It’s easy to see what’s wrong with the Republican Party. But can you feel good about voting for the Democratic Party?

Eventually, we need to smash the two-party system for good. Our Founders warned us that it would lead to extremism and bands of people who treat the other party as the enemy.

Until then, the Democrats are certainly the lesser of two evils. By many measures, the Republicans are evil while the Democrats are merely incompetent. But to the Democrats’ credit, they’re sometimes a little more than that.

So even if you’re dissatisfied with Biden — which many people of all political persuasions are, given the apparent lack of urgency and leadership with which the administration  responds to everything from Ukraine to new COVID variants — your choice in the 2022 midterms and beyond is clear.

Here’s why “progressives” need to vote Democratic, followed by why “conservatives” or “centrists” or “libertarians” or “I may not like Trump but I need to vote against socialism” people need to vote Democratic as well.

Dear Progressives …

“Progressives” are disgruntled, so much so that they sometimes lecture “liberals” about how lazy we all are for not rebelling in the streets.

It’s a little unfair. Biden is more “progressive” than a lot of people give him credit for.  Also worth noting: Supposed centrists like LBJ made a lot of real progress. So did Obama, whose health care system was at least a big step forward.

But yes, sure, the Democratic Party isn’t as progressive as many people would like. Their record is mixed. There’s too much division within the party to overcome de facto coal lobbyist Joe Manchin (or supposedly “moderate” or “sensible” Republicans) on climate change, let alone push through a sturdier safety net. They’re not even pressing hard to codify abortion rights or even women’s rights. (Remember the ERA?)

So protesting is fine. Contacting “centrist” members of Congress to urge them to show more urgency is even better.

But the last few times we protested but didn’t vote, we got Nixon. Twice. And we stayed in Vietnam. Then we got Trump.

And a lot of progressive messaging — “defund the police” and hostility toward people who didn’t emerge from the womb as woke as you are — is turning people off.

We have to engage. If we give up on people, they’ll vote against everything we hold dear. But there’s a better way to do than just hitting people over the head. (Which, admittedly, I may be doing here. But I trust you to listen, just as I’ve listened to you over the years.)

Here’s what may shock you:

You may throw around the word “privilege” a lot. Usually “white privilege,” but sometimes “cis hetero privilege.” Less likely, because rich people tend to dominate public discourse, “class privilege.”

But when it comes to disparaging the Democrats, you may need to check YOUR privilege. Yes, you, person of color. Yes, you, proud member of the LBGTQ+ community. Yes, you, childless young person.

It’s easy to scoff that there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans when you’re a cis hetero white person (especially but not limited to men) who lives comfortably. Or if you fit into any of those categories — cis, hetero, white, financially or socially comfortable.

It’s a little tougher when you’re a Black person who’s watching white supremacy emboldened by the White House while a bunch of white people talk about taking away ALL the people (police) who put their bodies between the racists and them.

It’s a little tougher when you’re a desperate person trying to cross the border to do the hard labor the white people won’t do any more, only to find your family separated and traumatized.

It’s a little tougher when you’re LGBTQ+ and you’re wondering what another four years of GOP leadership and court appointments will do to your rights.

It’s a little tougher when you have kids whose educations are being sabotaged and who’ll have to pay for the damage the Republicans are doing to our climate and our budget.

It’s a little tougher when you need health insurance.

You say you want a revolution? Join the club.

But while you’re lecturing us about not being able to take time away from working and raising kids to write half-baked thinkpieces and do the “hard” work, don’t forget the easiest and most important thing you can do.

Vote.

And don’t tell other people it doesn’t matter. They might believe you.

Down the road? Keep pushing Democrats to listen to more progressive ideas. Even better, push for ranked-choice voting or runoffs so that we can have more open electoral contests without the legitimate fear that a truly awful candidate may win an election with 35% while more reasonable candidates split the other 65%.

But for now? Vote. And as long as the only bulwark against authoritarianism is the Democratic Party, we have to do our part to hold it up.

Dear “I hate liberals” person …

This may surprise you, but the Democrats are better than Republicans at the things Republicans used to care about.

Yes, I say that even as we grapple with inflation. But let’s start a few years back …

Remember when Barack Obama was elected? We were supposed to be living in an Islamofascist/socialist wasteland, weren’t we?

Here’s what was supposed to happen when Obama was elected: an economic Armageddon, with gas prices over $6, unemployment over 8%, the stock market collapsing, dogs and cats living together, etc.

Instead?

Eight years of steady economic growth on the heels of a nasty recession. Eight years of wiping out Al-Qaeda and weakening ISIS, all while reducing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eight years of appointing qualified people. (No Harriet Miers or “Heckuva job, Brownie!”) Eight years of good relations with every half-reasonable country on the planet. Eight years of responding to absurd accusations with calm dignity. Eight years of expanding affordable health care.

