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Date: 2024-05-21 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00023342

Mark Green in dialog with Rep. Jamie Raskin

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Peter Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess

Marc Green in dialog with Rep. Jamie Raskin

When we’re talking about defending democratic institutions and the democratic process, make sure that people understand that the heart of authoritarianism and autocracy is corruption. Which brings me to Donald Trump who got into politics purely as a money-making and business-promotion opportunity. He was probably as shocked as anybody else when he actually won. Then he became the first president in our history to reject the idea of giving up more than 150 businesses around the world and several trademarks.

It is the fault of Democrats that we did not more aggressively pursue the Emoluments Clause violations. That was the source of his determination to stay in office at all costs, which led both to the Ukraine shakedown and then also to his attempts at a political coup and a violent insurrection against the Union. I mean, why was he so eager to stay in office? Was it because he had such important public service he wanted to render to the American people? I don’t think so. Nor is it true of other autocrats, kleptocrats, and tyrants like Putin in Russia, Orban in Hungary, and al-Sisi in Egypt.

They’re money-making operations that convert government into an instrument of self-enrichment. So make sure that voters understand that, whatever our flaws as a party, we are the party of democracy and the one that uses the government as an instrument of the common good, and not of private self-enrichment.

Mark Green: If a candidate merely says “our democracy is failing,” I find voters don’t connect to that. That’s a word that’s highfalutin’ and abstract. Talk about how you can connect that issue to the personal needs of voters—e.g., if you don’t have democracy then the oligarchs will cut their own taxes even more and big “fossil fool” donors will make sure that the air is more polluted.

Jamie Raskin: I think in precisely the way you just described it. There’s a clear economic cost to society when you allow a billionaire like Trump, his family, and his corporations to dictate economic policy. If Trump justices have their way, they’d overturn the constitutional right to privacy— at least as it relates to abortion— and are aiming to create a corporate state without basic public regulation. The Supreme Court that dismantled Roe v Wade in the Dobbs decision also tried to sabotage the ability of the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Mark Green: A lot of smart people—Jeff Greenfield, David Brooks, and David Axelrod—all initially opined that the January Sixth Committee has already failed, they won’t reach a lot of people, and Trump voters won’t change their mind. What do you think of those predictions months later

Jamie Raskin: Yeah, there was this rather obnoxious reception to us, saying that it’s already failed, it’s “too partisan.” But that’s just Beltway harping and sniping. We’re beyond that— we’re literally in a struggle for the survival of not just our democracy and our people but also our planet given the rising cost of climate violence. At the same time, we have to fight right-wing authoritarianism… Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, and local imitators. So, now is the time for every self-respecting pundit to get off the couch and to get into the struggle to defend democratic institutions.

I have found it very convenient to keep going back to the phrase “dangerous extremists,” because it unifies what Alito and the gang have done on the Supreme Court with what the cowboys in the Oathkeepers have done, with what Roger Stone and Michael Flynn (we call them the Flynnstones) have done on the ground, and with Donald Trump’s whole governing model. “Dangerous extremists” puts us where we need to be, which is in the moral center and the political center

Mark Green: We’re told that Trumpsters never change their minds. That’s certainly true for most of them, but obviously we don’t expect most Trump voters to vote for Democrats. But if only 5 percent of soft Trump voters and independent voters shift from their 2020 vote then a Democrat can win the Presidency by 14 million votes, rather than 7 million. So, after your January Sixth hearings and the Trump Court’s radical rulings, can you yet detect any movement against his party? Or is it too early to tell?

Jamie Raskin: Well, we know that about 66 percent of the independents now reject the Big Lie and hold Trump accountable for what happened on January Sixth, which, of course, he is. I mean, imagine if Donald Trump had said, “You know what, I’m tired of all this. I’m just gonna retire to Mar-a-Lago and play golf,” none of it would have happened. There was nobody else pushing it.

Many of those Trump voters were like Obama voters—we don’t live in a society with a well-developed political and constitutional and moral ideology, so people float around and almost everybody is vulnerable to anti-status quo, anti-establishment appeals—so Obama gets in, and he got in on voters’ reform impulse. But if you don’t quickly crystallize that impulse into a hardcore policy program, then you’re going to be the victim of that same reform impulse. Voters will turn and go, “Let’s get rid of Obama he’s been in for too long,” and so on.

Those are voters that we have to get to, and we need a strong, fighting Democratic party that will engage with people. The little part I’ve done to try to help on this has been with my Democracy Summer Project—which is getting college and high school kids to come out and learn about the history of social and political change in the country, to understand the history of the civilizing movements and where they fit in, and then give them some concrete political skills in terms of voter registration and conducting canvases and online organizing. That’s what we need to do—the opposite of a political party based on lies, propaganda, and disinformation is a political party based on education, and that’s a much harder thing to accomplish. When people say, “You guys suck at messaging,” I’d say “Okay, we can do better at messaging. We need more Mark Greens to help and more help like the speakers today.” But it’s a much tougher project to get people on the side of enlightenment and progress than on the side of hatred and scapegoating. You need to educate them.

Mark Green: Finally, you have a choice of answering either of two questions. First: What question would you like to ask you? And second: Why do Democrats have such good policies—provably—but are so awful at punching back hard at Republican slogans? I won’t name senators, but I can’t remember one thing many have said in ten or twenty years. What are they doing?. Why do so many Democrats appear to be weak tea, unlike say you or Elizabeth Warren? Where are the rest of them

Jamie Raskin: I’ll turn it around, and I’ll collapse those two questions. You’re absolutely right that most of us are not taking political rhetoric seriously, which is a huge mistake. So when people say to you: “How come the Democrats can’t get their messaging together? What’s the message?” What is your answer to that? I would agree that many of them are just trying to survive, instead of trying to build a winning program that will sweep the country.

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