The Democrats’ democracy hypocrisy

The Democrats, you may have heard, are the responsible party. Joe Biden wants you to know that this is a dangerous moment for American democracy. The Republic’s future is in doubt — and only he and his Democratic colleagues can be trusted to save it. With the January 6 hearings in full-swing, the midterms approaching and Biden keen to talk about anything other than the increasingly gloomy economic picture, don’t expect the death-of-democracy language to temper any time soon.

The problem is that, time and again, the party’s actions don’t match the rhetoric. Josh Kraushaar reports on a particularly pernicious example of that gap in his National Journal column this morning. The Democrats, he writes, are “intervening aggressively in Republican primaries, looking to promote MAGA-aligned candidates that have natural appeal to a right-wing electorate but are likely losers in a general election.” In Colorado, for example, a Democratic super PAC has splurged $1 million to promote Senate candidate and 2020 truther Rep. Ron Hanks. In the recent Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary, the Trumpier-than-Trump victor Doug Mastriano benefited from the money of the Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro. As Kraushaar writes, Shapiro spent “more money on a single ad than Mastriano spent on TV ads in his entire campaign.” Something similar is happening in Nevada, Illinois and beyond. Now, it’s important not to overstate the influence of this Democratic money on the races in question. But, regardless of the impact, the decision to dabble in these dirty tricks reveals the cynicism of so much of the Democrats’ democracy-in-peril messaging.

By the Democrats’ own logic, this spending amounts to an act no less serious than toying with an existential threat to American democracy for partisan gain. Joe Biden reportedly plans on centering his midterm messaging on the dangers of the “ultra MAGA” GOP. Step one, it seems, is for the party of the president who sold himself as the great unifier to help make that claim a reality.

Elsewhere, Democrats who worry about the growing use of political violence and mob assaults on sacred institutions are maddeningly selective when it comes to who gets what kind of protection. When Senators John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Chris Coons, a Maryland Democrat, saw the disclosure of Supreme Court justices’ home addresses online and, in the wake of a leaked draft ruling on abortion laws, protests outside some of those homes, they proposed the Supreme Court Police Party Act to help keep justices safe. But Nancy Pelosi’s caucus blocked the Senate-approved legislation passage by unanimous consent in the House. Meanwhile, the White House was hardly unequivocal in its denunciation of protests outside the justice’s houses. Not long after, a liberal Californian showed up at Brett Kavanaugh’s home armed and, allegedly, ready to kill the judge.

As well as these cynical sins of commission, there are sins of omission too. High on that list is the failure to get serious about passing the Electoral Count Act, a no-brainer of a piece of legislation for anyone worried about exactly the sort of post-election stunts Trump tried to pull in the weeks after the 2020 election. Earlier this year, senior Democrats could have rolled up their sleeves and worked with Republicans on a package of measures that bolstered the security of American elections and safeguarded against the kind of interference attempted by Trump. Instead they pressed ahead with a nonstarter of a set of new voting laws. Then the president denounced anyone, in either party, who didn’t support the legislation as little better than a segregationist.

Given their reckless approach to the democracy debate, Democrats deserve the breadth of the cynicism with which so many of their efforts in this area are greeted. As the January 6 Committee continues its work, we move inexorably closer to the point at which the Justice Department is urged to bring criminal charges against Donald Trump. As Biden and his attorney general face the dilemma of either using the criminal law to pursue his biggest political opponent or being seen as failing to live up to their rhetoric on the threats to democracy, the mistrust surrounding their handling of that decision will be more deserved than they realize.

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A bipartisan breakthrough on guns

White smoke emerged from the bipartisan senate negotiations on gun laws Sunday. Encouragingly, the package seems to be more extensive than many expected and commanding a level of support that should mean it passes. The set of measures, which includes incentives for states to implement so-called red flag laws and the addition of juvenile records in background checks for gun buyers under 21, has the explicit support of ten Republican senators and the noises from party leadership have been encouraging, even if Mitch McConnell is yet to back the proposals. The deal is only over a framework, and the devil may be in the detail of converting that framework into legislation. But if the package passes, it will be the most extensive nationwide legislative action on guns in decades.

Should Biden run again? AOC isn’t sure

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was faced with a straightforward question about the president’s political future on Sunday. Dana Bash asked the New York progressive if Biden should run again in 2024. The simple question got a notably less simple answer. Amidst awkward laughs and plenty of prevarication, the best AOC could manage was that a second Biden term was something “we’re all willing to entertain and examine when the time comes.” The exchange is a sign of the grim mood in Democratic Party — and great television.

What you should be reading today

Peter Van Buren: Will the Supreme Court end social media censorship?
Tim Ogden: Ron DeSantis’s aide is no Russian agent
Teresa Mull: Gas prices are the new Covid
Tyler Page, Washington Post: Inside Biden’s frustration with soaring prices
Patricia Murphy, Greg Bluestein and Tia Mitchell, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Herschel Walker claimed to be in law enforcement when he wasn’t
Pamela Paul, New York Times: She wrote a dystopian novel. What happened next was pretty dystopian

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 39.4 percent
Disapprove: 54.9 percent
Net approval: -15.5 (RCP Average)

Do Americans know what cancel culture is?
Percentage of Americans who say they have heard at least “a fair amount” about the phrase “cancel culture”
2020: 44 percent
2022: 61 percent (Pew Research)

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