CSotD: Feet of Clay

Bill Bramhall opens the day with a nightmare depiction of a woke Democrat, which brings to mind the oft-repeated quote of poor Henry Clay, “I would rather be right than be president.”

Be careful what you wish for.

I say “poor Henry Clay” because he was a great man in an era when we needed great men, and he accomplished some great things, but somehow continually lived up to that idea of being on the right side rather than the popular side, it being a time when the two were rarely congruent.

There was, as he said, a point beyond which he would not go, but he accomplished a lot without crossing that line.

His nickname, “The Great Compromiser,” probably tells the story, because, while things he engineered, like the Missouri Compromise, managed to save the Union for a time, we seem, today, to prefer purity over pragmatism.

Abraham Lincoln considered Clay a role model, but we’ve seen proposals to take Lincoln’s name off schools because he failed to measure up on every scale.

If Lincoln is not to be praised, certainly Clay should not be.

You can also attract flak today by citing Obama’s catchphrase about the perfect being the enemy of the good, because it’s not sufficiently “woke.”

“Woke,” BTW, is a grammatical usage that seems to smack of cultural appropriation, but Crooks and Liars has taken a moment to complain about old white people discussing the issue of purity over effectiveness, so what do I know?

Being both old and white myself, I dasn’t repeat what old, white James Carville said about liberal eggheads alienating real-world voters:

Where Carville goes astray is assuming that the goal is to win elections rather than to win arguments.


Dave Whamond nails the futility factor, in a world in which all sorts of woke people would rather be right than be in power.


I might have paired Whamond’s cartoon with this Pat Byrnes (Cagel) panel as a Juxtaposition, except that everything in today’s posting is a Juxtaposition.

It’s not so much that the elephants want to sink the boat as it is that they are unwilling to give the donkeys a victory, even one that saves everybody’s lives. However, it’s very much the point that the donkeys would rather squabble and stipulate and argue than act.

And, as Whamond points out, all their well-reasoned arguments are so much hot air in the midst of an emergency, where simple-minded jargon — repeated enough times with sufficient passion — becomes received wisdom.


As for being old enough to remember what worked in the Civil Rights Movement or the Antiwar Movement or even the Clinton and Obama campaigns, Dana Summers (Tribune) bases his criticism on a regrettable but important fact:

People don’t even remember the past four years.


How low can Biden’s approval ratings go? He hasn’t quite caught up with Trump, though he’s admittedly pretty close at the moment.

It doesn’t matter.

Simply point out that he, like every other president in living memory, is getting more criticism than praise and it’s as if you were making a fresh, unique, consequential point.

It reminds me of that old apocryphal story about the woman who told Adlai Stevenson he had the votes of every thinking American, to which he responded that it was not enough, that he needed a majority.

Along which lines, here’s a

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Robert Airial – AMS)


(Stuart Carlson – AMS)

Airial points out that, through a series of compromises that would have made Henry Clay proud, Biden managed to get a substantial portion of his Infrastructure Bill passed, which is a significant though imperfect victory.

Carlson, however, notes that those of us with at least the memories of cocker spaniels will recall how the conservatives leapt upon Nancy Pelosi when the Affordable Care Act was on the table. She conceded that it was a thick and complex bill, but said that, once it was passed and in effect, people would experience its benefits for themselves and would like it.

Which should have happened but didn’t, because, despite all that it gave people, they were inundated with repeated, unfounded, apocryphal declarations that it was a failure.

And so, while many people recognized the benefits, it remains controversial.

Again, it’s not about facts. It’s not about being right.

It’s about messaging.


And so Jen Sorensen manages to be right and wrong at the same time.

That is, she’s right to oppose voter suppression and the astonishingly overt racism coming out of the opposition camp.

But there is wisdom in “giving the people what they want,” and, while we shouldn’t give them the evil, fascist things a vocal minority want, it’s important to get on message with what you are actually offering the decent people who are not activists but are, at least potentially, voters.

Which doesn’t mean winning debates among college sophomores in the dorm at 2 a.m.

It means winning elections.

It means keeping your eyes on the prize.

Sometimes that means agreeing to compromise, as with the Infrastructure Bill, and accepting that the goal is not to get to Utopia but simply to get to tomorrow.

And it means, as Carville said, to talk the way voters talk, to address them effectively, in their language.

Pretend you’re selling them toothpaste: Don’t analyze the fluoride. Show them the smile.

Be right, but be right in a way that gives you a fighting chance of also being president.


2 thoughts on “CSotD: Feet of Clay

  1. So Carville is wrong for thinking the goal is to win elections, while Sorenson is wrong for thinking the goal is not to win elections?

  2. I think you’re missing the sarcasm in Jen’s piece. Calling the discussion “Bullshit” was the first clue, but I’m pretty sure she’s not advocating that the Democrats promote fascism.

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