Wake up, Dems | On Politics | Chicago Reader

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Wake up, Dems

Silencing criticism of Trump during the pandemic only helps him win in November.

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It was about a week ago that I wrote a post ripping Joe Biden for disappearing when we needed to hear his voice of Democratic opposition the most: right in the middle of a pandemic in which President Trump’s negligence, indifference, and willful ignorance were risking lives.

Now that Biden has started giving daily updates and interviews, I wish he’d go back into hiding.

Oh, calm down, Biden Bros—I’m kidding. Just having a little fun at your guy’s inability to express a thought.

In general, I think articulateness is overrated in politics.

Half the time Donald Trump sounds like a doped-up lunatic—and his supporters are willing to die for him. At least, Jerry Falwell Jr. endangered hundreds of other people’s lives by refusing to close Liberty University, apparently because he wanted to demonstrate how much he didn’t believe the liberal hype about COVID-19.

Closer to home, Chicagoans would still be reelecting Mayor Daley, even though half the time no one knew what he was trying to say.

So, no, I welcome Joe Biden’s reemergence from his cave. And, yes, I plan to vote for him in November. I’d vote for any of the Democratic candidates against Trump. Even, gulp, Bloomberg—and he’s not even a Democrat.

Though while I’m on the subject—and before I get to what I really want to discuss—hey, Biden Bros, help me decipher what your guy’s getting at in a recent interview about the economic fallout of shutting down the economy.

He was asked: “Are you at all concerned, as Trump said, that we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself?”

And he answered: “We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse no matter what. No matter what.”

Check it out yourself—trying to decipher this passage is a fun game you can play while you’re self-isolating.

I think I know what he’s trying to say. At least, I understand every word he utters, but when I put the words together, they make no sense. It’s like an obscure line from a Haruki Murakami novel that I read over and over, hoping that the deeper meaning will come to me in a moment of awakening.

So far, no luck.

And now on to what I really want to discuss.

What’s more alarming than how Biden talks is what he—and his followers—seem to believe about winning elections.

They think they can beat Trump by playing nice. When I wrote that Biden should forcefully speak up against Trump’s incompetence and negligence, I received several responses along the lines of . . .

“Not only Republicans but also swing voters (who we need to win in November) would feel it’s inappropriate for a political adversary to appear to take advantage of the pandemic. It’s the same reason Obama isn’t doing it.”

Sigh.

I’m not really sure what political planet my Biden-loving friends occupy. But it’s not the one Biden will be running on come November.

And that brings me to Sarah Longwell, a 47-year-old Republican political operative who can’t stand Trump.

Longwell was the topic of a fascinating profile in the New Yorker by Susan B. Glasser that I urge everyone to read.

According to Glasser, Longwell learned the tricks of her trade working for Richard Berman, a “legendary Republican lobbyist turned P.R. man” who “specialized in helping food and beverage companies by setting up industry front groups to fight regulatory efforts.”

Not exactly Mr. Nice Guy.

A few years ago, 60 Minutes profiled Berman, portraying him “as the ‘Dr. Evil’ of the Washington influence game, willing, on behalf of a range of undisclosed corporate clients, to attack workers, healthy-eating proponents, and even activists for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.”

Was Berman offended by the profile? Hell, no.

Glasser writes: “He keeps a ‘Dr. Evil’ nameplate on his desk. ‘If they call you Mr. Nice Guy, would that be better?’” Berman asked her. “‘I don’t think so.’”

Wait, wait—there’s more.

“Berman taught Longwell to discredit the opposition before it discredits you; to be edgy, memorable, and funny; and to always play offense, because, as Longwell [once] put it . . . ‘defense over time loses.’”

Are you paying attention, Democrats?

Berman “devised an acronym for the firm’s approach to ‘managing’ public opinion: FLAGS, for fear, love, anger, greed, and sympathy. Of those, he told me, fear and anger are the most effective.”

This is the world Biden will be running in. Trump and his operatives have mastered Dr. Evil’s playbook—you best believe they’re already looking for ways to take advantage of the pandemic to win in November.

The Trumpsters certainly aren’t sitting back and saying, Oh, we must not say nasty things about Biden because it might upset a swing voter in the suburbs.

When the time comes, they’ll scare those swing voters into voting Trump by turning Biden into the second coming of Hugo Chávez. Fair or not.

But back to Longwell . . .

From the moment Trump took office, she’s been leading a small but influential cadre of Republicans plotting to end Trump’s presidency. The so-called Never Trumpers.

They hoped to convince enough Republican senators to impeach him. But, as you know, the Republicans chickened out—except for Senator Mitt Romney.

As disappointed as Longwell was by the Republican cowardice, she was also baffled by Democratic timidity. “They never really invested in impeaching,” she said.

The Dems didn’t run impeachment ads in key swing states because—oh, you know what’s coming—they didn’t want to offend independent voters by looking too partisan.

If only centrist Dems would fight Trump as hard as they fight Bernie.

“‘The Democrats played no offense and the Republicans played a ton of offense, ultimately putting the Democrats on defense,’ Longwell said. For a disciple of Berman, that was unforgivable. When you are on defense, you lose.”

As they will lose in November, if Biden and his enablers don’t wake the hell up.  v

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