The NY Times editors began 2022 by warning that Every Day Is Jan. 6 Now. "One year after from the smoke and broken glass, the mock gallows and the very real bloodshed of that awful day," they wrote yesterday morning, "it is tempting to look back and imagine that we can, in fact, simply look back. To imagine that what happened on Jan. 6, 2021-- a deadly riot at the seat of American government, incited by a defeated president amid a last-ditch effort to thwart the transfer of power to his successor-- was horrifying but that it is in the past and that we as a nation have moved on. This is an understandable impulse. After four years of chaos, cruelty and incompetence, culminating in a pandemic and the once-unthinkable trauma of Jan. 6, most Americans were desperate for some peace and quiet."
On the surface, we have achieved that. Our political life seems more or less normal these days, as the president pardons turkeys and Congress quarrels over spending bills. But peel back a layer, and things are far from normal. Jan. 6 is not in the past; it is every day.
It is regular citizens who threaten election officials and other public servants, who ask, “When can we use the guns?” and who vow to murder politicians who dare to vote their conscience. It is Republican lawmakers scrambling to make it harder for people to vote and easier to subvert their will if they do. It is Donald Trump who continues to stoke the flames of conflict with his rampant lies and limitless resentments and whose twisted version of reality still dominates one of the nation’s two major political parties.
In short, the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends. No self-governing society can survive such a threat by denying that it exists. Rather, survival depends on looking back and forward at the same time.
Truly grappling with the threat ahead means taking full account of the terror of that day a year ago. Thanks largely to the dogged work of a bipartisan committee in the House of Representatives, this reckoning is underway. We know now that the violence and mayhem broadcast live around the world was only the most visible and visceral part of the effort to overturn the election. The effort extended all the way into the Oval Office, where Mr. Trump and his allies plotted a constitutional self-coup.
We know now that top Republican lawmakers and right-wing media figures privately understood how dangerous the riot was and pleaded with Mr. Trump to call a halt to it, even as they publicly pretended otherwise. We know now that those who may have critical information about the planning and execution of the attack are refusing to cooperate with Congress, even if it means being charged with criminal contempt.
On Saturday, reporting for The Guardian from DC, Lauren Gambino wrote that the Republican midterm strategy is to ignore public policy goals while sowing outrage with culture war crap, from vaccine mandates and critical race theory to "woke gender ideology" and "open borders." And this manufactured and focus-group-tested outage-- rather than policy objectives-- is what has put American democracy in jeopardy. "The 'culture war' offensive," she wrote, "comes as Democrats, facing deep economic malaise and historical headwinds, race to deliver on the president’s domestic agenda, which includes an ambitious social policy package that faces serious legislative hurdles, blocked by conservative Democraps Manchin and Sinema in the Senate and garbage like Cuellar, Gottheimer, Costa, Schrader, Correa and Case in the House.
Grievance politics is not a new strategy for Republicans. In 1968, Richard Nixon employed the “Southern Strategy” to exploit white racial grievances coded in language such as “law and order” and “states’ rights”. But as partisanship grows and the parties become increasingly hostile to one another, so too has the potential political benefit of cultural warfare that inflames division and energizes their base.
A recent report by the Public Religion Research Institute and Brookings Institution, titled “competing visions of America,” found that 80% of Republicans believe that “America is in danger of losing its culture and identity”. By comparison, just 33% of Democrats agree. Meanwhile, 70% of Republicans say “American culture and way of life have changed for the worse since the 1950s” while more than six in 10 Democrats say it has changed for the better.
As Democrats negotiate amongst themselves over how to pass Biden’s signature domestic policy bill, Republicans have been seeding outrage over-- and fundraising off of-- all manner of perceived injustices from cancel culture to Dr Seuss to the 1619 project. They are hammering the administration over its handling of immigration at the southern border and Democrats over rising crime rates in cities. And Biden’s efforts to pursue racial equity as part of his governing agenda has drawn accusations of racism from conservatives who say the efforts discriminate against white people.
