Encouraging Converts? Or Hunting Heretics?

The headline on this post came from Guardian interview with the Democratic consultant Paul Begala–an interview that was chock-full of similarly true, pithy statements. Even the title of the piece–“Nothing Unites the People of Earth like a Threat from Mars”–encapsulates a truism about human nature in the face of a common enemy.

When Begala summed up the points he’d made during the interview, he drew a comparison between political parties and churches:

“There’s two kind of churches. Those that seek out converts and those that hunt down heretics and right now Joe Biden’s leading a party that’s seeking out converts. Even George Conway and Bill Kristol are on the same side I’m on. I love it.

“But meanwhile, Trump is leading a hunt for heretics.

(Since a heretic, for Trump, is anyone who is “disloyal” to him personally, that really widens the field…)

The observation reminded me of an old political truism: politics is the art of addition.

Begala drew on his years as a political consultant to underline the importance of focusing on what an election means for voters. Joe Biden is campaigning in an environment where the coronavirus pandemic, racial justice protests, and online disinformation are met with Trump’s countless falsehoods.

In that environment, voters want to know what the candidates intend to do for them. Begala pointed out that Trump’s “gift” or “talent” is “spectacle, it is just show, it is just a Twitter war with Rosie O’Donnell like when he was a TV star but now it’s a Twitter war with Colin Kaepernick or Nancy Pelosi.” When voting for president has literally become a life-and-death matter, spectacle and effort to reignite divisive social issues are unlikely to be enough.

Begala describes himself as a “middle of the road” Democrat, but he took pains to compliment the activists on the party’s left flank

An old political saw holds that Democrats fall in love while Republicans fall in line. Some have blamed Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 on bitter infighting between moderates and progressives who voted for Bernie Sanders. There were fears of a repeat in 2020 but Biden won the primary with room to spare and now the party appears remarkably united behind him.

He is consolidating the base and that’s for two reasons,” Begala says. “He’s doing his job but you know what? The left is doing theirs. I come from the Clinton wing, I’m a more moderate guy, but I got to tell you, the left of my party has been terrific in rallying to Joe and people like me need to note that and salute that.

As he says, nothing unites the people of Earth like a threat from Mars.

When he was reminded of the Trump campaign’s efforts to portray Biden as an old man losing his mental and physical fitness, Begala pointed out that Biden “Isn’t the guy telling people to drink bleach.”

The interview was upbeat– until it came to the discussion of correcting the monumental amount of damage that Trump has done, especially to our international stature.

Begala acknowledged what we all know: once the election is over–once the Martians have been defeated–Democrats’ current intra-party unity will disappear. Factions will argue for dramatically different approaches and policies. Government agencies that have been stripped of knowledgable, effective personnel will have to be reconstituted. Allies will have to be convinced that America has learned its lesson and will not elevate someone like Trump in the future.

And what about that future? What has divided the country and distorted our political system and gotten us to this point? Begala didn’t really answer that question, although it is hard to disagree with his observation that it is pretty one-sided.

I do think it’s asymmetrical. The crisis in America is not both sides. It is one side that’s gone insane and seems to be consuming itself with hatred. My party has its problems, believe me, but it is not both sides. This negative partisanship from the right: they will do anything to ‘own the libs’.”

Historians will perhaps invoke Caligula, King George III and assorted authoritarians of the 20th century. But they will surely also dwell on how the Republican party both produced Trump and succumbed to his will, and ponder what it says about human nature.

I know one group that is “pondering” that question right now: Those of us who were Republicans back when the GOP still welcomed converts and didn’t see everyone who refused to drink the Kool-Aid as a heretic to be expelled.


  1. Once the election is over and Biden is president that, “Democrat’s inner-party unity” will last only as long as real leadership does.
    Biden must be pro-active, not re-active. He will need a detailed plan for re-building the government, and he will need to educate the people about the plan in such a way as to gain their help in putting it into place. In other words, he will have to unite the country. Should he not be able to do these two things from the get-go, the squabbling and inner-fighting that Democrats are so well known for will return in full force.

  2. Copied and pasted from Wikipedia; Idi Amin Dada Oumee, President of Uganda 1971 – 1979, an 8 year reign, “Amin’s rule was characterised by rampant human rights abuses, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement. International observers and human rights groups estimate that between 100,000[11] and 500,000 people were killed under his regime.”

