As expected, Betsy DeVos has been confirmed as secretary of education. When the two GOP “no” votes were announced a few days ago, I knew that meant the other 48 were locked down; I’ve been around this carousel before.1
But the fights right now are mostly not about winning. We’re going to lose these. The GOP have power and don’t give a fuck about you, and that’s been official since the Hastert Rule.2 What these fights are about are having the ability to keep fighting. About keeping possibly meaningful elections, things like that. We’re fighting a six-month war to fight a two-year war to fight a four-year war, as a start.3
So I’ve been beating this drum for a while and I’m going to keep beating it: until opposition start paying attention to state and local elections, nothing will change. The situation on the ground for the Democratic Party is nightmarish, because Democrats much of the time just can’t be bothered, and gerrymandering will continue to make the Federal level worse. There is no – I mean zero – probability of a Republican turnaround on gerrymandering for the foreseeable future, and therefore no likelihood of political relief on that front except possibly through citizen initiative.
They have power; they don’t care about how they get it; they will use all tools possible until and unless they are forced to stop. Do not appeal to decency, do not appeal to fairness, because they do not fucking care. Get it through your head: no fucks are given beyond “do Republicans keep power”? There may be some local pockets of exceptions, but push comes to shove, they will go along. All but without fail. Know this.
(Also, people are talking about terrible poll numbers for Trump? 86% of Republicans approve of his performance as of day 16. That’s all that matters to them. If those numbers start to fall in-party, then the situation changes – but not before.)
So. If your state is Republican but has has citizen initiatives, your Federal option is to put together a popular state initiative to force meaningful district reform. This will take some time. Outrage, complaints, do it because it’s good PR – and more importantly, keeps you within the Overton window – but it won’t change results. You need initiatives. There are rumours of some kind of coordinated effort to start working on this, but I haven’t seen anything I can pin down. That’d be a good thing to pin down.
The bigger deal is that you have to start PAYING ATTENTION to the BORING LOCAL CRAP. Learn that it matters. Figure out your state and local governments, know who your reps are, and get working on them. Because in the end, that’s where political power starts.
It’s a long fight. Don’t get yourself burned out, because it’s going to get worse before it gets better; there is no magic solution, there is no fast solution. It’s a long haul grind, and even when you win, don’t think it’s over – we thought fascism was over, and oh look, now we’ve got neofascists and white nationalists in the White House.
Deal with that, accept it, because this is what it takes. Not dealing with that – well…
…that’s how we got here.
1: Don’t be fooled; we never had an actual shot here. The Republican Party has the discipline of an authoritarian parliamentary party and gives no fucks outside its own. The two “no” votes were allowed solely to give them political cover for the constituencies; they were knowingly-harmless-to-DeVos “no” votes, as political cover. If their votes were actually needed, they would’ve been “yes.” This is standard party procedure in the Senate; has been for decades, as anyone who has gone through this enough times can tell you – Harry Reid was a master of this, and this was simple Reid playbook copypasta. THAT DOES NOT MEAN DON’T FIGHT: first, all resistance makes them expend money and time (the latter being in shorter supply than the former), and second, it keeps the Overton window where you need it. The fight still matters, just… don’t expect to win these.
2: No bill can proceed without a majority of Republicans in support, regardless of House total support or popular support. That’s the weak form. The strong form – aspired to by the “Permanent Republican Majority” crowd – was “no bill can proceed unless it can pass entirely by Republican votes.” The explicit intent of the strong form was to make opposition parties irrelevant. I think it’s pretty clear they’re going for the strong form now.
3: The six-month war at the Federal level is keeping a court system. That’ll be hard. At the popular level, it’s maintaining some elements of consensus reality. (“Anything I don’t like” being “Fake news.”) We lose that, we’ve lost everything, and it’s harder than keeping the court system. Bannon, Trump, and both the fundamentalist and authoritarian movements want to eliminate the courts as a check-and-balance, and override fact-based media and decision making, both to clear the way for complete power. If we win the six-month war, the two-year war is probably going to add focus around fighting Attorney General Sessions. You’ll note I’m already using the title – his appointment won’t be stopped, and it’ll probably be 54-46. If somehow we can make it 52-48, I’ll consider that much a big victory. But the two-year war will be around preserving voting rights, and it will also be hard. Very hard indeed.