Fed up with one, let down by the other

I don’t understand Democrats.

Today’s Republicans I get. It’s easy enough to see what kind of society they want. It’s just not a fit place to live.

Democrats, on the other hand, are hard to figure. I hear what they say they want to do. But when they are actually in power — like they were in Wisconsin in 2009 and 2010 — they never seem to do those things. I’m not alone in losing count of the number of times Democratic lawmakers have been overheard saying they couldn’t afford to act because it would jeopardize their ability to get reelected and hold on to their majority. Then one of them after another was not reelected anyway and they lost their majority.

I’m not alone in losing count of the number of times Democrats have been reluctant to deal with some issue or another because the polling didn’t show strong enough public support. Right there is a major difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats are resigned to polls shaping their message and guiding their actions. Republicans believe their message and actions will shape the polling.

Then there is the Democrats’ chronic habit of compromising with themselves. This tendency is on prominent display in public arenas all across the country, including in the presidential race. Democratic voters seem to love the ideas Bernie Sanders is putting out there, so much so that he’s gone from more than 50 points down in the polls to more or less even with Hillary Clinton. Yet Clinton has won the most votes and the most states and is considered the presumptive nominee. Curiously, you rarely hear Democratic voters say why they prefer Clinton’s ideas to Sanders’. They say they doubt his ideas could ever become law. They say ideas like debt-free college and health care for all and a higher minimum wage — ideas they claim to believe in — are impractical or even “pie in the sky” or “pipe dreams.” Congress will never pass them, they say. Hillary’s the safer choice, the more practical option.

And how exactly do these Democratic voters imagine that if we have more or less the same Congress we have now, the investigations of Hillary’s emails and the hearings on Benghazi will be set aside and congressional Republicans will start working to make her presidency a success? Exactly what evidence is there to suggest Republicans on Capitol Hill hate Clinton less than Sanders, and would stonewall him more and her less?

Besides, how do you ever win by making unilateral concessions? It’s Negotiation 101, people. You never compromise with yourself. You never move in the direction of the other side unless and until the other side also moves toward you. You ask for a little, you get nothing. You ask for a lot, you can’t get less than nothing. And more often than not, you eventually get at least some of what you want.

As for Hillary being the safer choice, has it dawned on those who’ve reached this conclusion that there are unusually strong anti-establishment feelings among voters this year? Has it occurred to them that for Donald Trump to have a path to the White House, he desperately needs to run against an establishment figure? Or that Hillary Clinton is the consummate insider, a living embodiment of the political establishment? There is a reason that national polls show Sanders runs stronger against Trump than Clinton does. There is great risk for Democrats in a Clinton vs. Trump matchup.

While Democrats play it safe, Republicans are hellbent on destroying public education. They continuously feed the rich, never minding the grotesque inequality that results. They enshrine privilege at every turn and pulverize the common good in a hundred different ways. They are not the least bit squeamish about making blunt appeals to racism, sexism, xenophobia and other dark impulses to secure and hold on to power. All of this leaves them more unpopular with the American people than they’ve been in nearly a quarter of a century. And yet despite this growing unpopularity, they rule the country, thanks in large part to the Democrats’ identity crisis.

All of this leaves America’s future far more in peril than need be.

Mike McCabe