    Through the current Covid-19 Pandemic, Trump is racking up Amin’s regime death count in this nation in less than 4 years; he has already fully accomplished Amin’s destructive measures. The “squabbling and inner-fighting that Democrats are so well known for” doesn’t have to return in full force; it has never ended or abated. It is commented on here day after day; newscasters appear to be trying to avoid support of Joe Biden by concentrating on Trump’s lies and rapidly failing mental stability as they concentrate on posting videos of the violence, rioting and looting once it takes over peaceful protests by reporting as an afterthought, “there were peaceful protesters”. Both lack of support for Biden and the peaceful protesters is opposition by omission while inadvertently supporting Trump by inundating the news with his face, his Tweets, his lies and his total lack of humanity regarding the loss of human lives at 1,000 daily recently. Stating that “Biden isn’t the guy telling people to drink bleach.” is no more supportive of Trump’s opposition than Trump’s response in more than one interview that “this country kills people too”. It is Trump getting unending publicity as a presidential candidate.

    There is no one perfect solution to resolving the level of destruction by Trump; there is no one perfect Democratic presidential candidate to hand this job to. If you are looking for perfection, stop wasting your time and ours; the Martians have landed and must be removed by the best option we have at this time and that “squabbling and in-fighting” through petty comments and observations isn’t working to unite the Democratic party or its supporters. Some are appearing as heretics who need to be converted.

  3. Well, I do find it fascinating that the right wing GOP and other leanings er lemmings, is/are not even close to their claim of being the party of God, it’s not even in God’s vicinity.

    You read Scripture, it’s evident that Jesus Christ would have been a socialist in any other environment. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, this would be taking care of the infirmed. Not against those who are wealthy, but those who are wealthy have a problem with sharing their wealth and using it to promote the well-being of all.

    Luke 18:25 reads; ” It is easier, in fact, for a camel to get through the eye of a sewing needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”

    Read the entire incident below>>>>>>>

    Matthew 19:16-24 reads; “16 Now look! someone came up to him and said: “Teacher, what good must I do to gain everlasting life?” 17 He said to him: “Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If, though, you want to enter into life, observe the commandments continually.” 18 He said to him: “Which ones?” Jesus said: “You must not murder, you must not commit adultery, you must not steal,+ you must not bear false witness, 19 honor your father and your mother, and you must love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him: “I have kept all of these; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come be my follower.” 22 When the young man heard this, he went away grieved, for he had many possessions. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I say to you that it will be difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of the heavens. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”

    Does this sound like something the GOP would follow? Or does this sound like something that AOC would follow?

    The party of God (GOP) refuses to help the poor, refuses to take care of the orphans and the widows, refuses to help the mentally ill, refuses to treat the foreign resident with respect, refuses to love their neighbor, refuses to love their enemy, refuses to love their God, refuses to use their wealth to help the lesser ones, embraces the cult of hypocrisy, worships at the altar of gold, (idolatry) supports banning contraception, and they do that on the basis of false scriptural reasoning. They roil against abortion but promote the murder of millions in war, the deaths of hundreds of thousands by gun violence, the propensity to throw away human life for a profit!

    This is not the party of God, this is the party of evil, the party of anti-humanity!

    The antithesis of the self-proclaimed party of God, is Jesus Christ! And the party that most closely represents Christ values, are those in the socialist movement in the United States.

  4. I hate to be the one to remind everyone, but even if the Democrats push through the most progressive agenda since FDR, there will be a lawsuit over every single bill that gets passed. With 200 newly minted right wing nut jobs on the Federal bench, we can look forward to much of it being overturned. (This is all the reason we need to pray for RBG)

    Governing is not neat and tidy and it takes a long time to see anything brought to fruition. The key thing to remember is that we take what we can get and continue to work toward what we want. If we get angry and decide to take our ball and go home, we will be leaving the door open for the next mad man to undo years of work.

  5. The take away from Paul Begala making the rounds on news programs lately is the reminder that Rs “fall in line”! And, rest assured, they will do so by November. Even CNN is reporting that Trump’s polling is stabilizing and may even be improving is some states. I know he is not in any kind of “ideal” polling situation at the moment but he is not going to slide into oblivion – he must be voted out. The left has been distracted as of late about a number of things that will occur AFTER November 3rd, like “what if Trump doesn’t accept the results of the election, etc. I want to punch people in the head when I hear this… nothing but getting the most votes matters at this point. Nothing. As it is in sports, it is in politics: winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing!

