It’s always preferable to take the high road, and Michelle Obama’s statement, “When they go low, we go high,” is admirable. But in real life, when someone fights dirty and you don’t, you’re in big trouble.
Going for the jugular was rarely in the Democratic Party’s DNA. Despite that, cynical Republicans accuse them of fomenting “mob rule.” For a party led by a president who, among other things, encouraged an angry crowd at a rally to “knock the crap” out of a protester and still leads furious chants of “Lock her up!,” that’s the definition of chutzpah.
In truth, Democrats have a history of wimping out when aggressive stances were called for. After paid GOP operatives caused a near riot outside a Miami counting room after the 2000 presidential election, disrupting a vote recount and helping George W. Bush eke out a questionable victory over Al Gore, Democrats responded by conceding. When John Kerry ran for president against Bush four years later, Republicans made a calculated decision to smear the war hero and Purple Heart winner.
When Bush challenged Kerry’s war record during a presidential debate, Kerry should have replied: “I was in Vietnam fighting for my country while you were a male cheerleader. How dare you!” Instead, Kerry went into a mealy mouthed defense of his record, and it was curtains.
Donald Trump famously said he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Since then, he has said worse, from siding with Russia’s Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence to expressing his love for murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. If Barack Obama acted this way, furious Republicans would have surrounded the White House, demanding he leave.
But that’s not the way Democrats roll. Despite the specious allegations of “mob rule,” party leaders are still more likely to ring Trump’s doorbell and run.
The majority of Americans agree with Democrats on the real issues, including providing adequate health care, dealing with climate change and passing sane gun laws. But if they let Republicans bait them into sideshows and don’t respond forcefully, Nov. 6 could well be another Democratic disaster.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.