Democrats’ Democracy Delusions
In early December Hillary Clinton appeared on the Today show to read aloud her never-used 2016 victory speech. The scene was bizarre, Clinton tearing up as she read in present tense about becoming the first woman president, something which in real life did not happen. She then layered on another alternate reality, one in which President Hillary travels back in time to tell her dead mother “your daughter will grow up and become the president of the United States.” She glowed, hearing applause that never happened.
The unreality of it all was leavened somewhat by the reveal Hillary is selling a video “masterclass” on resilience and the speech is somehow an example of that. While this is just another Clinton grift, like selling a Bill and Hillary Bass-o-Matic, the thing that stands out is never before has a Democratic loser been reanimated from the grave like Hillary. Al Gore and Michael Dukakis are two of those people you Google to see if they are still alive, and even an attention hound like John Kerry pretends his own presidential wipe out never even happened. A good rule of thumb is to usher your losers off stage (or make them ambassadors.) Instead, Hillary was on the flagship Today show, not a late night infomercial where garbage like “masterclasses” in resilience is usually peddled.
But Hillary’s delusional take is not hers alone. After a second White Claw the faithful will insist Hillary did win the popular vote, which counts as actually winning in Clinton Math. They’ll tell you Hillary did not win fully only because Trump cheated or the Russians helped.
The Dems and the media so believed Trump did not actually win-win that they spent his entire term in office trying to negate him, impeach him, prosecute him, or just magically wish him away with a fan-fiction interpretation of the 25th Amendment which presupposed Mike Pence was more evil then they were. The high point of the delusion was Russiagate, a saga entirely made-to-order by Clinton and fluffed by the media. It’s one thing to self-righteously say “Not my president” (one MSM pundit added an asterisk to the word president* when referring to Trump) but it is delusional to say “and he can’t be yours, either.”
With Hillary granted a pass because she is just using her defeat delusion to sell merch, one would have hoped the whole thing would have gone away with the election of Joe Biden. Democrats, you won! And you got the House! You can right all wrongs!
Instead, the delusions continue, an entire party seeming in the grip of political Alzheimer’s. One delusion is Trump will be pre-defeated ahead of 2024 by… something. This has been kicking around since Trump won in 2016, the idea that he’ll soon go to jail over taxes, property valuations in New York, or one of his lady victims successfully suing him. Sure, the IRS has had Trump’s taxes for decades, there is at worst a civil penalty in property valuation tomfoolery, and all those victims only seem to end up dragging Dems deeper into the mud of hypocrisy as we’re told to believe all women except those who accuse Uncle Joe of getting a little handsy. Dems, if this is your best, your best won’t do.
Nah, that stuff is just chum in the water while the Grand Illusion is tweaked. This is a dramatic statement democracy is dying in America and only defeating Trump (again, once was not enough) will save it. It is a big ask to a weary voting block because a) it is untrue; b) the only evidence lies in a made-up retelling of the Capitol riot and c) the Democrats won in 2020 in an election, something which strongly suggests democracy did its job. The rebuttal that January 6 was just a rehearsal is fact-free, and, after all, real Nazis only needed one crack at burning down the Reichstag.
One can find examples of the delusion almost by throwing darts at the Internet, but a concise one is MSNBC meat puppet Brian Lyin’ Williams’ farewell address. He said “I will wake up tomorrow in the America of the year 2021, a nation unrecognizable to those who came before us and fought to protect it, which is what you must do now. They’ve decided to burn it all down with us inside… But the darkness on the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods… Grown men and women who swore an oath to our Constitution, elected by their constituents, possessing the kinds of college degrees I could only dream of, have decided to join the mob.”
First, an acknowledgment Williams plagiarized the line “darkness on the edge of town,” from Bruce Springsteen, himself given over to the delusion because even as he pals around with Barack Obama all the characters from his songs now vote Republican.
If you haven’t guessed it, Williams is referring to the delusion that the Capitol riot was a seminal event of American democracy. Williams, like others, believes Hillary won in 2016, that the Trump years saw America held prisoner, and that Trump spun up a mob on January 6 to overturn the election and remain in the White House as dictator. That none of that happened, and in fact could never have happened, matters not if you believe in it hard enough.
Williams is far from alone. “Democracy will be on trial in 2024,” the Atlantic’s Barton Gellman writes. “American democracy is tottering,” warns Vox. “Can American democracy escape the doom loop?” says one Salon piece. “If America really surrenders to fascism, then what?” asks another. “If Merrick Garland Doesn’t Charge Trump and His Coup Plotters, Our Democracy Is Toast,” says the Daily Beast. “Are we doomed?” writes the once sentient George Packer, imagining “A blue militia sacks Trump National Golf Club at Bedminster; a red militia storms Oberlin College. The new president takes power in a state of siege.”
Google up as many examples as you want, they are as common as anti-anxiety meds should be on Brian Williams’ night stand. Charles Blow in the NYT seems to take the prize, in an article headlined “We’re Edging Closer to Civil War.” Blow claims “this war won’t be only about the subjugation of black people but also about the subjugation of all who challenge the white racist patriarchy. It will seek to push back against all the ‘others’: black people, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ people and, yes, women, particularly liberal ones.”
So looking ahead to the democracy dies in the darkness delusion which appears to be the centerpiece of the Democratic campaign of 2024, Americans must be tutored to believe the Capitol riot was part of a massive conspiracy involving Trump, aiming to end democracy in the United States by overturning the 2020 election results via some means no one is able to articulate. All that could have happened was Congress delayed its largely ceremonial blessing of the electoral college results for a day, assuming they just did not convene the afternoon of January 6 somewhere else besides the chaotic Capitol.
There is no realistic scenario that could have changed anything that mattered, and no evidence of any national-scale conspiracy underlying the riot. It was just a bunch of angry people who got out of control for a couple of hours then went home to wait on being arrested months later. None of the rioters has been charged with treason or terrorism, mostly just trespassing. None of the arrested claim they acted under any organized structure set in place by Trump or anyone else. In their trials each basically gave the same explanation, that things basically got out of hand.
After selling voters something that did not happen happened, the Democrats must then explain how after four years in power they have not really done much to bulk up democracy except whine about stuff that’s unfair, such as Republican gerrymandering (but not Democratic gerrymandering) and Republican poll watchers (but not Democratic poll watchers) and Republicans not accepting election results (but not Democrats like Stacey Adams not accepting election results.) Voters will also have to buy in to the Democratic delusion all the bad stuff they said Trump was gonna do in office — LGBT concentration camps, war with Iran, fascism — will for certain happen the next time.
“Elect us to save democracy!” say the delusional Democrats, ignoring the reality that democracy is bumbling along pretty much as it was intended to do. The Dem line would all make more sense if Trump had appeared bare chested at the Biden inauguration atop an M1 tank or something, but that is the nature of delusion.
Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.