  6. What democrats need to remember is that Biden’s win is not a fait accompli. Hillary was polling ahead of Trump at this point in 2016 almost exactly as much as Biden is ahead now.

    Food for thought.

  7. Peggy writes, “Governing is not neat and tidy and it takes a long time to see anything brought to fruition.”

    That’s not true. While both parties haggle over aid to workers during a global pandemic, they both came together, along with the POTUS, to ensure Big Pharma got billions, Wall Street got funding, and lobbyists got funding. Once again, they stopped “haggling” to ensure the MIC got plenty of funding for jets and ships.

    Both of our Oligarchy-controlled political institutions sign off on policies for the oligarchs and their military-surveillance-spy agencies. As Trump has shown due to his lack of eloquence, we are more like a Fascist country. Once you remove Obama’s eloquent speech-making, he was probably more militant than Trump. His Nobel prize for peace was nothing less than farcical. In fact, his fascist proposals aligned with GWB’s.

    However, when it comes to workers in the USA, both parties begin to haggle. They are gulfs apart and it gets wider every year.

    Once again, anybody looking at the policies and economic relief packages passed during a global pandemic can plainly see the difference between the owners and the working class.

  8. Jon,

    This paragraph of yours today encapsulates everything we’ve all been saying and writing here on this blog. I plan to use it my “Vern’s Readers” blog on Facebook.

    “The party of God (GOP) refuses to help the poor, refuses to take care of the orphans and the widows, refuses to help the mentally ill, refuses to treat the foreign resident with respect, refuses to love their neighbor, refuses to love their enemy, refuses to love their God, refuses to use their wealth to help the lesser ones, embraces the cult of hypocrisy, worships at the altar of gold, (idolatry) supports banning contraception, and they do that on the basis of false scriptural reasoning. They roil against abortion but promote the murder of millions in war, the deaths of hundreds of thousands by gun violence, the propensity to throw away human life for a profit!”


  9. Biden’s ability to bring real change means he will have to engage the rest of the country beyond DC, especially the younger generations.

    His VP signals suggest he doesn’t understand this. Rice and Harris are old, Beltway elites with the baggage that comes with it.

    John Lewis’ life, the Florida young people for gun safety, Greta Thunberg, etc. inspire our future and such inspiration can bring out minority and young voters. Who represents that age and commitment to change, Stacey Abrams. Yet, she has fallen off the page. SHAME. Ironic – dedication to the right to vote, too.

  10. It’s common knowledge that “nobody is perfect” but “nothing is perfect” is less frequently acknowledged. One of the reasons for that is that ignoring it makes nearly perfect glue to hold cults together and cults are such loyal entertainment media audiences. Performers worship the cults that worship them.

    When right wing entertainment media starting churning out authoritarian cultists they became the heart and soul of the GOP. Extremism, the antithesis of “nothing is perfect” became the defining concept of Republican politics and it worked. It even made Donald Trump perfect. Unfortunately, as was easily predicted, the winning formula elicited a similar response by the left wing and the political perfect storm was born.

    Democrats have the opportunity, even if the will is still in question, to disengage from entertainment based politics and return to enlightenment based politics and begin the journey down the exit ramp from dys back to functional. Biden isn’t a bad drum major to lead that parade and like his mentor Barack he is pretty adept at the art of addition as long as the foot soldiers like us turn our backs to entertainment cult extremism and join him in celebrating human knowledge based solutions. Frankly I’m less worried about Joe doing what’s required than us breaking our propaganda and “my way is perfect” addiction.

    Extremism is fun and requires no thought at all and enlightenment is a tough row to hoe. Our founders gave us plenty of examples of both the good that can come from thoughtful politics and also some of the bad consequences of going along to get along to make progress.

    There’s still world news available if we get back to the joy of knowing instead of the rewards of being told that what we want to hear is true and it’s up to us to hit the right remote button at the right time.

    BTW, I hadn’t heard “Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line before” but it’s a very pithy reminder of what’s really at stake here. Honoring freedom requires falling in love with we the people and we need to be reminded of that frequently to avoid the pitfall of falling in line.

