In the 2016 contest, Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” line—uttered at a New York City fundraiser—signaled a lack of compassion, inclusivity, and understanding that set strict us-against-them battle lines for a candidate who wanted to be seen as a competent, compassionate, steady leader who could govern the entire country.
Smash cut to the 2020 contest, and Democrats are—minus the catchy line—making the same mistake, again, but loudly and proudly now.
Rather than providing a compassionate and inclusive alternative to Donald Trump, they seem to be going out of their way to match Trump’s sundry sins. (In fairness, Trump is uniquely abominable, so it takes a village to outmatch him.)
Let’s start with the fact that several of the Democrats’ rising stars are consistently engaging in anti-Semitic tropes. Most recently, it was Ilhan Omar, who sent multiple tweets playing on anti-Semitic stereotypes and imagery. Unfortunately, the anti-Semitism doesn’t end with Omar, nor is it a new development on the left. Indeed, this is a pattern.
Ultimately, Omar was forced by party leaders to “unequivocally” apologize on Twitter, while also “standing strong” and “at the same time,” reaffirming “the problematic role of lobbyists…” Not to split hairs, but as Jewish Insider editor Adam Rubenstein observed, that’s not exactly unequivocal.
When Republicans demonized billionaire liberal donor George Soros during the 2018 election, they were accused of “fanning the flames” of anti-Semitism. What we are seeing now on the left is even more overt and hypocritical. It also comes on the heels of reports about Virginia Democrats wearing black face and Elizabeth Warren erroneously claiming to be an “American Indian.”
Even worse than lying, however, is the trend of gaslighting—a tactic where a person lies about things so blatantly that others start to second guess themselves and wonder if, in fact, they are the ones who are wrong.
Donald Trump might have introduced this technique into our politics, but the gaslighting method has now been copied by progressive wunderkind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff, who lied about the various drafts of her Green New Deal—a framework that was endorsed by several top candidates currently vying for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
But that’s not the only way that Democrats are behaving in ways that make it increasingly hard to draw a clear line between Trump and the Democrats.
There are those who think Trump’s comments to Billy Bush on that now-infamous Access Hollywood tape betray an inexcusable lack of respect for women. At the time, Trump’s team sought to mitigate the charges by rehashing Bill Clinton’s sex scandals.
Today, juxtaposed with the scandal swirling in Virginia (where the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor, Justin Fairfax, has been credibly accused by two women of sexual assault), it is increasingly hard to see how voting Democratic will smash the patriarchy. (Several prominent Democrats have now called for Fairfax’s resignation and initiated impeachment, but the party’s slow response on all the Virginia scandals is a good example of selective outrage).
And there’s more. Most people hate bullies, and Trump is almost a textbook bully. But it is concerning when a possible alternative to Trump―newest Democratic presidential candidate, Amy Klobuchar―reportedly had to be chastised by then Majority Leader Harry Reid for abusing her power as a U.S. Senator to belittle staff, verbally abuse them, and have them do her personal chores. Klobuchar is generally seen as a moderate who espouses a “Minnesota nice” mentality.
Next, let’s turn to Trump’s lack of compassion, highlighted by his inhumane family separation policy at the border. To many, this violated the biblical command about caring for “the least of these.” Yet, Democrats are increasingly coming out for third-trimester abortions—an extreme position that is held by only about 13 percent of Americans—and one that has the potential to be a deal-breaker for many Americans, if it becomes the Democratic standard.
Others are concerned by Trump’s foreign policy, which includes coddling authoritarians and strongmen. He compliments them and refuses to criticize them. Then, you notice certain similarities in Hawaii Rep. and 2020 candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who never has a harsh word for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and recently said he wasn’t an enemy of America.
Amazingly, Democrats have found a way to neutralize every favorable contrast with Trump. It has taken a field of Democrats to pull it off, but together, they have almost surpassed him.
Clinton, with the benefit of hindsight, offered a warning against this approach in her memoir, What Happened:
“For Trump, if everyone’s down in the mud with him, he’s no dirtier than anyone else… As Bill likes to say never wrestle a pig in the mud. They have cloven hooves, which give them superior traction, and they love getting dirty.”
Donald Trump has staked out so much extreme turf—and has demonstrated so many character flaws—that huge swaths of moderates, independents, and disaffected Republicans in swing states could have their votes up for grab. You would think Democrats would be happy to nominate the kind of candidate who can fill the void, unite the country, and claim the White House.
Consider the interesting recent findings of dueling McClatchy reporters, Alex Roarty and Katie Glueck. Roarty talked to more than 30 Democratic strategists. The consensus? A Joe Biden candidacy is a bad idea. Conversely, Glueck talked to anti-Trump Republicans who are bullish on Biden (and Klobuchar).
The truth is, both journalists are engaged in accurate reporting.
Instead of assuming the mantle of civility and centrism, today’s Democrats are clamoring for a Trump of their own—a fighter who emulates Trump’s worst qualities, but one who does so in the service of their tribe.
It seems that nobody wants to seize the sane center, and the knives are out on the left for the few candidates who might end up there. Nobody wants to take Michelle Obama’s advice.
When Trump went low, they jumped right into the gutter.