More of this, please!
For a party that controls the White House and both chambers of Congress, the Democrats have spent the bulk of the past year and a half governing from a crouch. It’s not so much that they haven’t accomplished anything — the Biden administration has notched some sincere and worthwhile victories so far — as it is a byproduct of how outmatched the Democrats at large (with some notable exceptions) seem to be in the face of an opposition party that has elevated cruelty, coarseness, and conspiracy theories as its tentpole features. When then-presidential candidate Joe Biden mused in 2019 that “there’s an awful lot of really good Republicans out there,” he was speaking as a man whose experience dealing with the GOP was, at that point, pathetically out of date. And in so much as the Democrats as a whole follow his lead, the overwhelming impression given is one of a party content to write a politely worded letter asking whether it would be appropriate given the rules and norms of Washington D.C. to bring a butter knife to the Republicans’ gunfight.
So, imagine my shock and delight when Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison actually embraced the seminal Real World maxim to “stop being polite … and start getting real.”
Speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday, Harrison lashed out at Sen. Tom “Send in the Troops” Cotton, after the Arkansas Republican one-upped his conservative colleagues’ unhinged claims that Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson abetted child molesters by saying she’d probably abet Nazis, too. “In a Senate where there’s Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham,” Harrison began, “Tom Cotton is the lowest of the low.”
Harrison then recounted how Cotton had allegedly blocked Cassandra Butts, an Obama administration nominee to become ambassador to the Bahamas, because — as Cotton allegedly told her (something he’s since denied) — she was a personal friend of President Barack Obama, and he wanted to inflict “special pain” on him. Butts’s nomination was held in limbo for more than 800 days, until she died of leukemia in 2016.
“It shows you who this little maggot-infested man is,” Harrison concluded.
“That is the Republican Party we see today,” he continued. “It is a party built on fraud, fear, and fascism. They don’t deserve to be in power. Not because Democrats should, but because they don’t deserve to be in power of this great nation.”
This is not a lone member of Congress offering a salacious soundbite to rise above the cacophonous din of Capitol Hill. This is a man who speaks on behalf of the institutional body of the Democratic Party itself. To which I say: good. It’s about time.
For years, Democrats have largely opted for centrist civility and appeals to some mythic age of bipartisan decorum as the antidote to the GOP’s unmistakable slide into overtly bigoted authoritarianism. So for Harrison to drop the pretense and say in plain, straightforward language that A) this scummy guy is scum, and B) he represents a party that is equally shitty and which cannot be reasoned with, is a revelatory breath of fresh air. For the first time in recent memory, a high-ranking Democrat has actually taken the gloves off and accurately diagnosed the Republican Party, without hedging or equivocating.
Now, Jaime Harrison speaking on MSNBC is not, in and of itself, the sort of seismic call to arms for Democrats to start going on a long overdue offensive. But it does indicate the beginning of a welcome sea change — a crack in the self-imposed dam of civility and restraint that’s kept Democrats from facing what anyone with two brain cells to rub together has known for years. Let’s hope it’s a start, and not a fluke.