  11. Assuming that the present danger is eliminated, we need some very practical, nuts and bolts, thinking about how checks and balances operate in the real world. Madison was wrong about too many things, and completely naive about political parties, unless he was just being coy for the sake of expeditious politics at that moment. A permanent independent special counsel, inspectors general at GAO, all with subpoena power enforced by law using U.S. Marshals would be a good start. Meanwhile, we need a new set of anti-corruption laws and a a constitutional amendment repealing Citizens United or we’ll be back at square one as soon as Charles Koch writes another check. All other policies depend on those reforms.

  12. Actually, Dirk, Biden has a much more substantial and consistent polling lead than Hillary Clinton ever had. This is especially true when you look at the swing states. HC was trailing in several swing states in throughout 2016. Biden is ahead in every one of the swing states and is running pretty much even with Trump in states that are not considered swing states, states Trump was supposed such as Iowa, Georgia, Texas and Ohio. Biden does not even need those states. If Biden wins Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, it’s all over. And if Biden loses one of those states, he can substitute a state like Arizona, North Carolina, or Florida. When it comes to Trump, there just aren’t any states in 2016 that he lost that he could win in 2020.

    Also, in 2016, the double haters (people who dislike both candidates) broke for Trump. So too did undecided voters. But in 2020, polls show the double haters heavily support Biden. Also, in elections featuring an incumbent, undecided voters (which there aren’t many of this time around), usually break for the challenger by margins of around 2-1. So Trump is in much, much worse shape in 2020 than he ever was in 2016.

    Having said that I would be very fearful of Trump cheating in every way he possibly can, even if it means breaking every law he can think of. I also am very dismissive of those is that we need to just sit back and accept that the election won’t be over until weeks if not months after Election Day. Trump is going to exploit the hell out of the delay in counting votes. For that reason, I am very unhappy with the lawsuit in Indiana which wants a court to declare that it is okay for absentee votes to come in AFTER the election day deadline.

    Also, one thing I wish I could get my friends to understand is that, when it comes to mail-in votes, they need to focus more on the COUNTING of votes instead of the CASTING of votes. The matching of signatures on ballot envelopes v. what voter registration has on file, is an enormous opportunity for workers to throw out scores of mail-in votes, even if all other requirements are met.

    Ever work on a petition drive to get an independent or maverick party candidate on the ballot in Marion County? The two local parties work together to disqualify those candidates and the way they do it is by claiming signatures on petitions don’t match those in the voter file. If you try to litigate the decision to bar the candidate for supposedly not having enough valid signatures, they just run out the clock until it’s too late for the candidate to get on the ballot. Unfortunately, the media won’t cover this game that the local parties. But now imagine that “the signatures don’t match” game being played all throughout the country.

  13. Joe Adams,

    I totally agree. So many of our checks are based on the assumption that the person in the White House will be constrained by norms and traditions. Big mistake. You’re also correct that the Founders did not anticipate the effect of partisanship on things such as Congress exercising its power to check the Executive. If Trump can’t get a controversial nominee confirmed by the Senate, he just puts them in an “acting” capacity. And the Senate doesn’t push back from that practice.

  14. Paul Ogden–Although I agree with almost everything you’ve said, today’s vote-by-mail procedures are much more sophisticated than the comparison of signatures. The states that vote entirely by mail use bar codes and other tracking mechanisms, and do NOT depend upon humans comparing signatures. Check the safety mechanisms used in Oregon, Washington State and Colorado, all of which have increased turnout and not increased counting or verification problems.

  15. Peggy, resorting to “This is all the reason we need to pray for RBG” is the same copout as “taking your ball and going home”. Praying is abstaining from action. Praying is supporting the opposition through your inaction.

    So, this is all the reason we need to ______________ (fill in the blank with an action we can take, other than praying).

  16. Todd, why spend political or policy assets to gain workers votes? There are NO workers, and there will never be workers again, not in any political sence of the word. Workers as a voting block have been phased out/eliminated/disappeared.

    I recommend converting that out-of-date ploy for votes to “going after the jobless vote”. And the “under-employed vote”. Now, there’s a voting block worth a ton of political capital!

