STEERAGE ON THE TITANIC
“Let Hercules himself do what he may. The cat will mew and dog will have his day.” – Hamlet
Well, maybe. Donald Trump owns our elections, and now our unsinkable American Democracy is entirely managed by a casino operator. And like all casinos, the house has the edge – and I’m not talking about that House. Trump and Mitch McConnell have been rewriting the operating rules of democracy for three years now. Once they swallowed up state legislatures, they could rewrite state voting regulations; once they swallowed up the Supreme Court, they could rewrite campaign finance laws; and once they could fund the campaigns of crooked legislators at the state and federal level, they could stop all legislation in Congress. That’s why they can win in 2020, and they probably will.
And because Democrats reliably play the slots in the casino that the GOP now owns, Republicans will always have the edge. Democrats live by the old adage: “You dance with the one that brung ya.”, meaning that they run plays that have been successful in previous wins. Democrats offer up policies that will ease the pain of poverty for their voters; they remind Americans that pluralism is the path to peace; and that playing by the rules yields equality and stifles social unrest.
But the Democrats miss the point of the electoral exercise that we will face in November, 2020: the game has been so rigged that there can be only one winning hand – the house hand – the Republican hand.
Casino marketers lure their gamblers with promises that they’re on some sort of holiday – a crazy-ass vacation where mundane things like morality, sobriety, and prudence are for chumps. “Let it go, have a blast, because you’ll eventually have to go home to that “quiet desperation” you know all too well.” Trump’s rallies are the marketing ploys of a casino operator who has the edge because he has their votes. But casinos depend on two factors to make money: the players who don’t understand the odds, and the “whales” they entice to play. These “elites” get flown in for free, free luxury suites, free food and drink, stunning escorts, and a seat at the VIP tables. Mark Bowden of The Atlantic asks, “For what doth it profit a man to gain a $20,000 ride on a private jet if he drops $200,000 playing poker? The right “elite player” can lose enough in a weekend to balance a casino’s books for a month”.
So, there are gamblers, and then there are gamblers. And lest we forget, our Casino Operator in Chief, Donald Trump, declared bankruptcy when his casinos failed – but he knew how to beat that game “like a drum”, he stuck it to the whales who lent him all the money, while he went home with a winning hand – the house hand.
But before Trump’s leveraged buyout of the Republican Party, the GOP owned the casino, and they had the edge. They gorged on tax cuts for the rich so their buddies could fund their campaigns; on chest-beating wars costing trillions to maintain their investments in oil; and on an entirely unregulated Wall Street in which to park their earnings.
The Democrats have their voters, but they always play the slots, and some of their voters even count cards. And they have their whales, too. For Mike Bloomberg it’s nothing but chump-change to finance his campaign, and for Tom Steyer it’s all about the virtue of doing good after having done very very well. But they’re all playing in Donald Trump’s casino – a casino managed by Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party. And those guys always have the edge. Why else would all but one Senator go home with Donald Trump instead of going home with the one that brung ‘em? Mitt Romney plays the long game. His contempt for the 47% is nothing but Mitch and the Boys running over grandmothers stranded in the intersection as the light turns red.
Democracy isn’t a game of chance; it’s a game of persuasion. We can clutch our pearls and cry until the cows come home, and our candidates can pretend to be one superhero or the other on the hustings.
We can argue that it’s time for a woman; that it’s time for socialism; that it’s time for the rise of the LGBT; that it’s time for a living wage; that it’s time for infrastructure and jobs for the middle class – and, with Biden, we can argue that we’ll all dance with the one that brung us.
But Donald Trump can win this game in November if we don’t change how we play the game. With us, it’s all about decency and honor. With Trump and McConnell, it’s all about the math, and they know that game cold. They know they can win because they’re making up the rules, and we’re blindly playing by them.
This is the iceberg that we are about to strike, the iceberg that will sink our unsinkable ship of American Democracy and toss us all into the icy seas of no rules at all.
image: wikimedia commons/Ethan_Cohen
Deborah Long is a Principal at Development Management Group, Inc. and founder of several non-profit charitable organizations. If you find her perspectives interesting, provocative, or controversial, follow her at: https://www.facebook.com/debby.long.98499?ref=br_rs