As most of us know, “keep calm and carry on” was what the British government told its people to do as World War II began, when the Nazis seized most of Europe and English cities were being bombed nightly.
They did just that, the war was eventually won, and the slogan became a revered part of English culture.
Our present situation as Democrats is hardly as dire as that of the Brits in 1940, though some of the hyperbole floating around would put us not far from that. In any event, “keep calm and carry on” is exactly what we need to do right now.
There are two distinct parts to it. They must be done independently and yet together. I’ll treat each part separately.
The Keep Calm Part
We’re getting over-excited. Yes, Democrats and democracy itself are in trouble, in ways I won’t relate here because you can read all that from anyone with a keyboard, but we can’t just run around saying the sky is falling. It’s a waste of time, and the surest way to make the sky really fall.
The word is, keep calm, have perspective. Realize this is not the first time an American political party has been down.
Democrats were way down after Vietnam, and after the disastrous 1994 midterms, when the GOP gained 8 seats in the Senate and 54 in the House. We came back.
Republicans were way down after the Depression and after Watergate. They came back.
If we’re going to look at the Presidency, we are hearing ad nauseam that “the President’s party almost always loses ground in the midterms.”
So what? So that’s how it is, OK, so Biden’s not to blame, it always happens. Look further and you see that midterm losses don’t usually affect the President’s fate two years later.
Of the 14 Presidents since 1933, nine were elected to additional terms after serving in the office. Only four – Ford, Carter, Bush 41 and Trump – were denied re-election. (JFK never got the chance.)
Let’s also remember that Clinton and Obama both had rough first years and both were nevertheless re-elected.
But come on, it’s almost three years off and we have no idea who the contenders will be. Besides, this is about much more than the Presidency, so let’s keep calm, let’s drop the whole Presidential turmoil and get on to Congress, which brings us to:
The Carry On Part
Here’s where some drama is justified, because here’s where we need to work harder than usual, but our excitation has to work with our execution, not get in the way.
To start, we have to choose our targets. For East End Democrats, the first priority is the CD1 congressional race. It’s a prime opportunity to flip a Republican seat – purple district, incumbent maybe not running, and vulnerable if he does.
This incumbent, Lee Zeldin, says he’s running for Governor, but we won’t know for sure until March if he’s doing that or seeking re-election to Congress.
Meanwhile, we’re wasting our fire on Zeldin. If he runs for Governor, he’ll lose, or win and be hamstrung by a Democratic Legislature. If he goes for the House again, there’ll still be time in March to start slamming him.
To cover the bases, we should be looking at what other Republicans are sniffing around the CD1 contest.
The point is, NY State offices don’t count this year. If we believe democracy is under serious threat, then the action is all in Congress.
Senator Schumer is up this year – call that a lock. Otherwise it’s all about CD1 and any other New York House races where the State Committee believes we can make a difference. Same for out-of-state House and Senate races the DCCC marks as winnable with help.
That’s where we have to carry on.
We need to toot the horn, talk up Dem accomplishments, and pull votes from the center and right of center as well as energizing our base. Again, I won’t elaborate because it’s all over the media how we must do this.
Some say we’re going to lose both Houses. Maybe they’re right, maybe not, but even if they’re right, we still have to fight hard for every winnable seat.
Why? Because even if the other side wins the majority, we have to keep it tight, keep them down to the slimmest possible majority.
We Democrats know to our dismay how hard it is to accomplish anything with a slim majority. That works both ways, and even if a GOP majority does manage to get some things done, remember, what they do, we can undo in another Congress.
Keep calm doesn’t mean relax, and carry on doesn’t mean business as usual. They mean have a sense of proportion and work tirelessly.
That’s our mission.