Let’s just get this out of the way now: this is not going to be a helpful post, it’s not going to be a hopeful post, and it’s not going to be a post with solutions. It will instead be an angry, incredulous thing. It exists here not because I want to bridge the chasm or fix what’s broken — though I do, obviously — but rather, it exists here as an artifact of rage and frustration.
I understand now in a true way the line from Yeats’ “Second Coming” —
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity.
The fall of Roe this past Friday, butchering the rights of women and all who can get pregnant, is the first domino to fall in a line of horrors — LGBT marriage, LGBT existence, access to contraception, and despite what so-called “Justice” Thomas might think, interracial marriage, too. It is an unprecedented assault on bodily autonomy and sexual freedom. And the thing is, it’s only the first domino to fall in this particular line of dominoes. Other dominoes are cascading in competing directions, the clackity-clack of tiles falling in terminus lines that undercut the separation of church and state, that dismantle any attempts to keep guns out of the hands of people who want to massacre children, that attack at the very core the notion that we are a nation who can protect its people and regulate its industries and secure for them the freedom to live in a nation that actually gives at least a portion of a shit about them. You wanna fix climate change? Ha ha, fuck you, no way. SCOTUS seems hellbent to dismantle the entire regulatory state, except of course when it comes to regulating uteruses or marriages. Corporations get to be people, but people get to be cattle, and a conservative party purportedly about personal freedom and states’ rights reveals itself to care nothing about either of those things.
I don’t think people have fully reckoned with the notion that this is not merely an attack on democracy — it is the culmination of that attack, an attack that has been ongoing for decades. It is not the beginning of such awfulness — it is a late stage of it, likely to be the entry point into a new phase of atrocities. This is the walking ghost phase of our democracy: we have sustained a likely lethal dose of radiation, but we just haven’t figured it out yet. We are walking around, oblivious, unaware that a grave cancer inside has already killed us.
Consider: if we live in a country where we vote for leaders and those leaders help to pass laws and help codify and entrenched settled norms, and yet those laws and norms can be dismantled by an entrenched body of nine evil wizards, a majority of whom were installed by presidents who did not receive the popular vote (three such judges having been installed by one president who is a likely-illegitimate, twice-impeached coup-doer traitor!)… then what kind of democracy do you think we actually have? Do you think it’s a functional one? A healthy one? Do you even think it exists in a way that goes beyond lip service?
And all that’s after you already consider how absolutely fraught and frail our democracy has been for years. Gore vs. Bush? Gerrymandering? The sustained winnowing of the Voter Rights Act of 1965? Black and other marginalized voters stripped from the voter rolls, ballot boxes removed, polling stations stolen away? Democracy was already in pretty fucked-up shape before we got to this point, and arguably, is exactly how we got to this point.
So you might wonder: why the fuck am I angry at the Democrats about this?
Republicans are the great evil here, you’ll say. And I don’t disagree. There are no “good” Republicans. You can’t belong to a party who is tacitly for a panoply of horrors like forced birth and condemnation of LGBT individuals and so forth while still maintaining that you’re one of the good ones — because if you don’t believe in those things, you’re in the wrong fucking party. They’re the enemy. They’re the ones holding the knife stuck in our gut, smiling as we bleed.
The Democrats, ohh, yeah, they’re the ones watching.
They’re standing back, watching the knife go in and out, watching the blade saw back and forth, and oh sure, they make a lot of noises — gasps, whimpers, murmurs of dissent — and sometimes they reach out, arms fruitlessly pawing at the air. But they don’t step forward. They don’t throw a punch. They don’t get in the way. Instead, they tell us, if we want the knife to stop before it reaches our spine, gosh, we better show up in November. We better answer those fundraising emails and texts. “Did you get my email?” they ask as we wail and gush, as blood spatters on the floor and forms a pond around our shoes. “Did you hear the poem I read on TV? Did you see us sing God Bless America in front of the court? We can’t do it without you, see you in November.” And the knife works deeper as the Republican leers, all shining teeth, all wide and wild eyes.
The best lack all conviction.
The worst, full of passionate intensity.
