National Commentary

The High Price of Political Betrayal

nfbentonpicAnd as Peter was beneath the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: and when she was Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also saw with Jesus of Nazareth?” But he denied saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch, and the cock crew.

And a maid saw him again, and began to say to him again, and began to say to them that stood by, “This is one of them.” And he denied it again.

And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, “Surely thou art one of them, for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.” But he began to curse and to swear, saying, “I know not this man of whom ye speak.”

And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him. Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.

Mark 14:66-72.

After the shellacking they were handed this week, Democrats should perhaps be contritely consulting the Good Book for some solace and words of hope.

Lots of factors contributed to the outcome, putting Democrats into their worst disadvantage in Congress since the Truman administration. There was the fact that Republicans deftly ran against the gridlock in Congress that they created. There was the effect of Republican-led changes in voting laws making it more difficult for average voters to cast ballots. There was the Koch brothers’ secret funds and those of other business moguls that was poured into key races. There was the stunning willingness, more cynically than most Democrats, of the GOP to rack up “Pinocchios” (that is, lies) in their TV ads to trash their opponents. And on a darker note, it was the GOP decision to make all their campaigns against President Obama, hoping that residual racist sentiments beneath the surface of so many voters would trump all other considerations.

Still, the gist of it boiled down to voter turnout, and that’s where the Democrats failed in this election.

And, truth be told, it was the Democrats’ staggering display of disregard for the sensibilities of their own political base that contributed most to holding down that turnout.

They did it by months of insulting emails barraging their supporter base, taunting their loyal base because not enough money was being contributed.

Then there was the coup de grace, the blatant willingness of high profile candidates to run away from the president, with the worst but not the only case being the Democratic challenger to Sen. Mitch McConnell, Alison Grimes, in Kentucky.

Going into the final week, she was being held up as an example of how the Democrats were going to overturn the Republican apple cart. But in the course of one week, she astonished her own base by denying no less than five times that she’d voted or had anything to do with President Obama. She lost badly.

Now, without intending to compare Obama to Jesus of Nazareth, nonetheless that candidate betrayed loyalty to her party’s leader more times than Peter (in the Biblical account above).

Yes, it was betrayal, and it should not be dismissed that Dante in his Divine Comedy reserved the lowest level of hell for Judas because of his betrayal.

Something viscerally upsetting results from public displays of this type that reinforces the reluctance many voters had to voting in the first place. How could the Democrats not be aware of this?

This was on top of the relentless bombardment of intimidating emails that at some point last summer I began to send directly to my spam filter.

Don’t get me wrong, I contributed what I could where I thought it could do the most good. I also voted. I am more resilient than others who have less patience with abuse and betrayal.

The vindication in the Biblical passage cited above is that when Peter realized what he’d done, he wept. He repented.

This, and not the usual arrogant self-justification, is what the national Democratic leadership needs to be about now.