The Democrats Need a Goliath
Without a champion and the will to win, Trump’s opponents will not fare well in November, and our democracy will suffer
I binge watched the Ken Burns’ 1996 documentary, The West, this past weekend and came away with such a depression. That depression has not left me. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of the tragedy, travesty, and inhumanity of how Americans, in the name of manifest destiny, so horribly, ruthlessly, and arrogantly displaced and/or murdered Native Americans…it’s that the stark realization that we have among our leaders today men who would just as easily do the same to Hispanics, Asians, Muslims, Gays, Blacks, Liberals, and journalists (like me) if they had the chance.
The Trail of Tears extends to the 21st century
What Jackson did to the Cherokee, what Sheridan did to the people of the plains, what the government writ large did to all the innocents who stood in the way of national “progress” and personal fortune, is exactly what this administration would do if but given half a chance. The Hitlerian, Mussolini-esque posturing and bullying that has become accepted behavior in the eyes of MAGA and other conservative followers is frightening. It is made more so by the accelerating pace of Republicans’ craven fealty and soulless advocacy.
The current administration, abetted and enabled by a fear-riven Senate majority, is preparing cattle cars of hate, suspicion, and superiority to transport the ideals of democratic aspirations to the awaiting camps of brutality and vengeance.
The administration seeks to dismantle and discredit all forms of intellectual honesty, educated skepticism, and inconvenient truths. Those of us who see what is going on through the lens of the past performance of autocrats, dictators, monarchs, and tyrants, are finding ourselves increasingly marginalized, isolated, and irrelevant. Trump has enlisted the poorly educated, the fact deniers, and the intellectually incurious to fuel his engine of evil outcomes. They follow him because he offers them false hope and revenge against their imagined enemy. An enemy Trump has conjured up for the sole purpose of frightening into submission that part of America that considers independent thought a heresy to avoid at all costs.
Getting their act together depends on their willingness to learn from history
To the Democrats seeking to unseat this appropriately unpopular yet bizarrely popular president, I suggest they are playing a losing hand due to their own inability to see a way to victory. It would not hurt any of the Democratic candidates to take a moment and review the story of David and Goliath, not from David’s perspective, but from the Philistines’ prior to his rock-in-the-face demise. Here’s the setup leading to the final confrontation, from Samuel I:17 verses 1–16:
“Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.
Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, ‘Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.’ Then the Philistine said, ‘This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.’ On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.”
The Philistines taunted the Israelites for forty days before young David offered himself as his nation’s hero.
Startling (and frightening) similarities
What is interesting about this passage is not how Goliath’s image of strength frightened them, but how his words “dismayed and terrified” them. Just his words were enough to cast doubt in the Israelites’ minds about their chances against Goliath. As I read and reread the whole story about the confrontation, I was struck by the similarities between Goliath’s bronze helmet, his bronze armor, his bronze greaves and javelin, and how his shield bearer went ahead of him. Go back to that day when Trump descended his golden escalator, down from his golden tower, and challenged all comers to defeat him in the 2016 election. In debate after debate, he made it clear (at least to those of us who were listening) that if he won, he would subjugate his opponents, and bend their worldview toward his will.
And he won. No David emerged, no champion sufficient to the task of defeating the Republican Goliath came forward with a sling and rocks to take him down. His words alone seemed enough to dismay and terrify his opposition, even though he was beatable on the laughable merits of his candidacy. And yet, his words became his armor, and his followers his shield.
A dire prediction
Trump, sad to say, will win again in November. The Democrats do not understand that they must find a Goliath of their own. The time for a David is long gone. They are, for some inexplicable reason, loath to do so. Time after time, crime after crime, insult after insult, blunder after blunder, no matter what Trump does in the process of pulling out the props beneath our democracy, the Democrats cannot muster the strength to call him out and punish him for his malfeasance, calumnies and deceits. The voting population that could deal Trump a death blow is too weary from three years of being whipsawed and lied to. The House impeachment and Senate trial numbed them further. The field of Democratic candidates has, so far, failed to ignite any spark of statistical hope for victory.
I believe there are no fence-sitters or unmade minds. Voters know full well what they want, which political model or philosophy they embrace. The issue is whether their will to participate as change agents — which requires effort, commitment, and acceptance of consequences — is strong enough to shift the political center of gravity and throw Trump off his pedestal. I am not going to bet on that outcome. Trump will win. There simply is not enough tangible, actionable, evidence to support any other conclusion.
And with that win, the door will swing wider on the sick possibilities of an unleashed terror that wants to sweep so many of us into Trump’s dustbins of human ashes. The depth of my despair knows no bottom, nor do my hopes have a place of refuge. The nation is but one step from Trump’s train of cattle cars that will carry us to oblivion. We are not just slouching toward an irreversible state of decline, we are racing toward that departure platform with increasing speed.
If you want evidence of the past as prologue, watch The West.