The First Test Didn’t Go Great

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I know, I know. But the same reasons that applied before still apply. Under current circumstances, there’s very little that I need 750 words to say. I really do encourage all of you to follow @youaredumb on Twitter, where not only will you see content on the regular, you’ll see the sparks for the occasions when I do want to say more.

Here’s the thing. When I do have something to say, it’s probably going to be about the Democrats, because we all know how bad the Republican Party is/has become. They’re the unholy union of The Handmaid’s Tale, Mel Brooks’ incompetent Nazis, and a parody of a death cult straight out of Transmetropolitan, and the only reason they’re getting away with it is that they have taught one third of the population to believe literally anything.

The Democrats have literally one job. Not fucking this up. You’d think it was an easy job, but it’s one that’s more difficult than it should be, because recognizing what they’re up against means fundamentally accepting that the system has failed, old paradigms are not in effect, and their opponent has weaponized every single one of their ethical, moral, and political failings.

The first major test of the 2020 Democratic contenders happened over the weekend, as Republicans did that thing they do - mercilessly attack one of their favorite chosen enemies in the hopes of getting Democrats to eat their own. Their enemy? My Congressperson, Ilhan Omar. Their attack? Claiming that three words out of a larger sentence out of a larger speech meant she somehow treated 9/11 as not important.

This, of course, didn’t happen, and everybody knows it. But what Democrats have done in the past, in an attempt to play to an imaginary center, is try to appease the people who believe the lie and make sure they’re not seen as taking the side of the lie, because the lie sounds like a horrible thing. Not doing this is important, because it cedes total control of the framing to a bunch of fucking liars, and keeps you vulnerable to more lies in the future.

So, how did the 2020 candidates handle it when the President himself amplified the lie in a clearly incendiary way meant to fire up his racist, Islamophobic base? Well, it varies.

The clear winner is Elizabeth Warren, who was out of the gate first, calling Trump out for inciting violence, and called out anyone who didn’t condemn it. Bernie Sanders was close behind, with a similar sentiment, but slightly less aggressive.

What neither of these “best” responses do is call out the attack for being a lie. So it could be better. But Warren is clearly learning from her experiences about how Republicans will attack, how no amount of conceding will lessen or stop the attacks, and is crafting responses with that in mind, and that’s important.

Pete Buttegieg, who has somehow been a candidate for months and also announced yesterday, took a milder tone consistent with his I’m Unthreatening image, but also did that thing I like where he gets to the heart of the matter with a well-turned phrase - in this case, he said Trump set his base on Omar “as if for sport”, which is spot on if subtle. Shame it wasn’t three hours sooner.

He’s joined in the middle tier by Jay Inslee (OK, fast, but said by Jay Inslee) and Julian Castro (weak sauce but out quickly).

And then there’s the bottom tier. Cory Booker and Kamala both clearly waited until they saw how the pack was trending before making otherwise strong statements. Beto O’Rourke issued a mealy-mouth “the president is a mean divisive doodyhead” tweet before correcting course later. And then there’s Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar, who disappointed the shit out of me by throwing Omar under the bus and thinking it’s OK because they threw Trump there first and he slowed the bus down.

Klobuchar ended her statement by pointing out that she disagrees with Omar on a lot of stuff. Gillibrand started hers by saying minimizing 9/11 is bad. Both those things accept the GOP framing that Omar is some kind of terrorist in Congressional clothing.

This is both an ethical failing, for obvious reasons, and a strategic one, because they’re having the fight Republicans want them to have (against their left flank) instead of the fight they need to have (against a well-oiled propaganda machine that redefines reality until it makes them look good). That’s disqualifying.