This week, a story came out on page 13 of the Washington Post that I found to be intriguing – both for what it said and for the fact that it has received so little national coverage. The story involves the Democratically-controlled state legislature of New Jersey. When Chris Christie, a Republican Governor, was in power, the legislature sent him a bill on five separate occasions that would increase taxes paid by millionaires. But now that Christie has been replaced by Democratic Governor, the legislators are no longer sending up that bill. In fact, thanks to the recent tax cuts, the millionaires are paying even lower total taxes than before – and still the Democratically-controlled legislators are balking at the opportunity to do what they did five times when Christie was Governor and when their actions were purely symbolic... and political.
Here’s the article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/nj-democrats-loved-the-idea-of-taxing-the-rich---until-they-actually-could-do-it/2018/05/23/259e55c8-5d4f-11e8-a4a4-c070ef53f315_story.html?utm_term=.f2ea0aeb1229 To me, what it shows is a microcosm of the Democratic party in action. During campaign season, the party’s candidates have no trouble embracing the mantle of “strong progressives.” But when it’s time to govern, they are tinkerers at best. We saw this when the Democrats controlled the United States Congress in Obama’s first two years and they gave us zero gun-control legislation. We saw this when Obama himself threw federally employees under the bus when he had the opportunity to propose budgets of his own. We saw this in the number of Democratic legislators who supported that crazy and catastrophic war in Iraq, or who failed to speak out in favor of gay marriage until well after the rank-and-file of their party indicated their support. And we invariably see this whenever tax-reform legislation is proposed. The Democrats always propose modest changes; the Republican bills are much more dramatic.
How do we explain the Democrats failure to step up to the plate and fight for their supposed principles? Should we doubt the sincerity of their progressivism? Should we think of them as sincere, but cowardly? And does it really matter what the explanation is? Isn’t the point that America has no trustworthy progressive party, but merely a party whose leaders can generally be trusted to enunciate progressive principles only when campaigning or casting meaningless votes?
I watch a fair amount of CNN and MSNBC. They never report on stories like this one from New Jersey. Instead, they focus almost all their attention on the misconduct of the GOP. Believe me, I appreciate that the GOP is not only the more dysfunctional of the two parties but also has become the opposite of progressive, or for that matter even conservative. But that doesn’t mean that reporters and commentators can afford to allow the Democrats to become feckless and hypocritical, simply because they’re the lesser of two evils.
Bernie Sanders is one Democratic politician who, if he were a New Jersey legislator, would NOT fail to send up a millionaire’s tax bill to the Governor after doing so five times when the Governor was a Republican. He knows all too well that this approach to governing makes a mockery of these politicians and the principles they stand for. It makes them look like total phonies, and when the Democrats look like phonies, the Republicans tend to win. This week on Bill Maher’s show, Bernie stated explicitly that the Republicans didn’t win the2016 elections, the Democrats lost it. I wholeheartedly agree. As long as liberals in the media fail to hold the Democrats accountable and as long as Democrats continue to hold their leaders to low standards, they’ll continue to lose elections.
It should be obvious by now that this country can ill afford for that to happen. It’s time to demand that the Democrats serve not as talkers but as fighters -- in the state houses, on Capitol Hill, and in the White House -- and to take them to task whenever they fail. Ultimately, that’s the best thing that could happen to their party and to our country.