Here’s what’s likely to emerge from this month’s historic showdown summit between Presidents Biden and Putin: nothing.
“Nothing” has become something of a watchword for the Biden Administration, which is stocked with bland political lifers long on promises and pronouncements and task forces but short on actual accomplishments.
And that’s not all bad; in fact, doing less may be exactly what the nation needs after four years of daily bitterness, braggadocio and bombast. Unlike his predecessor, Joe Biden seems a decent, dedicated, down-to-earth plodder, who will try his best to do no harm to the country he leads. And that’s all good.
The President’s problem, beyond his advanced age and not-ready-for-prime time Vice President, is his party.
The Democrats, and Biden among them, have been hijacked by a small group of “progressive” zealots who, if allowed to continue to steer the Democrat Party’s direction and dominate their public relations narrative, will likely hand the House—and maybe the Senate—back to the Republicans in the 2022 elections.
At this point, in fact, the only thing standing in the way of a Republican reemergence is a strange, orange-tufted beach creature lurking in the sands of Mar-a-Lago.
And if Republicans choose to return to a slavish devotion to Donald Trump, they’ll find themselves upending the entire Republican comeback applecart.
Betting against Trump a few years ago was a bad idea, but this time it’s different. After refusing to acknowledge his successor’s legitimacy, bad-mouthing his most loyal subordinate Mike Pence, and getting caught knee-deep in the Capitol riots, Trump has lost his political mojo with most of those who voted for him—from moderates to business leaders to Mitch McConnell. His only strength now lies with fraidy-cat Republicans, who fear they’ll lose Trump’s face painted, horn-headed right wing loyalists in next year’s elections.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that having alienated most of the people who voted for him once, there’s no way Trump can win the presidency again in 2024, which brings us to today’s Democrats.
As much as Trump may be reviled by those who once supported him, so too are the so-called “progressives” who are forcing Biden and his party’s leaders into an untenable corner, out of which they’re unlikely to escape.
And while you’d never know it watching MSNBC or reading The New York Times, Democrat elders are petrified that Republicans will win with a public relations platform based on three wrongheaded notions that misguided “progressives” have handed them.
First, don’t defund the police
The progressive position to “defund the police,” which grew out of post-George Floyd protests, has already proved disastrous.
Clueless city councils in many cities have been unable to translate the anti-police battle cry into any meaningful action. As politicians bungle their way through “defunding,” police forces in left-wing cities have been decimated. Police retirements nearly doubled in New York City and Seattle, quintupled in Portland, and in Minneapolis, where the actions of one sadistic cop led to George Floyd’s death, applications to join the police force have been cut in half.
Meanwhile, of course, the people who will continue to suffer most from diminished policing are poorer people who live in high-crime urban areas; in other words, the very people that protestors set out to “protect.”
Like it or not, Democrats are associated with this catastrophic anti-police movement, and Republicans won’t let them forget it.
Second, don’t politicize education
Equally calamitous for Democrats is the widespread shift to focus childhood education more directly on race and gender.
The spate of African American deaths in the custody of police has triggered a national dialogue on race. Such dialogue to improve racial harmony is a good thing. But one outgrowth that hasn’t been helpful is the progressive push to introduce controversial “critical race theory” into the curricula of America’s elementary, junior high and high schools.
Technically, critical race theory is a 40-year-old academic concept that suggests racism is embedded in the system’s legal practices and business policies; for example, red-lining in mortgage lending leading to segregated housing.
The controversy surrounding critical race theory, like many other issues today, lies in how it’s perceived. Left-leaning advocates hail it as shining a light on systemic racism, while right-leaning critics condemn it for dividing people into “oppressors” and “oppressed.”
What isn’t debatable is that most Americans believe that coming out of a largely lost academic year, the last thing the nation’s students need is yet another “political controversy” to distract teachers and administrators from fulfilling their primary academic mission of teaching.
The same is true with the heightened focus among public and private schools on gender issues. Progressive advocates argue that it’s important for children to have an understanding of various genders at an early age, to learn to be accepting of others and not to pre-judge. Conservative critics argue that such studies are age-inappropriate, unscientific and clearly political. Which side is right? Take your pick.
Once again, what’s indisputable is that Democrats are associated with this push toward early gender studies, and that most Americans—including, importantly, moderate voters who can influence next year’s elections—are opposed to force-feeding the gender agenda into their children’s or grandchildren’s early education.
Third, don’t knock capitalism
The reason Trump was palatable to many who found him personally odious was that he was an unabashed pro-business capitalist.
Democrats, fairly or unfairly, are perceived as neutral, at best, in terms of supporting business and socialist at worst. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, readily identify as “democratic socialists.” And it’s true that in recent years American opinions about capitalism, particularly among Millennials, have deteriorated.
Accordingly, the concept of “free enterprise” needs to be reinvigorated, and inequities in the system need to be repaired. But the reality is that most Americans still believe in big business, working to earn as much as you can and the merits of free enterprise. And most Democrats don’t.
All of which bodes well for Republicans winning back the House in next year’s elections—just as long as they stay away from embracing the poisonous Trump.
Fraser P. Seitel has been a communications consultant, author and teacher for 40 years. He is author of the Pearson text “The Practice of Public Relations,” now in its 14th edition, and co-author of “Rethinking Reputation” and "Idea Wise.” He can be reached directly at [email protected].