It’s not often that “go die in a fire” is given as an option in an ultimatum, but Professor David Faris, writing in The Week, has urged congressional Democrats to grab a torch:
The Democratic negotiating position on all issues put before them while they are in the House and Senate minority for at least the next two years should be very simple: You will give us Merrick Garland or you may go die in a fire.
Faris’s piece, already rocketing around Facebook, is entitled, “It’s Time for Democrats to Fight Dirty.” There is nothing more reassuring to the members of a political party that just lost an election than the notion that they lost because they were “too nice,” or because the electorate couldn’t grasp the nuances of their message. After 2008 and 2012, some Republicans convinced themselves that they had lost not because of any real flaws in their agenda, message, or candidates, but because they were too high-minded and not tough enough. Democrats told themselves the same after losing in 2004, 2010, and 2014.
The aching pain of defeat is somewhat alleviated by the stretching required to pat oneself on the back. But what are the implications of this particular self-delusion? That it’s time for Democrats to “fight dirty”? It’s hard to imagine fighting dirtier than 2016’s. Donald Trump won while being relentlessly attacked with negative media coverage of his every lie and scandal. He received a variation of every criticism ever thrown at a Republican presidential candidate — the alleged nuclear warmongering of Goldwater, the alleged ignorance of George W. Bush, the alleged erratic temperament of John McCain, the alleged plutocratic greed of Mitt Romney — and was elected anyway.
It’s fascinating to see what infuriated partisans define as “fighting dirty.” Apparently the entire Trump victory can be attributed to this moral flexibility; it couldn’t possibly reflect President Obama’s record, a national appetite for change, or Hillary Clinton’s agenda, character, and record.
Faris’s piece is a fantastic example of the sputtering rage of the Left at this moment, convinced that Obama’s presidency was a phenomenal success, that no Republican opposition to his agenda was ever legitimate, and that an electorate that was so wise and clear-headed in 2008 and 2012 has suddenly become easily fooled.
Far too much of modern American political combat is myopic, focused only on the immediate short term. Far too little attention is paid to how a particular stance or decision will look down the road, when the political winds change. A few weeks ago, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware practically begged his Republican colleagues to reinstate the filibuster for non-SCOTUS presidential nominees:
I frankly think many of us will regret that in this Congress because it would have been a terrific speed bump, potential emergency brake, to have in our system to slow down the confirmation of extreme nominees.
What Coons “regrets,” for those who don’t remember, is then Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to scrap the filibuster for non-SCOTUS nominees in the first place. It seems unlikely that Senate Republicans, about whom he has undoubtedly said his share of less than complimentary things over the years, will voluntarily give up the advantage Reid handed them.
But Coons, at least, recognizes that he and his fellow Democrats are in a bind of their own making. Most of his ideological fellow travelers aren’t quite so self-aware. In defeat, they blame everyone but themselves without batting an eye.