Time after time we have seen how Trump’s blind reliance on his own gut feelings, his disdain of expert advice, his refusal to face the facts, has led him astray. But in this respect, as in so many others, Trump’s faults, though extreme, are not entirely different from those of more normal people.
Former Vice President Joe Biden was asked today about progressive proposals to rebalance the courts. His answer was instructive:
“I’m not prepared to go on and try to pack the court, because we’ll live to rue that day”
Biden’s response is typical of Democratic establishment leadership on matters of big structural change like ending the filibuster or changing the balance of the courts. It’s relevantly similar to the battle over impeachment. Biden, Pelosi, Schumer and those of similar persuasion live in perpetual fear of the Reagan Revolution, the 1984 crushing of Walter Mondale and the Gingrich-era politics of backlash. They assume the voters don’t really agree with them on fundamental philosophies, and that Democrats only get elected by avoiding poking the bear of the conservative silent majority–or, at least, the silent majority of those who actually turn out to vote in American elections. This belief persists no matter how much polling shows that voters increasingly reject conservative precepts.
Atkins’ article speaks of “Democratic leadership.” But, please, dear reader, look at yourself in the mirror and ask whether you, also, are not paying too much attention to your gut instincts, and not enough attention to the ascertainable facts.
I mean the gut instinct that tells you, despite all the evidence, that Trump is an indestructible political genius, that his support greatly exceeds what fivethirtyeight.com tells you, that he is ten feet tall, and that the way to seize victory from the jaws of defeat in 2020 is to ignore the polls, cater to business interests, and act as if you are afraid of your shadow.
Let me be as clear as I can. I am not urging you to rely on anyone’s gut instinct, who tells you that the people are more susceptible to progressive ideas than is show by the objective evidence.
I am just saying, please, for the love of God, be open to the objective evidence on what is the current mood of the country, and be guided accordingly.
If your gut instinct tells you that Sir Walter Scott is a better writer than Shakespeare, my advice to you is, indulge yourself. Skip Henry IV and Hamlet, and reread Ivanhoe as many times as you like.
But, friend, in the environment in which we find ourselves, you do not have the luxury to indulge in fantasy, gut feeling, or intellectual laziness when it comes to political judgments. No, you have a civic and moral duty to learn as much as you can about what our electorate is really like, at this point in time, and then to vote and otherwise act, guided by that knowledge of objective facts.
The last few years have been tough. We have been unwilling participants in a grotesque experiment in social psychology. We have learned that many of us Americans are much worse than we had previously thought.
That makes the poet’s message all the more compelling: We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
We have been compelled to go exploring, on a journey not of our choosing. It’s time now to arrive back at the place where we started, and to know that place for the first time.