Democrats’ Dangerous Game

The dozen readers of this website know that I dislike our two major parties. These days, the strongest case for each party is simply that they are the best chance to stop the other one from gaining power, which isn’t exactly an inspirational leading argument. Meanwhile, the case against the parties are also the same: they both prioritize short-term wins over the long-term health of our country.

That’s evident on the Republican side when they help undermine American democracy by supporting Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud. Such self-serving hysteria has been successfully used by the Democratic Party to win key elections, from the 2020 presidential, to the 2022 midterms, to last week’s big liberal win in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race.

At the same time, Democrats’ hands aren’t clean either. They’ve been playing a hypocritical, dangerous game. I saw them play this game in the 2022 elections, and I’m seeing it again now.

Last year, as states entered the primary season that would determine each party’s candidate in key battleground congressional and gubernatorial races around the country, Democrats could be found helping certain types of candidates. First and foremost, they of course supported loyal Democrats. Second and secondmost, however, was a surprising type of candidate: pro-Trump, election denying Republicans.

Reasoning that election deniers wouldn’t play well with the general electorate, Democrats funded ads that attacked these deniers’ more reasonable Republican primary opponents. That included supporting challengers to incumbent Republicans who had risked their political careers to stand up to Trump’s efforts to overturn the election through intimidation and insurrection, which is exactly the kind of Republican I want in office right now.

Proponents of this strategy point out that the strategy worked. These candidates, after winning their primaries, often went on to lose their general elections against the Democratic nominee. Democrats seem to think this result vindicates their underhanded tactics.

I see no vindication. If someone entered into a game of Russian roulette with the possibility of winning money, and then they survived and won the cash, I wouldn’t say the modest result justified the enormous risk. The gamble worked… but it might not have. The 2022 midterms were a competitive election, one in which an unpopular Democratic president meant a red wave was more likely than not. The election deniers could easily have surfed that wave to Washington DC, which would have then endangered the sanctity of future elections. Yet Democrats, prioritizing today over tomorrow, played with the fate of American democracy, all for an increased chance of winning a few seats.

It was risky, shameful, and deeply hypocritical. If election-denial claims are as egregious as Democrats say they are, then Democrats should be doing all they can to keep them away from elected office, not helping them get one election away from it. Otherwise, a voter might be excused for thinking those Republicans aren’t as objectionable as Democrats would have us believe.

These aren’t just moral failings. They’re practical ones as well. There are plenty of independents eyeing our major parties, trying to figure out which one is less crazy. Democrats who publicly say they’re fighting for democratic norms but privately bankroll efforts to take down Republicans who want the same thing are not deserving of our support.

And now we turn to 2023 — and soon, 2024. Once again, Democrats seem willing to drive the country to the precipice, just so they can win an election. In this case, I’m talking about the Republican presidential primary, and whether Democrats want Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis to be the GOP’s nominee.

I’ve seen lots of anecdotal evidence that Democrats would prefer Trump. Stats guru Nate Silver put out a Twitter poll (admittedly unscientific) asking just this question. Here were the surprising results:

Trump wins! Rather convincingly!

It’s hard to stomach. Yes, a Trump nomination probably helps Democrats win. It’s probably why a Democratic PAC recently started attacking Ron DeSantis even though he’s far from another Florida election, and more Democratic money will work to hurt DeSantis in the coming year. And yes, DeSantis is almost certainly more conservative than Trump (if we’re using the Goldwater-Reagan definition of conservative instead of whatever Trump has tried to mangle the word into). Therefore, a Democrat might justify their position that Trump, being more open to Democratic positions on an issue like entitlements, is the better choice not just as nominee, but even as president. For the above reasons, we might even see some crossover voters in states with open primaries; if President Biden has the Democratic nomination secured, Democrats may switch over to help lock out DeSantis and ensure Trump advances to the general election.

But coommneee onnnnnn. After four-plus years of decrying Trump as the greatest threat to democracy since Hitler, Democrats are going to, with a straight face, hope he wins a primary that puts him one election — just one random Tuesday-after-the-first-Monday-in-November — away from becoming President? Just for a slightly increased chance of winning a single election?

That sound you heard was my eyes rolling out of my head and onto the floor, which will make it difficult to finish this post. Either Trump was a unique threat to democracy or he wasn’t. You don’t get to claim that he was and then root for him to get one election from the presidency. It’s an oblivious position at best, and a dangerous game at worst.

If Democrats are scared to contest a general election on the merits of the two parties’ platforms — if they think they need Trump so badly that they would risk supporting his nomination — then they have larger problems than Ron DeSantis. That problem, of course, might be the octogenarian Joe Biden. If he’s weak in 2024, then Trump, even at 78 years old, can absolutely beat him in a referendum election. If DeSantis can be a Trump-slayer, he should get Democrats’ support in a primary. He should get the nation’s.

I have no intention to vote for Ron DeSantis in a general election. Once Trump is not a nominee, I will revert back to my annoying third-party-supporting self, and I grant that this decision encapsulates why Democrats want Trump on the ballot. But if given the choice between DeSantis and Trump, first as a nominee and certainly as a president, I’ll eagerly take the former, and Democrats should, too.

Today’s featured image of a sick-looking donkey was found here at Vector Portle, whereas the Roulette wheel was created by David Perkins at Wikimedia. The idea to put one inside the other? All PPFA.


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