Here, someone will say, well, what are they supposed to do? Manchin and Sinema! Filibuster! They only have so much power! But these are excuses. I’m not asking them to win every fight, but I am asking them to fight those fights. After all, they told us to vote, and we came out, and we did vote. We gave them the presidency and we gave them Congress, and yes, I recognize the nuance, the reality, that politics is hard, that it’s a fucking shitshow, that their majority is something of a hollow one, that getting anything done in this environment will require them to move mountains. But they don’t even seem to want to try to move those mountains, to engage with the act of saving our country no matter how difficult it may be. Nobody’s even picking up a shovel. They’re barely moving for a spoon to move a little earth. We tell them, expand the courts, kill the filibuster, put the legislation forward, make them vote, call them to task. But we get a lot of shrugging and feet scraping on the concrete and gee-shucks-but-Manchin, aw-gosh-but-Sinema, we would if we could —
Then they get on TV and they try to make nice with Manchin, or Biden says something about how honorable McConnell is, or Pelosi talks about how Republicans are good actually and we just need more of those good ones, and then it’s another fundraising email, another plea for November. But there’s no fight. The messaging is soft, calculated, strategic in a way you have to say with a sour face and vigorously rolled eyes. There’s no strategy. Nobody is throwing Manchin under the tires, but they fucking should. Nobody is calling McConnell a turtle-necked traitor to democracy, even though damn well he is. The climate is failing, bodily autonomy is gone, freedoms are peeling away like yellow leaves off a sick summer tree, but none of them seem particularly mad about it. Where’s the urgency? Where’s the fight? Get out your fucking knives. Spar! Stab back! This is literally existential. Our democracy is dying on the branch. Our environment is under such threat that our very ability to live in it is becoming uncertain. What the fuck will it take to get you to get as mad as we are? To be at the head of our rage instead of way behind it?
And here someone say, well, if we had just voted for Hillary Clinton, we wouldn’t be here, and you know what, maybe not. Hillary won the popular vote, after all — so, by all appearances, we kinda did vote for her. Already our slanted, fucked-up, sliding-to-the-right democracy (sorry, “democracy”) turned out for her in numbers, but the corrupt system upheld its own corruption, and the machine kept on churning anyway. And, yes, had she taken the White House, I suspect we’d be in a better situation — but let’s also remember we’ve given them the run of the table before, and was Roe ever codified? No. Did they sit back idly as McConnell straight-up stole a SCOTUS seat from them? Yes.
Did they fight?
Not so much.
So, you want our vote? You want our money? You want our faith? Then you need to show up. You need to scrap and get mad. It’s not necessarily about winning the fight, but it is about fighting it. Show your fucking teeth. Spill some metaphorical blood, because real blood is being spilled in the meantime, gushing from bullet-wounds and broken pregnancies, soaking the white of the flag and then the blue until all we have is red.
But Chuck, someone will say, the perfect is the enemy of the good, and you’re playing right into Republican hands, and hey, maybe you’re right, but I think it’s fair to express this rage, and honestly, if you believe a blog post like this one is contributing to the downfall of society and not, say, malevolent Republicans and craven Democrats, then I don’t know what to tell you.
It isn’t unpatriotic to demand these people put in the work for the nation they were literally elected to protect. It’s their job. It’s literally why we invested our time and money and effort into their election. They’re not our bosses. We’re not their fans. Nobody here is saying don’t show up, don’t vote — but we are saying to our supposed leaders that they need to show up, too. We already did our part, now they need to do theirs. We showed up for them, now they need to show up for us — and that’s how they get us to the ballot box in November. They show up, they work and they fight at any cost, with all the effort they can muster. The loss of Roe is not their harvest of votes to reap without the effort that goes into preserving it. It’s not a freebie. It can’t be the culmination of some grand political calculus. It matters. It’s hurting people right now. They need to act like it.
This is a knife fight, Democrats.
So sharpen your fucking knives and point them toward the enemy.
And stop throwing your progressive members under the bus — they’re the only ones who even seem to give a shit right now.
As for the rest of us, well, we need to hold their feet to the fire, but we should also prepare to learn they don’t care. In the meantime, uphold each other, work for your community, love one another when that love is deserved and returned, because it’s not going to get better right away.
Things fall apart.
The center cannot hold.
We know what rough beast slouches toward us. It has already been born.