Do the Democrats really believe the collective and now written-in-stone socialist manifesto unveiled in their first debates is a formula for victory in 2020? Have they actually convinced themselves that American voters are so repulsed by the 45th president that they will ignore a booming, full-employment economy and trash the remnants of the free market in exchange for the fundamental transformation of America into a progressive utopia?
Are they that out of touch? Could they be that blind to reality? Sure, they could. Most in the party leadership are stuck in the first of the five stages of grief, denying the incontrovertible fact that they were obliterated by a man they despise with every last fiber of their being. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and company remain incapable of admitting they lost fair and square or accepting that this country could possibly elect this monster in the White House.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the Democrats did actually learn a few things from their cataclysmic defeat in 2016, that their base political instincts have displaced their disbelief, dismay, and denial. It’s hardly a safe assumption, of course, but let’s follow their possible line of reasoning and their true endgame. What do they really have in mind with their mind-numbing array of radical proposals?
If not victory in 2020, the likes of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), South Bend’s Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and company are actually looking squarely at 2024. Sure, the thinking goes, we won’t beat Donald Trump, if only because it’s hard — though not impossible — to knock off a sitting president, especially in the midst of a roaring economy overflowing with more jobs than people available to fill them. That the economy has always been the single most significant factor in any president’s bid for re-election is beyond dispute. The only three incumbent presidents defeated in the last 100 years — Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush 41 — were taken down by economic depression, stagflation, and recession respectively. No such conditions exist today. Even marginally popular and controversial presidents – Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, George Bush 43, and Barack Obama — harnessed the power of incumbency to secure second terms.
Thus, the Democrats’ apparent strategy is to introduce voters to their proposed makeover of the country now so it will go down easier in five years, when the nation will have reached the point of exhaustion with Trump-mania and will desire something entirely different.
But if the Democrats do have such a plan to introduce extreme ideas in a campaign that is headed for defeat in order to prepare the ground for mainstreaming those issues the next time around, they will have ignored the unmistakable lessons of history.
Consider when the Democrats have lost the presidency and when they have won. In 1952 and 1956, they nominated well-known liberal Adlai Stevenson. In 1972, they selected George McGovern, the voice of 1960s-style liberalism. In 1984, it was another familiar liberal, Walter Mondale. And in 1988, they picked neo-liberal Michael Dukakis. The party suffered landslide defeats in every one of those elections.
Now look at how the party and then the nation responded to those debacles. After Stevenson was twice vanquished, the party smartly turned toward the center and won with John F. Kennedy, the “idealist without illusions.” After the McGovern fiasco, the Democrats regained their senses and turned sharply to the middle, managing to push Jimmy Carter across the finish line. Following the Mondale and Dukakis humiliations, the party again turned to the middle, and Clinton was elected twice. Sensing a pattern here?
The Democrats have already made the bed in which they must sleep until November of next year. The first debates assured that they are beyond the point of no return with their progressive manifesto, irreversibly labeled as the party of coastal elites, Ivy leaguers, and social justice warriors out to upend the world as we know it. Is this not a bridge too far for a nation that just finished holding its breath and taking the plunge with the most out-of-the-box president in American history? Will the country really be in a mood for another radical departure from business as usual, especially if it involves a massively enlarged role for a broadly unpopular federal government?
Perhaps the leading indicator of just how far left this party has moved was how little was said during the debates by any candidate not named Joe Biden about the nation’s first black president. This was an historic presidency by virtue of its very existence, and yet the only notable mention of the 44th president was when Harris openly challenged Obama’s deportation policies. Obama was evidently such an unconvincing progressive that today’s leftists have tossed him overboard and moved on to a truly radical, budget-shattering agenda: confiscatory tax increases to pay for overturning the fossil-fuel economy in favor of windmills and solar power, virtually open borders, confiscation of private health insurance from almost 200 million Americans, taxpayer-funded health care for illegal immigrants amid a full government takeover of the health industry, not to mention head-shaking cultural bombshells like “reproductive justice” for transgenders and a “Marshall Plan” for Central America (yes, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro advocated for both).
President Trump may be good, but he sure is lucky. Being handed this type of opposition represents the same kind of gift he received in the home stretch of the 2016 campaign, when he reaped the benefits of those embarrassing hacked emails about Hillary Clinton, released like Chinese water torture day after day, not to mention former FBI Director James Comey’s lovely parting gift of a reopened investigation into Hillary’s email scandal days before the election.
Trump’s quandary in the months ahead is not to find the juiciest talking points about the Democrats’ radical agenda but rather to determine which parts of this treasure trove of political ammunition to amplify.
But forget the pollsters and pundits like yours truly. What about rank-and-file Democrats? Well, the recent Fox News poll that somehow concluded the top five Democrats would beat Trump also made a more stunning revelation: 75% of Democrats want “solid, steady leadership” from their party instead of a “bold new agenda.” This overwhelming majority of party faithful appear to desire little more than relief from the daily vagaries of President Trump and a return to some form of the old normal. But you would hardly know it by listening to the fiery left-wing rhetoric of the 20 Democrats on stage in Miami. Their response to the unthinkable defeat of liberal Hillary Clinton is not to move to the center and pick off those Obama/Trump voters in the heartland who propelled Trump to victory, but to scare them off by promising to raise the ante on supersized government and a radical social agenda.
The Democratic Party has been severing the umbilical cord connecting it to the voters it so desperately needs. And it is too late to reattach. The 2020 die is cast, and the Democrats will soon learn the truth in the old cliche: Those who do not learn history are bound to repeat it.
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