I am on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) press release distribution list. Yesterday, I noted a release that blamed efforts to enforce immigration laws for inconveniences to citizens and legitimate border-crossers, while making no mention of the border chaos that necessitates stronger enforcement.
Today, I got another one. This one was not from the DNC, but rather the “DNC War Room.” The content of the release is far less important than the self-described site of origin: The DNC War Room. Admittedly, terms like “war” and “war rooms” have become trivialized. Athletes talk about “going to war” with the other team. Professional sports teams don’t just set up rooms where coaches, scouts, and executives decide on which players to draft; they have “war rooms.”
Political parties are in the business of trying to win elections, and that entails high stakes efforts to convince voters that the other guys’ policies are bad and ours are better. But the difference between politics and war is that politics is supposed to be a contest of ideas. The other party is not the enemy against whom war is waged; it is the opposition which, at the end of the day and regardless of the outcome, is still part of us.
In functional democracies (like ours used to be), one party has sought to prevail over the other by persuading voters that they can do a better job. In war, the aim is to destroy the enemy, by almost any means necessary. The objective is not to persuade, but rather to impose an outcome. In healthy democracies the defeated party accepts the verdict of the voters, regroups and gets ready to battle it out in the next election. They do not reconstitute themselves as “the resistance,” and work to undermine the legitimacy of the party in power.
Tellingly, the DNC is not at war with the oligarchs who are largely responsible for the human misery that is driving people to leave Central America at a rate of 100,000 a month. They are not at war with despots and genocidal regimes around the world. They are not at war with foreign powers that are stealing the intellectual property which is the bedrock of our 21st century economy. Rather, they are at war with the president for trying to control chaotic immigration, while they block commonsense legislation that might stem the flow.
Nor should the Republicans feel too smug about all this. There is little reason to doubt that had Hillary Clinton won the election, that the RNC would not be huddled in a bunker somewhere on Capitol Hill waging their own righteous war of resistance.