The Democrats have been looking pretty good lately, or so they say. Everybody who matters has endorsed Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders is acting like a party loyalist, even dissing his off-message former (as he emphasized) press secretary. The New York Times featured a headline recently that read: “Hello, What’s This? The Democrats Aren’t in Disarray.”
All that’s true. But two things can be true at once. And I say they’re still not answering Donald Trump aggressively enough on the only story that matters right now. They have to do more. And by “they,” I don’t mean Biden so much as I mean congressional leaders.
Here’s why. Biden is the presumptive nominee. Fine. But he has no official role right now, and holds no elected office. MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle suggested the other day that he form a “shadow government” that would counter Trump’s daily deceit diet. It’s a good idea in some ways, but we’re not a parliamentary system, where shadow governments are the norm. It might look gimmicky.
Meanwhile, the people whose actual job it is to oppose Trump right now are Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and the Democrats on Capitol Hill. This is on them far more than it’s on Biden. And here’s an idea for what they should be doing.
Schumer and Pelosi should appoint a rotating group of Democrats from the Senate and House to give a press conference every night right after Trump’s reality show. They need to say two things. First, call out the lies Trump just told, which means having a team sitting there in real time checking his claims so the Democrats can stand up there and say, “that thing he just said about ramped-up testing? Not true.” Second, tell people what the reality on the ground actually looks like, and what’s happening with the money that’s supposed to be going out to people.
It’s pretty simple. Every night. And from Washington. This is vital. Other Americans are going to work—doctors, nurses, orderlies, EMTs, care givers, grocery store workers, pharmacists, bus drivers, auto mechanics, construction workers, zookeepers (the list of essential jobs is longer than you think!), and more. If millions of Americans are going to work, a few Democrats can, too. They can figure out a way to hold these press conferences with safe social distancing, in one of those cavernous hearing rooms in the Hart Senate Office Building or the Rayburn House Office Building.
As to who should be there, I say not Schumer and Pelosi themselves, but an ideologically diverse collection of their younger members. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a must. She’s smart, she’d be really good at this, and lately she’s been as much of a team player as any Democrat could ask. And I mean, come on. She’s a star. She has 6.7 million Twitter followers. With her on board, these Democratic press conferences will get better ratings than the president’s. Orange Julius will turn beet red.
Who else? Katie Porter for sure, provided they can find a way for her to make it from California. She’s been so impressive at nearly every step.
Unfortunately, Pelosi made what looks like a bad move over the weekend, passing over Porter to be the House Dems’ representative on the oversight panel that will monitor the bailout. David Dayen of The American Prospect had the story. Porter needs to be featured. She too is a star.
There’s excellent local talent, i.e. people from Maryland and Virginia who don’t have to travel far. Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, who did a great job during the impeachment hearings, should be involved. Also Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen. Abigail Spanberger of Richmond doesn’t have far to drive. Jennifer Wexton of Virginia, who overwhelmed Republican Barbara Comstock in a seat the Democrats lusted after, is right across the river. And Virginia’s senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, should be a part of this, too, along with Delaware's Chris Coons.
And if they can figure out a way to do it, maybe they should occasionally include some of their leading Senate candidates, starting with Amy McGrath in Kentucky.
I could go on, but you get the idea. The Democrats have 15 or 20 solid senators or House members who are (for the most part) close to Washington, D.C., anyway and could be part of a rotating group that gives these nightly press conferences.
Would it change the world? No. Nothing changes the world. But at least they’d be saying to America: Hey, we’re here too. And we’re not going to let that madman stand up there every night and tell lies. And they need to push, and push, and push, on testing. We’re testing 150,000 people a day. The number needs to be three to four times that, said a Harvard study over the weekend. By talking every night about things like that, the Democrats would be presenting themselves as the Reality Party.
The Surreality Party is getting us closer and closer to the cliff. The Annapolis protest, the reopened Florida beaches. Trump urging insurrection—which, by the way, was maybe not just flagrantly irresponsible but, according to this former assistant AG for national security, illegal. This is as terrifying a moment as this country has faced since… I’m pausing on how to finish that sentence. The more I think about it, the more I think the right ending may be “ever.”
It’s not a time for Pelosi to be showing America her $20,000 worth of refrigerators stocked with $10 pints of ice cream. It’s a time for the Democrats to be showing America their young, smart, fearless face. They have to save lives, and democracy. They should be doing it every night.