I don’t think I’ve recently experienced a span of days that quite so neatly captures the difference between being a Democrat and being a Republican in today’s America.
Last week began with the GOP’s wannabe standard-bearer, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, using human beings as political props.
Last week began with the GOP’s wannabe standard-bearer, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, using human beings as political props for a craven publicity stunt designed to stoke right-wing outrage toward migrants.
Then, the current Republican Party standard-bearer found himself in even more legal hot water after the New York attorney general's lawsuit alleging Trump and his eldest children committed fraud. (This happened on the same day that a court-appointed special master called Trump’s bluff and ordered him to back up the conspiracy theory that the FBI planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago.)
The week concluded with House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy releasing a self-proclaimed “agenda” that is long on talking points but short on actual specifics. It further cements the Republican Party’s complete withdrawal from the public policy arena, leaving the GOP completely detached from the tangible challenges of today and the growing threats of tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Democrats convened in New York for a trifecta of high-profile confabs: the United Nations General Assembly, NYC Climate Week and the return of the Clinton Global Initiative. At the U.N. General Assembly, President Joe Biden delivered a forceful rebuke of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and a defense of Ukraine’s efforts to resist the Russian attack. The president also announced $2.9 billion in additional funding to address global food insecurity.
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During climate week, Democratic Govs. Phil Murphy and Kathy Hochul teamed up to announce major climate goals and initiatives, such as increasing New Jersey’s offshore wind electric generation by 50% and investing in a large-scale renewable energy project in New York homes.
For the first time since 2016, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) returned with a lineup of activists, philanthropists, political figures and corporate titans that included Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Bono, Robin Wright, Melinda French Gates, Laurene Powell Jobs, Jose Andres and Dolores Huerta. The event was, at least to a newcomer like me, surprisingly substantive, with 144 “Commitments to Action” and tens of millions of investments pledged.
Contrast that to the made-for-Fox News “commitments” unveiled by McCarthy, which included the policy edict that “we can’t afford Democratic rule” and the searing observation that “liberal prosecutors and district attorneys” are the reason we can’t “keep criminals off the streets.” And of course, it wouldn’t be a Republican manifesto without the “future that’s built on freedom” passage proclaiming “America is home to the best medical care in the world thanks to talented doctors and innovative treatments” and then promptly blaming Democrats for a “one-size-fits-all government approach” that will lead to “rationed care and worse services.” Remind me again, which political party is pushing to take away a woman’s right to make health care decisions for herself?
In short, Biden spent the week defending freedom and democracy on the world stage, while his predecessor defended himself from allegations of fraud and claims that he may have compromised national security. Republican governors plotted to fly human pawns to Martha’s Vineyard, while Democratic governors unveiled measures to combat the climate crisis. And Republicans in Congress unveiled a “commitment” agenda that just blames Biden and Democrats, while a global community of philanthropists announced specific action items to alleviate poverty, improve health care and economic development and tackle other systemic inequities.
The Republicans of 2022 may recognize those problems — but they no longer care about actually fixing them.
I first arrived in Washington, D.C. at a time when Republicans and Democrats were thought to be two sides of the same coin. Their political differences, while at times quite deep, were rooted in contrasting governing philosophies. The key word being governing.
Aaron Sorkin’s beloved television series “The West Wing” channeled this sort of idealistic view of American politics. For seven seasons, millions of Americans tuned in every week to watch the fictitious Bartlett administration do battle on a broad array of public policy issues — many of which we are still fighting about today. From gun reform and climate change to immigration, education, campaign finance reform, inflation, farm subsidies and more, the America of 2022 is a nation still plagued by these same crises, big and small. The Republicans of 2022 may recognize those problems — but the majority of the party no longer seems to care about actually fixing anything. As a result, the debate between Republicans and Democrats has begun to shift in divergent and irreconcilable directions.
The GOP has had other bad weeks in the past — and so has the Democratic Party. And to be fair, last week wasn't the most dramatic week for the Democratic agenda; just politicians and officials collaborating, ideating and brainstorming solutions at the local, federal and international level. Which is precisely the point. Neither side is perfect. But one side is trying. I left the ranks of the Republican Party because I was worried it had fundamentally lost its way. Looking back, I have never been more convinced I was right.