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Frank DeFilippo: Letting Go

U.S. House Democrats and advocates are pressing the evenly divided Senate to expand immigration protections in the Build Back Better Act. Photo by jzajic/

Politicians and athletes have a tough time letting go of yesterday.

Nancy Pelosi had to give up power in order to retain it. Joe Flacco appeared befuddled over being benched but said number two is better than through. Britain’s Theresa May had to forgo reelection in order to hang on. Colin Kaepernick’s a Moneyball pariah but still longing for a gig just like many Sundays ago. Emmanuel Macron rescinded his fuel tax rather than surrender the presidency of France. And President Trump – well, if he knows any prayers he’d better start.

Pelosi, the once-and-future House speaker, was considered by some a goner just a few weeks ago, power-hungry and on an ego trip for refusing to let go of the job she once held. But Pelosi, a skilled broker, knew she had to give something to get something from the young rebels who wanted her out.

So Pelosi, at 78, agreed to surrender House leadership four years from now to clear the way for the next generation of Democratic members. But it was her performance in the Oval Office that really sealed the deal when she dressed down Trump and forced him to accept the blame if government shuts down because of his fixation with walling off Mexico. She’s now America’s stern grandmotherly scold and a hero to the Democrats’ left that only recently scorned her.

But Maryland home-boy, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D), soon to be the House’s second in-command, is said to be very unhappy with Pelosi’s bargaining for the party’s sclerotic leaders to exit in four years. He was included in the deal Pelosi struck that will eject them both from leadership roles if they’re still around in 2022. Pelosi, in effect, put others on the chopping block to save her own neck.

Flacco, the Ravens’ quarterback with the rocket-launcher arm and the slow set of wheels, has been the team’s starter for 11 years. He’s as good as the pocket around him, but when his protection collapses, he’s as immovable as marble and goes down with the crowd.

So now Flacco’s been benched in favor of Lamar Jackson, his replacement for a month while his injured hip healed. Jackson has changed the Ravens’ game. He has impressive scrambling abilities, a playmaker, if you will, and a heave-ho arm – except when he misses his intended target and fails to see the blitz coming, both tyro mistakes overcome by experience.

Jackson is a work in progress. He is the Ravens’ future while Flacco is its past. But Flacco will take the bench and hope his turn will come again when his arm is called to the rescue.

Britain’s May is a Brexit wreck. She survived a no confidence vote and a bitter defeat by agreeing not to seek reelection. Brexit, for the uninitiated, is a tortured contraction that simply means – Britain to exit the European Union. If ever!

Early on, a bare majority of British voters agreed to withdraw from the European Union and go it alone with their own currency and destiny. It was, to put a proper British spin on the issue, a gentle embrace, led by a few hot-eyes, of the chest-thumping nationalism that’s blowing around the world, including here at home in Trump world.


Frank A. DeFilippo

Withdrawal from the EU carries with it heavy penalties, financial and otherwise, including dealing with bordering Ireland as well as the EU’s many ports of call, and many Britons have realized their misdirected fervor and would like a do-over on the vote. May said no. Her Tory colleagues were prepared to effectively eject her from office until she agreed to call it quits at the end of her term or, under British parliamentary rules, sooner, at the will of the party.

Kaepernick, a slightly better than average quarterback at best, refuses to hang up his cleats even though he’s been banished from the game of football for taking a knee. Kaepernick claims he was protesting police brutality against blacks. A bunch of players across the League, and even some owners, bent down with him until owners and the League began to feel the financial pinch at the gate and from advertisers. The game goes on, Kaepernick’s a teamless player but the money’s coming in through a deal with Nike. But Kaepernick longs for a yesterday full of Sunday afternoons and the roar of the crowd, kneeling or standing tall, either will do for the love of the game.

“Yellow vest” protesters trashed Paris’ Champs-Elysées and defaced the Arc de Triumph over disenchantment with just about everything but mainly a carbon tax on gasoline and other fossil fuels. They demanded that Macron resign. He resisted. They rioted again. Macron relented and withdrew the tax. The protesters promised to riot again anyway, claiming Macron’s policies favor the rich. In France, any excuse for a riot will do.

And so it is with rambunctious younger generations yipping at the heels of the old, or those in power of any age. The threat is not so much a question of who can do it better as it is to get out of the way and make room for those in line. Maybe it’s because life expectancy has increased and chemicals keep us kicking beyond our calendar years.

The problem is especially acute within the Democratic Party. The party must decide, once again, as it has many times in the past, where it is headed and what it wants to become. The new wave of party activists who would push aside their elders may have good intentions but no sense of history.

“Progressive” is the vanguard word of the day. Whatever the word signifies, the hallmark of its authenticity in political parlance means universal health care, in some form, and a higher minimum wage. We’ve been there before. Teddy Roosevelt proposed universal health care more than 100 years ago. Harry Truman wanted it. Even Richard M. Nixon considered it. So it’s really nothing new, just something overdue.

The convergence of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements in the 1960s were two great revolutionary drives that were intended to change the way we live and think in America. And the McGovern reforms of the 1970s were designed to open Democrats’ political processes and enlighten their choices. The 1972 McGovern Democratic National Convention was supposed to be the most egalitarian ever, yet 49 percent of the delegates had Ph.Ds. and the rules favored McGovern. He wrote them, and he and his people were the only ones who understood them.

And now we have Trump. Trump and truth rarely see eye to eye. Trump looks only forward, never backward, because hindsight would call him a liar. Trump brought with him to the White House the corporate sleaze of the board room and the cement-shoe ethics of Tony Soprano. Trump will leave office not with regrets, but with either a boot in the rear from the voters or in handcuffs from the special counsel.

Only one person hereabouts has no past or present in politics to sulk about, only a future with possible frets ahead. She gave up nothing to get what she got.

The new Maryland Democratic Party chair, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, told The Sun that the party suffers from a structural problem, i.e., it’s not broad or inclusive enough. And, if readers dig deep into her interview, Democrats come off as a fairly dumb bunch.

In dispatching the incumbent chair, Kathleen Matthews, Rockeymoore Cummings has raised the pregnant question: How far will the Democrats’ big tent stretch before it rips apart?

The Democratic Party is fraught with identity politics, both locally and nationally, an exercise in Gestalt wherein many little self-absorbed constituencies probably exceed the sum of the whole. There aren’t enough flavors in the Baskin-Robbins display case to characterize the palette of the Democratic Party Rockeymoore Cummings wants to fashion. But Rockeymoore Cummings, a Ph.D., is determined to teach Democrats a thing or two. How about a tutorial on winning elections instead of a seminar on DNA?

But who knows? Four years from now, even Rockeymoore Cummings may have to share in the angst of letting go. Someone younger may want her job.

Editor’s Note: This is Frank A. DeFilippo’s last column of 2018. But he’ll be back in early 2019!


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Frank DeFilippo: Letting Go