President Joe Biden Credit: White House/Public Domain photo

If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.

On July 30, 1864, more than 16,500 Union soldiers were aligned against only 9,500 Confederate seditionists in Petersburg, Virginia. In addition to its greater numbers, the Union had the element of surprise on its side. For weeks, Union forces had been tunneling under the Confederate line and finally filled the hole with explosives. On the day of the battle, a fuse was lit, and 4 tons of gunpowder exploded, breeching a hole in the Confederate defenses by destroying one of their artillery batteries and obliterating an infantry regiment. What was left was a hole in the ground 170 feet long, 60 feet wide and 30 feet deep. The path to a victory was clear for the Union soldiers, before they were forced to retreat.

In what Gen. Ulysses S. Grant termed “the saddest affair I have witnessed in this war,” the Union officers led their troops directly at the Confederate line, a path that took them down into the 30-foot hole. Once in this hole, the Union soldiers found it extremely difficult to climb up 30 feet of loose soil to reach the enemy line. In the meantime, the dazed Confederate troops regained their composure and reinforcements were rushed to the breech to stop the Union advance. At this point, it became a turkey shoot. Union soldiers desperately trying to scramble out of the hole were slaughtered by Confederates firing down on them.

Encyclopedia Virginia reports that 3,800 Union soldiers were killed, wounded and captured in that battle. But of that number, 1,327 were from the 4,300 soldiers of the United States Colored Troops, many of whom were killed after their capture.

This story teaches us that when you are in for a vicious fight, you need competent leadership.

To that point, if the Democratic Party pins its hopes on Joe Biden to win the White House in 2024, it will bring down a plague of conservatism on America that will be Biblical in its proportion.

The promise of a better 2024 presidential candidate is also crucial for getting more Democratic-leaning voters to the polls in 2022.

It is ignorantly hubristic for the calcified Democratic Party leadership to assume that their performance during the past two years is viewed as anything other than abysmal by young voters who they hope will charge to their rescue during the November midterm elections.
It is not enough for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Joe Biden to ask Americans to let them figure out what to do after the 2022 elections. The leadership must show a willingness now to make a course correction and stop merely covering up in a defensive position while radical Republicans have us pinned against the ropes as they deliver devastating body blows.

The current Democratic Party leadership has lost its ability to convince the American public that it is worth the effort to vote for them. Drastic action is needed now. Years of timid half-stepping to appease moderate Republicans who have lost control of their party have brought us to the brink of constitutional disaster. By seeking “peace in our time” with the current batch of Republicans holding national office, the current Democratic leadership has ignored the painful lessons taught us in the 20th century. You cannot appease zealots, nor can you reason with them. As we look into the political abyss of authoritarianism, and possibly totalitarianism, we must make a decision. We must decide whether we will allow the current Democratic Party leadership to drive our bus over a cliff, or whether we demand better drivers or be allowed to disembark.

Voters disgusted with Donald Trump are also more than annoyed with both the continued silence from Merrick Garland’s Justice Department that appears to be uninterested in investigating Trump’s actions, as well as the slow pace with which Democrats in the House of Representatives have conducted the January 6th hearings.

The question that needs to be answered is this: is the Democratic contingent in the House so fractured and hobbled by the conservatives in its ranks that it cannot move forward in making Trump answer for his transgressions? We know the answer to that question when applied to the U.S. Senate. Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have put the Senate majority in chains, preventing them from advancing the most common-sense demands for legislation by the people who put them in office.

The dithering by the Democratic leadership in both the Congress and the White House is not only an existential threat to the Democratic Party, it is also an existential threat to democracy in America. Democratic politicians in office tell the American public that the answer to this dilemma is to go out and vote for them, but a vote for an inert politician is a wasted vote. It makes no sense to put power into the hands of someone who will not use it.

Charles Blow, a New York Times opinion writer recently wrote that if Biden chooses to run for the White House in 2024, “he becomes a last line of defense. His shortcomings become secondary. Helping to ensure his re-election becomes an act of self-preservation.” Strategically speaking, this assumes that we allow ourselves to be led onto indefensible ground. We know that we are in for vicious political fights both in 2022 and in 2024. We should not let the leadership of the Democratic Party, who have proven themselves to be lacking in ability, choose our field of battle. We must prepare our position on the high ground now, and not let poor leadership send us into a massacre.

Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia. His earlier commentaries may be found at 

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