    And go after the small business vote. That block is growing, not because business is thriving but because zillions of those jobless folks are trying desparately to rescue themselves by starting a business…with eyes and ears wide open for sympathetic and understanding leadership.

    So much of political success depends on wording. Wording that means something to the voter, not wording that simply feels good to utter.

    The production revolution that we are in up to our ITs is well on its way to being able to achieve sufficient GNP without Labor. Is our political system creative enough to devise a new way, other than labor, to make the masses useful and self-sustaining? I doubt it; not unless we voters learn to value creativity in our leadership more than financial success.

  17. “Todd, why spend political or policy assets to gain workers votes? There are NO workers, and there will never be workers again, not in any political sense of the word. Workers as a voting block have been phased out/eliminated/disappeared. I recommend converting that out-of-date ploy for votes to “going after the jobless vote”.- -Larry Kaiser

    Oh….my…..God. You really think that “messaging? makes a difference? Do you need reminding that a mere 4 years ago Trump used the “average American worker who has been left behind (ala FDR)” worked to perfection???

    I almost hate to say this, because it should be as obvious as the blue sky, but “unemployed workers” and the working class are one in the same! Do you REALLY think blue collar workers can’t see that???

    Do you think those unemployed think their status in life, their position in the economy, is a dead and “phased out” “political” working block in America??? My God, talk about a slap in the face. As one who grew up blue collar, got a professional degree and STILL made blue collar wages, that is not only an insult (and I dare say a statement that can only come from a position of elitism/privilege)……it is, imho, the VERY CORE REASON Hillary lost and Trump won.

    I am STILL waiting for someone to tell me how The Democrat Party protected the working class and, specifically, unions in the last 40 years!!!???


    When you find the answer, I believe you will have discovered the ROOT CAUSE of the disenfranchisement of the working class and those who don’t even bother to vote (a huge percentage each cycle) because they have given up on both parties who have left them behind economically and socially.

    WAKE UP!!!

  18. Madison is not to be put down for anything relating to political parties because there were no political parties when he plumed the Constitution and Washington was opposed to political parties because, as he rightly noted, voters would become more devoted to party than to country. Washington was correct, one step removed these days (See the Republican Party, the cover for the ruling rich and corporate class, the current lords in our lords and serfs society).

    I am not as pessimistic as one of our contributors today that all of Biden’s initiatives will be derailed via lawsuits heard before Mitch’s contributions to the judiciarcy. There are many sitting judges who Mitch did not enrobe, and those Federalist type judges he robed may get tired of being reversed by Courts of Appeal where stare decisis as well as ideology is the order of the day. I also think that Biden’s recommendations for legislation to flesh out his initiatives will be carefully examined for reversible shortcomings by counsel before offered to the Congress for debate and amendment. Yes, there will be litigation, as with FDR and his New Deal but, like FDR, Biden will in the main eventually succeed with his initiatives, and even if he doesn’t, the country’s direction could not be any worse off than it is now with this third grader at the helm who was mistakenly elevated to become principal of his school.

  19. Bradford,
    You need to lose. “Wake up” thing!
    That phrase kind of tells me that you are an interloper trying to sew a little discord!

    You know what the problem was with unions? Corruption! Many of those unions corrupted themselves right out of the political scene. And, they would not represent the entire Union membership in its entirety, In other words, their balloting very rarely reflected the will of all of the members.

    I was a member of the union for 35 years! (IBEW/international operating engineers) I represented our locals (15/150) on the lake county labor council. The shenanigans that went on in that labor council were astounding, the money which was from Union dues, and thrown around was equally astounding! Most of it not benefiting any of the union members. So don’t blame the destruction of the Unions infrastructure on Democrats, because corruption destroyed them!

  20. Vernon Turner,
    Why thank you! And I would just like to say, Mr. DeMille er Turner, I’m ready for my close-up! LOL!

  21. Larry,

    Praying for RBG is the only thing left to us at this time. We can’t intervene in any way to keep her healthy. She’s already ill. If she should get to the point where she couldn’t function before January 3rd, if there is a Democratic takeover of the Senate or January 20th if they don’t, we will lose another seat on the Supreme Court. If you can think of any legal action I can take, I’ll gladly do that. Just let me know. IMHO we should all be praying for her, even the atheists.

Comments are closed.