A couple of things really stick in my craw from the last couple of years, and those are that we’ve been denied celebrating as a nation some pretty remarkable accomplishments. And while that denial is led by Republicans, quick to stomp any hints of optimism or hope like they’re cockroaches, Democrats should have and still can embrace amazing things and turn it into a story that the nation is not failing. Rather the opposite. It offers a counter-narrative to Republican gloom, doom, and pedophilia. It massages the part of the lizard brain that is often used to getting dopamine hits of hate and rage.
I mean, everything’s not even in the neighborhood of perfect, but, c’mon, look at this:
1. I’ve said this before, but it deserves repeating: The 2020 election was a miracle, one that should give us national pride. In the midst of a global pandemic, at a point when cases were surging, despite all kinds of obstacles, the 2020 election went amazingly smoothly for the vast majority of Americans (that is, the ones who weren’t forced to spend hours in line because of state incompetence or hostility to voting). By Donald Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security’s assessment, it was “the most secure in American history,” with more people voting and no increase in the rejection of ballots despite the surge in mail-in voting.
2. The United States played a big role in getting a vaccine against Covid-19 done in record time, which is the only reason we can even pretend that the pandemic is over (which it definitely is not). And I’m not just talking about the creation of the vaccine. The rollout of the vaccination program has been astonishing, with 563 million shots given in the United States in about 15 months, 11.3 billion shots around the world. Even acknowledging the need to do more in Africa and elsewhere and the intransigence of anti-vaxxers, that’s a stunning pace.
3. And after the American economy was wrecked by Covid, the unemployment rate is now down to 3.6%, with wages rising more quickly than they had been. There are always caveats: wages should be higher, and inflation due to mostly worldwide factors makes those wage gains worth less. But people are working, and they are getting hired at rates we simply haven’t seen in decades. We’ve gotten back 93% of the jobs lost in the pandemic shutdown. That’s an incredible turnaround.
All three of these accomplishments are objectively positive. They are inarguably good. There is simply no way to argue that a well-run election, a vaccine to stop a virus, and more jobs are bad. Sure, if you’re a terrible person, you can say that higher wages affect corporate bottom lines, but for most of us, it’s awesome and meaningful. If you spin these as bad, you are actually degrading accomplishments that cross party lines. The federal election was run by a Republican administration, and most of the state elections were also run by Republicans. The vaccine was developed with support from a Republican administration.
But you could pretty successfully argue that the first one, the successful election, is what led to the successful distribution of the Covid vaccine and the quick pace of the economic recovery. Because Democrats took over the running of the federal government, allowing for competent people to be in charge, we not only survived the pandemic, but we’re thriving after it.
The only way Republicans and their allied media could tear these things down is to outright lie about them. Despite what Republicans say, there wasn’t widespread voter or election fraud or misconduct. The vaccine prevents hospitalization and death and isn’t experimental. And the economy is doing great and isn’t remotely a communist nightmare. And the lies worked. They made a large portion of the United States hate these accomplishments by creating a narrative about insidious incompetence, putting Democrats on the defensive, attempting to respond to the GOP narrative, which drowned out the successes.
I’ve talked for years about Democrats creating a counternarrative to the Republicans’ insistence that we’re living through a Soviet-era hellscape whenever Democrats are in charge. The narrative is there for the taking.
Instead of being on the defensive, how about cheering on that we did this. Holy crap. How amazing are we? Don’t you wanna feel good about things? Isn’t it just incredible what this country can do when it tries? And the implication would be that if you don’t think these things are good, you hate this country. I mean, it’s one thing to be angry when the country fails and does harm, which it does all the time. It’s entirely, willfully delusional to feel that way about things that are unalloyed good. I’m not saying there isn’t a ton more work to do, but we’re allowed to have a sense of having accomplished something.
I’m not even getting into things that could cause any dissent. We should be celebrating the first Black woman being confirmed to the Supreme Court. We should celebrate teachers who have worked so hard to get kids through the pandemic under ridiculous conditions. And there was so much more to celebrate, but conservatives decided to divide us further and further through lying and creating controversies where none exist.
Yes, of course, Democrats put out ads that talk about this stuff. Yes, of course, the mainstream media gives time and fuel to Republican lies with a both-sides obsession that makes those lies seem the equivalent of facts. And, yes, of course, none of this will break through the haze of Trumpist fanaticism that drives the right.
But you want to inspire your own people to get out to vote. And you want to inspire non-voters to come and join in democracy.
If I were advising Democrats, I’d tell them to keep hitting on those three things up there. I’d tell them to pose a simple question to Republicans: Why don’t you want to celebrate these accomplishments? Why don’t you like seeing your country succeed? That’s the message for Democrats: Despite what the right tells you, you can feel good. You’ve been through enough despair. You don’t need to feel terrible all the time. We know it’s been rough, and for many of you it’s still rough. But we can still do great things. We can still do them, and it’s okay to feel okay.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on April 8, 2022 on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.