Policy. Politics. Process. Power. If governance in the United States were a card game, these would be the suits.
In the second week of an administration in which the Democrats hold the White House and both Congressional houses (by slim margins), we can see how these four suits get played by both parties in their ongoing struggle. Rest assured that an eye is being kept on what will happen in the midterms.
The Democrats have a daunting challenge. Controlling all three levers of power, there is literally no one to blame but themselves if they don’t post enough wins—tricks, you might say—to retain the faith of the electorate. From COVID-19 to the economy to a host of inequalities and injustices, the Democrats need to use both Process and Power combined with good Policy to provide the favorable Politics for a win in November of next year.
On the other hand, the Republicans have an equally daunting challenge, but the shoe is on the other foot. They need good Politics to return to Power. And exactly how do the Republicans find the raw votes to do that when seemingly the majority of their support is coming from a base that continues to cling to a failed leader that cost them the White House, the Senate, and the House? Of course, that leader is an overachiever, losing all that Power in four years when it usually takes eight to do so. (See George W. Bush and Barack Obama.)
So what would be the good Politics for Republicans in this hour of their need? Well, scoring hits on every objective of the Biden administration would be a good start. Using Process to delay and prevent Democratic wins is another, which is why the Senate filibuster is so critical to their strategy. Decrying the divisiveness of the Democrats when “unity” is what America needs is another obviously cynical strategy, coming from a party that isn’t unified itself.
If that’s part of the Republican playbook, what should the Democrats do? Well, they’ve got to get everything right. Do it all, so to speak. And make sure the messaging to the American people lets them know that what they wanted done has been done.
Oh, please feel free to “talk about” bringing the country together. Just as long everyone understands that the real goal is to hold a governing majority, which will increase if the Policy part gets done right. After all, good Policy is good Politics, right?
And if the Democrats have to get everything right, so do the Republicans. The obvious fissure threatening to develop into a greater and more formal schism is perhaps the greatest challenge the Republicans face. When one side of the party is blaming the rest of the party on the other side of the table for the mess they’re collectively in, it’s quite possible that nobody will get what they want.
But enough of this political commentary, with nothing funny attached to it. Lord knows, this is no time to lose our sense of humor. So, I’ll close with a marginally related anecdote.
In our early days together, Karl would agree to an evening of cards with another couple, knowing how much I love to play. Besides, that’s an inexpensive way to spend a Saturday night, and I would be sure to come home in a good mood, particularly if we won. And by good, I mean receptive.
One night, we had gone to another couple’s place for pinochle, and Karl and I were partners. We were new enough to this relationship business to not know that a couple should never play partners with each other in cards.
Well, I don’t remember whether he bid wrong or played wrong, but Karl did something wrong. It cost us the bid and the game, and I just couldn’t let it go.
Enjoying our squabble, my friend leaned across the table and said to his partner, “Oh, boy, Karl is really going to get it when they get home!”
I replied, archly, “Oh, no, he’s not.”
Now, to be honest, I really have a hard time staying angry, particularly about something as inconsequential as a game of pinochle, so it is quite possible that I had another highball or two and was in a “better mood” by the time we got home. In which case, Karl lost the game but won the night.
So how much Jack Daniel’s will the Mitt Romneys and Liz Cheneys have to swill to avoid holding a grudge for what the other part of their party did? Furthermore, do they even have the integrity it takes to hold a grudge?