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The GOP Is Tearing Down What Makes America Great; Democrats Need to Ramp Up To Fight Back

By Joe Rothstein — November 27, 2017

Did you see the movie, Rocky? You know, the first Rocky, the one that launched the franchise. Sure you did. We all did, and likely more than once.

Apollo Creed, the champ, rides into the arena decked out in red white and blue, hamming it up for the crowd while Rocky Balboa, the designated punching bag, sits quietly in his corner, something of an afterthought. The fight starts, Creed dances around the ring, jabbing and jiving. Until Rocky nearly turns his lights out with a vicious punch. The bell saves Apollo. He drags himself to his corner where Apollo’s manager slaps him around and says these immortal words about Rocky:

“He doesn’t know this is a show. He thinks it’s a fight!”

That brings me to today’s Democrats. They need to realize, with every fiber of their political beings, that they’re in a fight.

They’re transfixed watching and reacting to Donald Trump’s show. They’re plotting and dreaming of future elections where they win back control of Congress and state legislatures. Meanwhile, on policy and programs that they care about---that most of us care about---congressional Democrats are getting their lights punched out. Not by one vicious, obvious punch, but in day-to-day actions by Trump’s appointees and Republican congressional leaders who essentially have thrown out longstanding policy and protections in a feeding frenzy to reshape America while they have the chance.

Decades of hard won protections for workers and consumers are being rolled back. The Interior Department is well on its way to allowing drillers and miners to gut public lands. Aside from the Justice Department anti-trust action to halt the AT&T-Time Warner merger, an action with apparent roots in Trump’s disdain for CNN, green lights are flashing for even greater monopoly concentration of the nation’s largest businesses, ominously in broadcast and digital communications. Restraints are being removed from even the most egregious finance industry practices. Environmental protections are being turned upside down to protect the polluters at the expense of the public. The State Department is being downsized into irrelevance.

In Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did what Democrats refrained from doing, and confirmed a Supreme Court justice with just a majority vote. Both Republican led houses are racing to pass a monumental tax cut before year’s end---an artificial deadline only because it permits them to do it without 60 votes in the Senate. Since the Newt Gingrich era of the 1990s, Republicans have ruled that nothing gets done without a majority vote of Republican members. But even Gingrich stopped short of totally excluding Democrats from the legislative process, as McConnell and Ryan are doing.

Nationally, nearly three million more Americans voted for the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. Twice as many, six million, voted for Democratic party candidates for the U.S. Senate. But with Republicans in control, their leadership has decided that those who cast Democratic votes don’t matter. The U.S. has become a one-party state. Winner take all.

This is a fight, not a show. A fight to save the country from incredible, possibly irreversible harm.

Recognizing this, millions of Americans are in the streets as seldom before, marching, raising money, volunteering for political action. But there’s a huge disconnect between what’s happening at the grass roots and the deference Democrats continue to show their Republican counterparts in Congress.

Yes, Democrats are resisting the Republican tax plan. That’s not enough. Where’s their alternative? An alternative that strips corporate and billionaire windfalls, and uses that money for desperately needed job-creating infrastructure programs, education tuition relief and essential research.

It’s not enough to just stop repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The Democrats should be rallying around the highly popular Sanders Medicare-for-all plan and fighting for it each day.

Instead of just opposing give-aways to corporations already making record profits and hiding those profits offshore, the Democrats should have their own plan of carrots and sticks to induce more companies to build in the U.S. and pay dearly for leaving.

Just saying “no” is not a rallying cry. Democrats need to begin throwing haymakers of their own. With enough force to stop the Republican onslaught and give a desperately concerned public something to cheer for.

Which brings me to the topic of the Democratic congressional leadership. Nice people. Accomplished people. Knowledgeable people. But not the best people to put in the ring if you want to win this fight. Not with median ages in the 70s and 80s. Not carrying the scars and broken images from previous fights. Dozens of younger, stronger, more attractive Democrats serve in both houses of Congress. People who relate more readily to those now pouring their energy and dollars into alternative political groups, and tens of millions of others hoping for inspired leadership.

If, at the opening of the 2018 congressional sessions, Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team and Chuck Schumer and his team would announce they were stepping down, it would be an electrifying signal to activists and voters everywhere that there’s a serious and attractive alternative to Trump and his congressional enablers.

With new leadership, serious proposals for real economic and health reform, and a vow to use all their power to block the most egregious of GOP scorched earth policies, Democrats would send a clear signal that kid gloves are off and the show is over.

(Joe Rothstein is a regular columnist for and author of the acclaimed political thriller “The Latina President and the Conspiracy to Destroy Her.” Mr. Rothstein can be contacted at

Joe Rothstein is a political strategist and media producer who worked in more than 200 campaigns for political office and political causes. He also has served as editor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anchorage Daily News and adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He has a master's degree in journalism from UCLA. Mr. Rothstein is the author of award-winning political thrillers, "The Latina President and the Conspiracy to Destroy Her," and "The Salvation Project."