Dear Democrats: You had everything going for you. You had a perfect narrative in the making. You had an adversary who was tailor-made to be cast as racist and misogynistic—juxtaposed against the paragons of virtue that define modern progressivism.
You had an opening to offer some common-sense (if left-of-center) solutions, a return to normalcy, and the chance to restore honor and dignity to the Oval Office.
But you’re blowing it. Big time. Do you understand how bad your party looks right now? I’m not sure you do.
In case you’re trying to rationalize your behavior or are hoping the negative press goes away, consider the state of your party at the moment:
The three highest-ranking officials in Virginia—all Democrats—are embroiled in ugly scandals having to do with racism and sexual assault allegations. I won’t go into all the sordid details here, except to say that it’s a dumpster fire of epic proportions.
If that’s not enough, this week, we discovered that Elizabeth Warren listed herself as an “American Indian” on her registration card for the state bar of Texas. To make matters worse, it seems likely other such documents may surface.
Meanwhile, 2020 hopeful Tulsi Gabbard insisted that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is “not an enemy of the United States.” Gabbard also had to manage reports about a campaign in disarray, and she had to reject the endorsement of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.
And although Kamala Harris has generally won the “rollout primary,” her support for eliminating private insurance as part of a “Medicare for All” plan (a statement she later had to walk back) could end up being a huge problem that will be a godsend for Republican campaign ad producers if Harris goes on to win the nomination.
Eliminating private insurance falls into the category of controversial positions that Democrats are aggressively adopting on a wide range of issues. These positions excite their progressive base, but they may well backfire among the general electorate.
This smorgasbord of examples (which mostly stem from allowing rookies to dictate the party’s agenda and take it places it did not seem to want to go in the 2018 midterms) include a Green New Deal offering, among other things, “economic security for those unable or unwilling to work,” expanded abortion rights, a proposed tax hike (70 percent for the top earners), and a movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel—with some of the party’s newly elected stars continuing to peddle anti-Semitism and pal around with anti-Semites.
The abortion issue might prove especially important because it involves Democrats voluntarily shifting the focus from an area where progressives win (abortion access) to an area where public opinion is clearly not on their side (third-trimester abortions). To fully understand how volatile the issue potentially is, consider that the whole chain of events in Virginia began with a state house bill to loosen restrictions on late-term abortions.
There are other signs that reveal potential problems for the person who might go on to be the party standard-bearer. Cory Booker again failed to summon Spartacus, this time during a cross-examination in the Senate Judiciary Committee. His gotcha question―“Have you ever had an LGBTQ law clerk?”―backfired when the nominee replied, “I have not been a judge, so I don’t have any law clerks.”
And Amy Klobachar, the “Minnesota nice” Midwest moderate expected to throw her hat in the presidential ring, was accused this week of mistreating her staff, including making them perform “personal errands, such as making her personal appointments, washing dishes at her home or picking up her dry cleaning.”
Any one of these instances could be isolated and dismissed. But taken together, it’s hard to deny the Dems are off to a horrible start in the 2020 cycle—and the larger question is this: Where does it end?
Just as Republicans had perverse incentives to generate controversy, buzz, and attention, Democrats now face their own collective action problem. Absent a president to rally around, individual actors are more focused on building their own brands and careers than they are on advancing the cause or the party.
With a huge field jockeying for attention, we’re at the beginning stages of what is starting to look like a clown car.
Eight years ago, Republicans were convinced they could defeat Barack Obama. Having just wiped the floor with Democrats in the 2010 mid-terms, many were shocked when they awoke and discovered Obama had been elected to a second term.
Perhaps you’ve forgotten names like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell. And maybe lines like “severely conservative,” “I’m not a witch,” or “47 percent” are no longer part of the collective conscience. How soon we forget. These candidates and lines cost Republicans victories in 2010 and 2012.
And if Democrats don’t get their act together, they might discover history has repeated itself. That would mean Donald Trump is reelected, and then (when the progressive base has truly been dejected and radicalized), the Democratic Party is susceptible to being taken over by an inexperienced, cult-like celebrity.
I wouldn’t wish that fate on my worst enemies. And I certainly wouldn’t wish that on my own country.