The most valid criticisms of Obama come the left, not the right. But that’s just a reminder to get things done when you have a sympathetic Congress. Once the Democrats lost out, he couldn’t do much to push the progressive agenda.

So congratulations. Your votes for obstructionist Republicans kept Obama from doing anything serious about guns. Student debt relief wasn’t even on the table. Obama couldn’t even appoint a Supreme Court justice thanks to the supreme hypocrisy of Mitch McConnell, who wouldn’t allow a floor vote on Merrick Garland but was happy to push along the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett.

What about Biden’s economic record? Let’s take a look …

As COVID fears receded, pent-up demand was unleashed. That’s good. But COVID wasn’t completely gone, and that snarled some global supply lines. Add to that the “Great Resignation,” which means employers either don’t have the staff they need or have to pay that staff a bit more. Add to that the war in Ukraine, which disrupts global supplies of fuel and food.

So the big problem here is inflation. As of June, the USA’s rate is 9.1%, equal to the UK’s and slightly higher than the European Union’s 8.8%. Gas prices, hurt in part by all the refineries that shut down during the COVID slowdown and haven’t come back on line, started to roll back in late June and are, as always, far lower than the prices in most of our peer nations. As I write in mid-July, after what should be the peak of US inflation (the aforementioned 9.1%), the odds of a “soft landing” are anywhere from 33.3% to 66.7%, a range that just shows how little economists really know about economics.

How did we get here? Supply and demand. When the stock market crashed and people lost jobs in 2020, a lot of demand collapsed. That meant supply slowed down. Companies can’t just snap their fingers to increase supply now that demand has heated up, especially when COVID continues to take its toll on supply chains and people are rethinking the nature of work.

Also, the complaints that we don’t have “energy independence” belies the results of the Obama administration on both oil production and renewable energy.

The big positive: Unemployment. After the strong June jobs report, we’re down to 3.6%.

The up-and-down news: The stock market. A lot of people, including Bill Maher, forgot that it crashed under 19,000 in 2020. Now it’s fighting to stay above 30,000.

dow-jones-industrial-average-last-10-years-2022-07-14-macrotrends

Short term: Things are volatile. We have a pandemic — still. We have a war. And we have a complete rethink about the nature of work, with more and more people coming into the workforce with college degrees and more jobs being replaced by automation.

Historically, at least in the past century, the economy has done better under Democrats than under Republicans. (See the Economics page.)

Other issues?

Foreign policy and the military: The withdrawal from Afghanistan was a mess. But don’t forget that Trump signed a peace deal with the Taliban that gave Biden a choice between withdrawal and all-out war. And contrary to the right-wing media mythology, Biden did not ignore all available intelligence.

Meanwhile, Biden has restored America’s image with our allies. We’re talking a swing of 50 points or more. Without this restoration of “soft power,” things might be going a lot worse in Ukraine, and we’d have little standing on trade talks or anything else that binds the world together. Yes, like it or not, we’re all in this together. Climate change is not local.

And Biden’s respect for the military, especially compared with Trump’s, should be good news to any allegedly patriotic American.

What else are Democrats doing right?

Here’s A.B. Stoddard at The Bulwark, an old-school conservative publication that opposes Trumpism: “Democrats can be proud of numerous accomplishments that attract meager attention or credit—three times as many new jobs in 15 months than the last three GOP presidents combined; Biden’s careful and competent handling of the war in Ukraine; a bipartisan infrastructure program previous presidents failed to achieve; COVID relief and a rescue of the vaccine program.

But here’s the most important part:

Extremism: “Antifa” is obnoxious. They’re taken the vital concept of “anti-fascism” and morphed it into a bunch of punks smashing windows. But Biden denounced it. And radical groups like PETA have no pull.

It’s pretty fair to say it has less of a hold within the Democratic Party than the Proud Boys and Jan. 6 attackers have in the Republican Party.

So if you’re not assuaged that the Democrats are actually doing better than Republicans on issues that used to matter to Republicans, consider that Republicans also used to stand for freedom. Now they stand for authoritarianism.

And Biden — like Obama before him and, yes, like Reagan before that — has been dealt a bad hand. Managing a national recovery from a pandemic — in the midst of a global recovery — has no road map. Little wonder his 18-month approval rating — like Obama’s and even Reagan’s — isn’t good.

Maybe one day, we’ll tear down the two-party system, and you can vote for some sort of centrist party. The funny thing is that the Democrats might just be that party. The progressives might splinter off in their own direction, and the Republicans might not break free from the Trumpist grasp.

Until then, your choice is clear.

FURTHER READING

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