration).
McConnell prides himself on being the “grim reaper,” quashing all legislation from the House (Ella Nilsen, “House Democrats—400 Bills,” Vox, 29 Nov 19). Bills languishing include: H.R. 986: Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions; H.R.987: Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs; Raising the Minimum Wage to $15 per Hour. Contrast any of these with Trump’s massive tax cut for the super-rich, which the POT Senate had no trouble in passing. So, whose side are you on?
In fact, contrast almost any Democratic Congressperson or Senator (or Presidential hopeful—with the exception of enigmatic Tulsi Gabbard and her cowardly “Present” vote on impeachment) with Trump/McConnell/POT toadies. Another contrast: Democratic candidates supporting organized Labor, refusing to cross the picket line before the debate. Or choose any of the 400-plus bills dealing with voting rights and civil rights, still bottled up due to POT refusal to consider.
Will Rogers must be spinning in his grave; one of his firm beliefs (and reasons for being a Democrat) was their greater dedication to Civil Rights. He intoned: “We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others” (“The World Tomorrow”). If statues cannot move us, perhaps his words and spirit can help. May those who touch his statue in Congress (and those touched by his words and philosophy) be moved toward a renewal of civility, a greater respect for the rights of others, and an intense re-commitment to Democracy and economic improvement for all.