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Wish List of a Swing Voter

If Democrats want to lure people like me home, here are some things they will need to do.

Being raised in 1970s Ohio meant I was raised Democrat. In my northern industrial area, Republicans were old people, or those three good-natured guys from the Jaycees who always joked about “next year” at the get-out-the-vote rallies.

It’s true. I used to write for the Nation, even a couple of articles for the New York Times. I didn’t change much, but my party did, and one day a few years ago I woke up being yelled at by women in pink hats clamoring that I was a racist—if not an outright Nazi—for supporting the free expression they called “hate speech.”

I didn’t leave the Democratic Party as much as I was abandoned by it. With the midterm crushing of the party coming this autumn, as sure as the good guy wins in professional wrestling (big in Ohio), I can’t say I’m ready to go back. But if Democrats want to lure people like me home, here are some things they will need to do.

Dems, third-trimester abortions, really? And just because I personally support limited abortion rights, you say I also have to buy into a whole full-meal deal of unrelated-to-everyone-but-you LGBETC.? Didn’t you get the memo? Trying to bundle all these things with the Equal Rights Amendment and various other woke measures cost you support, not earned you it. 

Jettison the Blue-Anon rhetoric. I barely made it through four years under Trump, hearing every day that the sky was falling, the walls were closing in, and that damn clock would not stop tick-tocking. It turns out every tweet by Trump was not the end of democracy, fall of the Republic, or wrap party for the rule of law.

When the Supreme Court moves against your wishes, I don’t need to wake up to a headline like “The Supreme Court Is a Tool of Tyrants” or worse, “Time for Canada to Offer Gender Asylum to American Women.” Same for when the Electoral College or the Senate does not bounce your way. These institutions were crafted by the Founders to achieve a balance of power, and they do it fairly well.

Accept that “balance” means occasionally things will go the other way. The same court that rewrote society implementing Roe can do it again taking down Roe. So no more op-eds demanding a packed Court, or a change to equal representation in the Senate, or the end of the Electoral College, or more weight on the popular vote, or any of that. Shut down MSDNC and its hemorrhage of fake news. We’re tired of the media taping the chosen candidate’s latest statement on the national refrigerator door.

The Founders still matter as examples, despite their flaws. Many were only in their 20s as they wrote the code running beneath the United States, kids, who for the first time in history created a nation based on a synthesis of ideas. They risked “Our Lives, Our Fortunes And Our Sacred Honor” to do that, a dandy example for pols today who are unwilling to stand up and offer an opinion without polling advice.

They weren’t perfect, but they are deserving of our respect and admiration. Find something more important to fritter away political capital on. What we see in modern “wokeness” is the difference between a small mind and a great mind, between people who ignore their own flaws to pick at others’ out of time and context. Men like Jefferson were prime movers, men who set in place the thing that led to the next thing. That is worthy of a statue or two.

Parties should be big tents, and that does not mean we all have to give up our seats for the meme-of-the-day. Democrats pandering to one racial group (black lives do not matter more than any other lives, such as my own), or to gay folks—until they got boring and the party switched to the All Trans Network—is tiring.

Stop elevating shallow clowns like AOC and her Squad. They are hypocrites, demanding we not judge by color or gender while shoving white men to the back of the bus. Look back to the 1950s and ’60s Civil Rights movements, which stressed the inclusiveness of human dignity, not special treatment for every high-school kid wanting to annoy his parents by wearing dresses junior year.

Many of us currently outside your tent care as much about the First Amendment as any of the above-listed issues. Speech is the fundamental right, the base that supports and drives forward all the others. That beautiful haiku of the First Amendment certainly protects what you call “hate speech,” an idea that, if it started with good intentions, has gone on to suck dirt, and conveniently meaning anything that offends anyone, anytime.

The Supreme Court has found, over and again, that that nasty stuff is protected by the First Amendment. Let them sing, the rude and radical, and get back to fighting bad speech with better speech. Leave Elon alone. Twitter before him sold censorship, the promise to pretty-little-flower people that they would never encounter challenging ideas in their social-media stream, but that is anathema to a democracy that must thrive on the marketplace of ideas.

No more wars. Nobody, after two decades of failures and lies and body bags in the Middle East, voted for Joe Biden to restart the Cold War. The United States, I thought, had learned some sort of lesson in the pathetic finale in Kabul, until Old Joe reminded us it was 1980 again, by his watch. How in the hell did I end up worrying about nuclear war again? Trump (say what you will, I’ll wait) did not restart the Cold War. He did not go to war as you said he would with China, Venezuela, or Iran. He even tried to make peace with North Korea. I want more of that, not this.

Please, Dems, if you want anyone back, really retire Hillary. She represents little beyond corruption, with all those “contributions” to the Clinton Foundation—which dried up alongside her political chances, funny thing—and a near-endless appetite for power.

Spare us “but the other party…” Voters understand nobody is perfect, as is no party. Give it all some thought as you’re licking your wounds over the loss of Roe, and the very likely thumping in the midterms. You have two years to find a real candidate and avoid the easy outs of clones like Harris, Beto, or Buttigieg. It’s a hint that someone does not have what it takes if they’re available to run for the White House because they lost locally and were given a patronage job.

In 2016, Democrats asked for change, and instead watched the party drive Bernie out to the marshes. In 2020, we got the sad skeleton of Joe Biden. No more rigged primaries. No more Hillaries and “debates” with some shmuck playing the Washington Generals. Learn the lesson before 2024 if you would like people like me to be part of the party’s future. Otherwise, we’re going to vote Trump.

Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.

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