|Reminder news about this illustration thanks to one in a long line of noted|
political cartoonists for the old Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Gary Markstein is timely as ever in national syndication.
By Dominique Paul Noth
For 18 months I have suffered a selective writer’s block, a sort of drip-by-drip Chinese water torture caused by disgust with America’s politics. While consumed by the ins and outs of the Jan. 6 events and hearings, I haven’t written about them for over a year, while staying busy as a writer on all other fronts
My theater reviews continue apace, even busier now that COVID-19 fears have subsided.
But thousands of my regular readers have noticed my absence at my political blog, where I used to post every few weeks.
An interesting story there. I bubbled with ideas and commentary throughout the Jan. 6 events, as my family and friends will tell you in painful detail. But every week events changed so quickly. Unresolved questions were answered. Or some enterprising journalist somewhere else took up the insights I saw. I was more frustrated than usual in trying to be cogent about my disgust. I wanted to be clear and fresh in a world of gridlock and felt frustrated that most of my (largely accurate) predictions were actually late to the table because of all the commentary around me.
So DomsDomainPolitics has been absent since before Jan. 6, 2021, but not now. Not with the vital November election only three months away, and reality imposing clarity as the Biden forces thankfully gain ground. The public is beginning to absorb the consequences of Trump’s reign and the time for dillydallying has passed.
Like many Americans, I long thought Jan. 6 was an aberration led by a small contingent of rabid Trump believers who, in misplaced passion and mob violence, were frightened that America – particularly white America – was losing its grip on democracy. After all, the president had told them to be there.
I had misjudged the smallness. It was less about Trump than the negativity and fear existing in our society. You don’t even have to believe the hearings’ careful case dissecting Trump’s methods. It’s clear to everyone except him that his diehard support is shrinking.
And yet many Republicans don’t want to be told so bluntly that they were duped. So maybe now his support has shrunk to less than 20% of Republicans. But that’s a hell of a lot of people who don’t understand our democratic system! There are still those who say they were proud of their vote for him! How is that possible? It’s still enough to cause trauma in primary season.
Some supporters who now say they know better became involved in an uprising of thousands orchestrated by right-wing extremists and goosed by Trump himself, though the courts will have to weigh in on placing blame. The public at large no longer doubts that his refusal to accept that he lost the election was the engine of revolt, but what can be proved to a criminal jury of citizens remains to be seen.
During my time of watching, rumbling with anger and thinking, I admit a violent distaste came over me for local as well as national Republicans. They were pushing bills that got in the way, both nationally and locally, or fought for no good reason against long needed efforts on climate change and gun control. Coteries of fall-away Republicans warranted more positive attention, and yet their own party blocked their efforts at course correction.
All this left many Democrats with a strange taste in their mouths, such as admiring a hawk with a hated last name, Liz Cheney, for clinging to reality in the face of threats that turned the other leaders of her party into wimps.
I did blame the entire party for going along with all this -- and then realized I was condemning families I once liked. I was forced by memory to recall how many decent Republicans (or people who voted Republican) I had known over the decades, even the many who lived in those bizarre WOW counties that surround Milwaukee and keep voting topsy-turvy. Frankly, the Madison legislature cannot allow this to continue.
What is amazing is how long the Trump horror has lingered and how long those so-called decent Republicans have let it go on. A full 18 months after losing office, Trump conducts rallies and horrible endorsements, hosts a Saudi funded golf tournament and pretends he was a force in world affairs, while his absence is assuredly welcome across the globe.
Consider how strong the American economy was to survive him. It didn’t totally succumb to all his bizarre tariffs and authoritarian machinations, though such violent tics left the nation four years behind on several issues it is late in tackling.
Now, finally, we can move on climate change, strengthening NATO, fixing the health system, address gun violence, accept the ups and now downs of inflation. The worry for Democrats is that the November election will be determined by the price of chicken! Just have to hope the American voter is not that shallow.
Biden’s pace may be too slow for some, but evidence suggests he knew what a dark place the country was heading toward, and he believes optimism and slow and steady progress are the way out. The contrast with Trump is amazing – he wanted the dark place to rise up and he tried to rush the nation there.
One of my realizations during this time – and I wish more journalists had shared it – is that the US is undergoing a basic change in its two-party system. For years and almost by chance, American voters had divided power between Democrats and Republicans, one party atop the other and then vice versa – for fear that one philosophy would dominate. It was almost a magic wand, looking at the final voting totals, resulting in a 50-50 split in the Senate, while Biden needs a few more to get big things done. Now November worries center on the House.
For families who voted Republican, Trump is not the problem. History is. It is hard despite common sense to jump over to support a Democrat after generations of going the other way. Now Democrats are hoping – certainly in Wisconsin legislative races – that the current GOP voter is not as stuck in an alternate universe as suggested by the warped Madison legislative priorities of those its party continues to elect.
A lot of people don’t pay much attention to politics until after Labor Day, so there are some intensive months ahead. Even those who put the economy first have to note the sharp drop in gasoline prices at the pump, the recovery in the goods shipping market, the escalation of repair in the chips and semiconductor field -- even the awareness by many Democrats chafing for faster action that Biden’s methods are actually getting things done.
There is another factor that may change the almost accidental balance created by the two-party system. First, it is hard for anyone to regard the two parties as equally working for America, resulting in a massive growth of Independents.
Mainly, the game of US politics has been Internetted. No longer do people only play in their statewide elections but in every other state’s races down to the House and Senate seats – and sometimes plunging even deeper than that, judging by my emails.
Money is solicited from everywhere though you can only vote in your district or state these midterms. The sheer power of speaking up everywhere in November politics extends beyond money. I know people who have friends and families in other states and are busy soliciting their votes and activism.
It's a big enough deal to put many Democratic candidates in many locales on a surprisingly strong funding base to tackle Republicans, who used to dominate with money. Moreover, the enthusiasm among Republican voters may be waning, while issues like abortion rights, gun control and the climate breathe fresh activism into Democratic possibilities.
So, I’m back, hoping that a sensible America is also coming back, too, and that my columns can help.