In his very valuable book, Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy, Professor Stephen Duncombe writes:
The problem, as I see it, comes down to reality. Progressives believe in it, Bush’s people believe in creating it
Today, House Republicans are voting for a 33rd time to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare. As before, the vote will pass the House but will be shut down by the Senate. So why do it?
Republicans understand the value of political theatrics. Making Attorney General Eric Holder jump through hoop after hoop and then, even after he cooperates, voting to hold him in contempt. Holding our nation’s credit rating hostage to make a political point about recession-driven deficits. Shouting from the rooftops about gas prices and Solyndra and Obama’s alleged culpability, despite the fact that gas prices are driven by foreign policy and Solyndra’s loans were initiated by George W. Bush and sank by foreign markets. In the theater, reality doesn’t matter. What matters is how the audience reacts to the show.
Frankly, it’s easy to argue that Republicans look stupid for voting down Obamacare yet again and failing yet again. But the fact is, Democrats are the stupid ones for failing to equally grasp and use such theatrics.
Case in point: The Democratic fear of the filibuster. So the Republicans threaten to filibuster, well, every damn thing that is good for the middle class and our economy. So what? Let them! Democrats repeatedly putting popular bills up for a vote and Republicans repeatedly filibustering and stonewalling is precisely the kind of theatrics that don’t just tell the American public that Republicans are obstructionists but show it.
The Democrats did a version of this once. Democrats only had 59 votes to pass Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. So what did Democrats do? Call a vote anyway and hold a press conference afterwards, shaming those who voted against the law as standing with Wall Street against Main Street. And then they held the same vote the next day, followed by a press conference. And then the next day. And then a Republican defected and voted for the bill. How do you know this was a creative and effective tactic? Because Democrats haven’t employed it since.
Barack Obama and the current Democratic leadership repeatedly fail to grasp that Republicans right now are interested solely in theatrics and not legislation. And so the President and Democratic leadership keep proposing middle-of-the-road legislation under the sick illusion that compromise is possible. Meanwhile, the Republicans are merely looking for material for their next big show. This is how a proposal to cut taxes for 98% of American families gets labeled “class warfare” and the conservative-created individual mandate in health care reform becomes “socialism”. This isn’t about bringing guns and knives to a fight, but clowns and jesters. Maybe President Obama should do more than raise money from Hollywood but actually get their advice on scripting a better performance.