The headlines are screaming that a civil war broke out on the stage in Detroit, where a gaggle of Democratic presidential wannabes congregated these last two nights to signal their virtue, outbid each other on social justice and free stuff, and, of course, brag on their relative degrees of revulsion to President Trump. But more than anything, they argued amongst themselves about whether their party should be defined by conventional liberalism or outright socialism.
But hold on a minute. I thought the civil war arising in the Democratic party was between the old guard radicals of Pelosi and the progressive vanguard fronted by A-O-C+3. But I guess that was last week’s fracture. What we are now witnessing after four hours of raucous debate between high-profile hardline leftists and suddenly reasonable-sounding liberals is a party even more fractured than the one drawing the wrong kind of headlines about internal power struggles on Capitol Hill. That makes for a triangular war, but more on that later.
First, to the second round of debates, and there was a generous supply of head-shakers dropped by the gaggle. Among them (in no particular order): Joe Biden would arrest drug company executives. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) would indict Trump for obstruction of justice after he leaves office. Sen. Spartacus (AKA New Jersey’s Cory Booker) believes Russians helped flip the vote for Trump in Michigan. Sen. Fauxcahontas (Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts) said Democrats who don’t agree with her radical agenda are spineless and introduced the terms “environmental racism” and “prison industrial complex.” Pete Buttigieg amplified his call for abolishing the electoral college. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) dropped the lie that the GOP wants to “eliminate” pre-existing conditions and “take away” people’s health care. Joe Biden fended off the countless slings and arrows directed, as expected, at the putative frontrunner and incredibly, after serving as vice president to the nation’s first black president, had to again defend his record on race.
Jay Inslee, perhaps the loopiest candidate of all (other than the mystic Marianne Williamson, who actually drew praise this time for her non-embarrassing performance) called for the removal of the “white nationalist” in the White House – and warned people that the threat of climate change is so severe that people should literally get to “higher ground” while the getting is good. John Hickenlooper said the radical frontrunners are embracing “fairytale economics,” and that if the party endorses an end to private health insurance, “they might as well Fed Ex the election to Donald Trump.” The word racism or racist was used 936 times. (Okay, it only seemed like that many). In referring to a recent Trump tweet, CNN moderator Don Lemon three times used the adjective “racist’ as a fact.
Of course, any debate moderated by that guy is hardly to be taken seriously. But then, you knew that.
Now if you landed from Mars and knew nothing of polls, fundraising, and name recognition, you would think the no-name and longshot candidates who injected a degree of sanity into the discourse over the last two nights should reasonably be viewed as frontrunners.
Absent these truth-tellers and realists, and listening only to the progressive mob, our Martian visitor would believe he had landed in a place of great darkness rife with poverty, violence, and apartheid enveloping a planet scorched by the greed of its wealthiest inhabitants. But John Delaney, Tim Ryan, John Hickenlooper and, to some degree, Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard were somehow able to grab the stage and hold it often enough to drive home the point that rank and file Democrats, many of whom abandoned the party in 2016, must be brought back into the fold. And they repeated what should be obvious: A socialist agenda will not draw support beyond the party’s far-left, activist base. But these truth-telling liberals were mostly waved away or hectored by top-of-the-heap leftists Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, all of whom continue to appear oblivious to political reality.
So what we have here is the opposite of the triangulation cleverly employed by President Bill Clinton to position himself successfully for the 1996 election. This time it is a triangle of doom for a party driven mad by an almost psychotic rage against Trump. On the first side, Pelosi lays down the law as de facto party leader, along with hapless political hacks like Jerry Nadler, and publicly diminishes A-O-C+3. On the second side, the squad and company rebel against the Speaker’s leadership, call the party’s moderates the equivalent of 1940s segregationists, and loudly advance a politically poisonous agenda. On the third side, the leading presidential candidates pander to the party’s most radical elements – never mentioning A-O-C – as the rest of the field tries to calibrate the degree of political correctness in their every word, trying desperately to sort out what their party has become in the Trump era.
It will not be enough to simply shout from the rooftops that Donald Trump is a plague on the land that must be eradicated. Their cries are falling on increasingly deaf ears. Before they can approach the general election, the Democrats must somehow find a way to do the most basic of tasks: decide who they are. And with this triangle of doom enveloping the party, it will only get harder from here.