Have the Democrats finally stopped languishing?

(NATHAN HOWARD/Associated Press)

Have the Democrats finally stopped languishing?

Opinion piece, Elections 2024

Jackie Calmes

March 13, 2024

The most common complaint I’ve heard from Democrats for years is that their party doesn’t fight like that difficult, and


dirty, like the Republicans do


they don’t bring guns to a gunfight. Since 2016, I have also heard that rap from Republicans: Never-Trump types express their surprise and annoyance at the fact that their Democratic comrades in arms against the former president does not take up arms politically.

The Democratic pols will admit this: they are worried

too many

about how they might come across to the poly-sci professors, experts and bourgeois idealists. Their inclination towards good governance is commendable. But being defeated repeatedly by the likes of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is not.

One of us plays with a rolling pin, and the other fights with a gun, a tool for Senate leaders once told me, frustrated that Democrats were abiding by the Marquis of Queensberry’s rules while Republicans were breaking norms to to storm the federal courts. We always take a butter knife to a gunfight, grumbled longtime Democratic strategist Brian Fallon not long ago.

Fallon felt so strongly that Democrats were falling away that he co-founded a liberal activist group, Demand Justice, in 2017 to take a more combative approach to the left in court cases seeking to uphold the rule of law. He recently left the group for a job in the Biden campaign, as communications director for Vice President Kamala Harris. That’s good: the Democrats need scrappers, lots of em, and especially the ever-cautious Harris needs communications firepower.

Even better signs of a more excited Democratic Party have emerged lately, just as Biden and Trump each assured nominations for their respective parties Tuesday with victories in several states



One sign was Biden’s courageous State of the Union address last week, in which he took a baker’s dozen shots at my predecessor and parried the scorn of Republicans in the House of Representatives, as if a smiling Dark Brandon came to life and red lasers shot out of his eyes. To hear Republicans carp afterward that Biden was too partisan gave new meaning to the pot calling the kettle black.

Another indication of a heightened democratic malfeasance was


news of a major ad buy for the Biden campaign worth $30 million, along with the president’s busy schedule in battleground states and campaign plans to hire hundreds of aides. The first ad was also good, with a lively Biden mocking his age, noting his achievements, drawing contrasts with Trump and, appropriately, promising to fight for



And on Tuesday, indications emerged that other Democrats will have Bidens back. Those on the House Judiciary Committee were charged with the Republican-majority hearing that presented Robert Hur, a Republican and the former special counsel whose recent report on Biden’s handling of classified materials included damaging commentary about the president’s age and alleged diminished abilities.

The committees Democrats, especially California Reps. Ted Lieu, Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell appropriately focused less on Hurs


mental errors and more based on his report’s conclusions that no criminal charges are warranted against Biden (compared to 41 crimes against Trump). And

those two,

Despite Republicans’ claims to the contrary, what Biden did with top-secret documents was in no way comparable to the much more serious allegations against Trump of conspiracy and false statements.

The committee Democrats did not ignore the issue of age and mental acuity; they simply turned it against Trump. Some of them, yes, came to recent MAGA rallies armed with video montages of the former president’s verbal blurbs, slurs and non-sequiturs.

But Democrats’ more typical lack of fight explains why Hur, a former Trump Justice Department official, was named special counsel by Biden’s Atty. General Merrick Garland in first place. Democrats, wanting to be seen as fair, continue to give Republicans a virtual monopoly on independent consultant jobs whenever Washington decides another high-profile investigation is needed. Whether the person under investigation is a Democrat (Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton) or a Republican (Donald Trump), Democrats are in favor of having a Republican prosecutor.

Republicans aren’t responding.

David Brock, now a Democratic operative but infamous in the 1990s as a ruthless, right-wing scourge of the Clintons, admitted to me a few years ago that he was occasionally irritated by his new party because of its tough statements, for example through a line to reject. of an attack as somehow unfair.

That’s nothing I’ve ever experienced as a young conservative, he told me. There is a different ethic.

Republicans just want the result, they just want to get there, they want

the victory

, Brock added. Democrats, on the other hand, struggle a lot with how to achieve that, about whether they respect the process.

And yet, ask most Republican voters and they will tell you that it is the Democrats who are the dirty fighters, cheating in elections and arming the government against their enemies, mainly Trump. Because that’s what Trump tells them.

That’s the Republicans’ dirtiest game: lying to their own voters.

This election year will probably be as nasty as any other election year. I hope I’m right that Biden and the Democrats have sheathed the butter knives and put the rolling pins on the shelf. It’s not that Trump hasn’t given them the ammunition for a gunfight.



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