We had a vigorous public question-and-answer session Friday evening when I spoke to Benton County Democrats in Rogers.
But the best question came privately afterward from a man whose hand had been raised when time was called.
He asked: Considering the raging public resentment against political insiders generally, did I believe it was time for the Democrats to give up "super-delegates?" Those are their elected officials who get to cast direct votes for presidential nominees that count as much as those earned by candidates winning thousands of retail votes from regular voters in primaries and caucuses.
Why, yes, I did, now that he mentioned it.
The practice is precisely backward. Political parties don't drive politics. Elected officeholders don't, either. They never have. The parties are mere cliques, receptacles and funnels. Elected officeholders are cautious poll-watchers. They are self-restricted by whatever message discipline the political consultants, probably hired by the parties, design.
Political office-holders and parties are in the business of reacting--and only after proactive people have prevailed in their passion. In time, politicians come to feel safe acquiescing to what are, for them, default stances.
The anti-Vietnam movement? The people drove that. The courts helped. The politicians cowered.
Civil rights? The people did that. The courts helped. The politicians cowered until they felt safe in obliging.
Gay rights? Same thing. The movement was raging, and the Democrats were saying ... let's look at civil unions for gay people. A half-decade later, Barack Obama was saying that his thinking had "evolved" and that he now favored same-sex marriage.
He said "evolved" when he meant "reacted."
Consider, then, what we can now plainly see as the bitter irony of Democratic Party behavior in 2016. From the top down, the party fretted that a man who hadn't formerly even been a member, Bernie Sanders, was delivering a passionate message across the country that was drawing enthusiastic crowds filling spacious arenas.
Oh, no. Not that.
Democratic regulars couldn't bear it. They said this man couldn't possibly win the general election, being old and scruffy and kind of a socialist, advancing single-payer government health care that people would never accept. He had to be stopped because, otherwise, the Republicans would win. So, the super-delegates helped stop him by overwhelmingly casting their votes for Hillary Clinton.
She then proceeded to accomplish the unfathomable--losing the general election to Donald Trump.
She had no passion. She had no enthusiastic crowds. Her message was simply that she had earned the nomination through conventional political behavior and was the political insiders' only remaining option. As she herself told a rich fundraising audience in the Hamptons, she was their last defense against anarchy.
Her essence--self-expressed--was defense. Her venue was not a filled arena. It was a tightly constructed fortress, a deep bunker.
Clinton managed to turn her historic first-woman-to-be-president candidacy into the last-politician-as-usual candidacy. She went into a prevent defense in the first quarter against a two-minute offense.
Trump won a freely divisive primary, one far more hostile than Hillary's with Bernie. Then he tapped into and stirred real passions already present in real people about how America, supposedly, was on a hell-in-a-handbasket plunge, mainly because of liberal thought and political correctness and immigration and multiculturalism and a media too obliging of, if not an active conspirator in, all that.
Now for local application: It's fine by me if the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruited Clarke Tucker to run for Congress in the Second District. I suppose it believed as I do that he's a strong general election candidate. But the party had best not try to tip the scales against more evidently passionate opposing candidates like Paul Spencer, Gwen Combs and Jonathan Dunkley. If Tucker can't beat them on his own, he might not be all that against French Hill, either.
The state Democratic chairman, Michael John Gray, is a fine fellow who works hard. He told me he is getting undue credit for what has happened spontaneously with energetic female candidacies on the Democratic ticket in Northwest Arkansas.
The key words are "spontaneously" and "energetic." The bogus concept is party "credit."
So let Bernie run free. If you don't like him, fight him with your own passion. If he wins, buck up and take the government single-payer health-care message to the people. Republicans call the Blue Cross partnership that is Obamacare socialized medicine already, anyway.
Medicare succeeds for seniors. At age 64, self-employed and buying individual insurance, I can hardly wait to get a year older and begin paying less for better insurance, though I'll need a relatively inexpensive supplement. It's hardly nuts to argue passionately that such a setup would work for all ages.
People's passions are raging--about health care, guns and the rise of women. If Democratic insiders were smart, they'd get out of the way.
If those passions prove strong enough, they'll be the default positions of the parties and officeholders eventually, anyway.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 03/20/2018
Print Headline: The argument for passion