The Democratic Party might be trash, but let’s stop pretending it matters

OPINION: Despite the Democratic Party’s political failures, if Republicans win House and Senate majorities in the midterm elections, it will be because the GOP rigged the system. 

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I believe Magic Johnson is the best basketball player who ever lived.

I believe Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time.

I think Kanye West is a genius producer with an ongoing struggle with mental health exacerbated by the death of his mother. And I think he is a narcissistic asshole. I prefer salt on my grits, and I believe comedian KevOnStage shouldn’t be charged with hate crimes against the Black community just because he eats sugar-grits (A five-year stint in a medium-security state penitentiary should suffice). 

Two things can be true.

Despite what you may have gleaned from social media posts, cable news quarrels or barbershop-based bickering, you don’t actually have to pick a side on every issue. Ignoring subtlety, nuance and contributing factors might win an argument in the confines of the Twitterverse, but many subjects are more complex than 280 characters will allow. Some things are good. Some things are bad. Most are somewhere in between. 

And yes, the Democratic Party is trash.

There is no question that the Democratic leadership has largely failed on issues that affect their Black constituency. During election season, progressive candidates waltzed into Black churches, fish fries and beauty salons promising the world. Now, they are whitesplaining away the lack of police reform legislation, voting rights and economic parity by blaming their failures on Republicans. They are bad at politics. They are bad at messaging. They are bad at fighting and terrible at winning. At their best, the Democrats represent a party of inept, spineless liars who take Black voters for granted during their always fruitless pursuit of moderate white voters. At their worst, they are Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. They are trash.

And, none of this matters.

On the Venn diagram that shows where far-right political ideology intersects with the far left and the moderate white middle is the naive idea that legislative policy, party platforms and money wins elections. Lies are inconsequential. Messaging is as irrelevant as bipartisanship. Any pundit who still pontificates about messaging strategy, believability and fundraising is either lying, desperate to fill a block of cable primetime news coverage or so naive that they are wholly unqualified to share their opinion. In the current political landscape, politics is the least important factor in winning a political race.

Because the Republican Party has rigged the game in their favor, nothing means anything.

To be fair, a lot of the criticisms of the Democratic Party are true. When Lincoln Project founder Steve Schmidt tweeted a thread on how Democrats’ communication failures will cause them to lose the midterm elections, he accurately described Republicans as a “cabal of “proven liars, weirdos, petty criminals, militia extremists, religious extremists, racist extremists, fascist extremists, conspiracy theorists and useful idiots in service to the cause of a Russian war criminal.” 

Much he said was true, especially when he explained how the vast majority of Americans are held hostage by a “tiny minority that has infested and strangled the mechanisms of party politics like Kudzu vines marinated in miracle grow overtaking a city.” That part wasn’t just beautifully poetic; it was also an astute political observation. But his claim that “the survival of American democracy will be dependent on the ability to connect and communicate effectively” overlooked a few minor details that his thesis conveniently ignored.

Schmidt probably forgot to mention how states teetering on the edge of democratic rule have used racial politics to preserve white power. Or maybe I missed the tweet about how gerrymandered congressional districts give the GOP a decided advantage in the House of Representatives. Perhaps I overlooked the part about how GOP-controlled legislatures in Arizona and Wisconsin successfully passed draconian voting laws that could shift party control of the Senate more effectively than any political campaign. The flowery language was cute, and it was true. But it matters less than the voter registrations that were tossed out in Texas’ most populous county, which just happens to be majority non-white.  

As a Republican strategist, Schmidt’s candidates only won two GOP presidential nominations, the governorship of the largest state in America and two supreme court seats. It is entirely possible that Steve Schmidt spent his entire professional career working for a party that uses race as the only criteria to suppress votes, gerrymander elections and patrol polls, and he believes that Democrats can overcome this system with better “messaging.” If Schmidt isn’t as dumb as a bag of river rubble, then he must be an outright liar.

MSNBC’s Republican-lite blowhard Joe Scarborough is required to fill four hours every morning interrupting people who are smarter than he is. Scarborough’s insistence last week that “woke issues” will doom the Democratic Party wasn’t wrong. He was probably right when he interrupted a Black voter named Al Sharpton to explain what Black voters think. 

Scarborough’s claim that Black people are more conservative than the Democrats’ “white woke leaders” is contrary to polling data that shows Black voters’ positions on reparationsracial equalitypolice reform and voting access are more progressive than white Democrats’ views. And it proves that a windbag wearing a wig could deliver more accurate political insight.

Scarborough simply may not have seen the memo from States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy and Law Forward identifying 216 bills in 41 states that could rig the electoral system. He might not know about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ new poll police. Or maybe he didn’t think it was important since the state already found a loophole in its recent constitutional amendment that gave formerly convicted citizens the right to vote. I’m sure he didn’t have enough characters to explain how Georgia’s Republican legislature can just take over a county’s election board and overrule the counting of votes.

Forget about the fact that Scarborough became a political “expert” by representing one of the whitest districts in his state for less time than most kindergartners have been on earth. Do you know how hard it is to lie for that many hours every day?

Yes, the Democratic Party’s messaging is convoluted. And they don’t go as hard for their Black base like the Republican Party does for its Caucasian constituency. And they are spineless. And they complain about how they are obstructed by Republicans, but they can never seem to stop Republicans’ racist agenda when the GOP has the majority. And they are not cohesive enough to capitalize on their legislative majority. And the party leadership’s solution is to ask Black people to out-organize and outhustle white supremacy.

But does any of the Democratic Party’s issues matter if the slim margin of victory provided by Black voters can be erased by white power? 

Before talking about those issues, anyone engaging in an honest and intelligent discussion of what’s wrong with American politics must exhaust the subjects of racism, racist politicians, white people’s support of racist politicians, racial gerrymandering, voter suppression, closing voter locations in Black districts, the fact that “Black districts” even exist, the influence of money in politics, why so few Black people have money to influence politics, state legislative control of elections, and why there are more Democratic voters but more Republican legislators.

And because of how politics, the two-party system and whiteness work, Black voters have no realistic alternatives to the GOP.

And that is exactly why the Democratic Party is trash.

Because everyone pretends that America isn’t. 


Michael Harriot theGrio.com

Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2022.

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