Republicans are also leading the charge against the administration’s vaccine mandates for companies with more than 100 employees, which they say is an example of “radical” Democratic overreach.
On that issue, Republicans are speaking to their base, which is disproportionately unvaccinated. An NPR analysis found that the stronger a county’s support for Trump in the 2020 election, the lower its Covid-19 vaccination rate. But Republicans are betting that opposition to vaccine mandates, terms of personal liberty, will resonate beyond their base.
...The challenge for Republicans is to avoid alienating moderate voters in the suburbs with their efforts to energize their supporters who are deeply loyal to Trump and have come to expect their politicians to loudly voice their grievances.
Republicans believe their unexpected success in Virginia, a state Biden won by 10 percentage points in 2020, provides a playbook.
But will every Democratic candidate be as feeble, utterly worthless and impossible for so many Democrats to support as Terry McAuliffe was? Leave it to the DSCC and DCCC and the answer will be "yes, of course." Gambino wrote that in Virginia "Democrats were caught 'flat-footed' by concerns over critical race theory, a concept that, until recently, few outside of academia had ever heard of. Instead of confronting it... Democrats’ instinct was to deny support and dismiss the charge as a right-wing talking point, neither of which satisfied voters.
Democrats need “an explanation for the rightwing’s origin story of, ‘this is why you’re suffering white man in the post-industrial Midwest,” Shenker-Osorio said. “Unless we can talk about race, about gender, about gender identity, our economic promise isn’t going to land.”
Columnist Will Bunch, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, put it another way: “Once again, the Democrats showed up to a culture war gunfight brandishing a 2,000-page piece of legislation.”
While Democrats agree they have a problem, they are at odds over how to fix it.
Some argue that the party has moved too far left on cultural issues, a shift that has alienated non-college educated white voters and, increasingly, working-class Latino and Black Americans. Another cohort believes that instead of trying to recapture the voters who have abandoned the party, Democrats should find a message that appeals to a diversifying electorate.
Proponents of this approach believe Democrats should respond to the right’s attacks by adopting what they call a “race-class narrative,” which Shenker-Osorio helped develop.
The approach explicitly accuses Republicans of using racism or racial dog whistles as a divide-and-conquer tactic to sow distrust, undermine faith in government and protect the wealthy. When applied, the message not only defangs Republican attacks, it motivates and mobilizes voters of all races, its advocates argue.
“Our task is to make the idea of joining together across our differences-- the idea of multiracial solidarity, as a means to collectively get these shared values that we all want-- sexier than the grievance politics that the right is selling,” said Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Way to Win.
In a recently published memo, advocated candidates use the “blows are landing because our agenda and accomplishments remain so far undefined in the minds of voters.”
Among its messaging recommendations, the group urges Democrats to contrast the party’s economic vision with a “Republican party that is beholden to Maga extremism” while doing more to sell their legislative achievements and highlight the steps they’ve taken to combat Covid.
And, while the DCCC still insists Democratic candidates hide their policy positions, progressive congressional candidates are doing exactly what Way to Win and other groups are urging: show what you want to do for voters. If a candidate won't say they want to pass Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, are they really worth supporting. It just means you're going to get more corrupt careerists like Abigail Spanberger, Josh Gottheimer, Rick Larsen, Scott Peters, Kurt Schrader, Jim Costa... Watch the inexpensive home-made video below that Wisconsin progressive Senate candidate Tom Nelson just yesterday. He's telling the voters what they need to know in order to make a rational decision at the polls-- who he is and what he plans to if they elect him... no beating around the Bush; no confusing guess-work. Tim wants to be sure that Wisconsin voters know he isn't this year's version of Kyrsten Sinema. The DSCC has plenty of that kind of candidate-- from Cheri Beasley, defender of the filibuster and nothing to say Val Demings to Pennsylvania DINO Conor Lamb and a gaggle of self-funding values-free rich people right there in Wisconsin.