Are the Democrats blind visually challenged? Don’t these “losers and clowns” recognize the need for change you can believe in when they see it? Embracing Hollywood condescension and open disdain for average Americans is counterproductive politically. Nobody buys Cory Booker’s predictable posturing. Voters these days are attracted by talk of growth, expanding opportunity and producing things again, and not the canonically-ordained restrictions and regulatory hindrances proceeding from “Scientific Consensus “on climate change. Al Sharpton should not be making the moral case against anybody. Pencil-necked pajama-boy staff are out; stolid guys, like the one sitting behind Rex Tillerson at his Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, are in.
They must be crazy. How else to explain Democrats ignoring the veritable deluge of helpful hints on how to get back into the saddle and trample the nation into the mud again? Why, the great advice is pouring in: “Obama needs to go quietly into the night,” reclaim rural populists, or be attentive to the center-right suburbanites; embrace federalism and local politics; stand with the LGBTQ Movement; become “truly Democratic”; avoid being torn apart by disagreements over Israel; rally around “Women’s Values,” ; “Enough with the Koch Brothers scare tactics,”, i.e. accept that money is a necessary evil in politics; relate better to Americans outside major metropolitan areas; abandon the strategy of micro-targeting subgroups of Americans to instead seek a broader mandate, or recycle 2007-vintage “equitable growth”, etcetera, etcetera.
All this good advice, and how does the progressive mayor of Phoenix respond? “My philosophy is: I’m not changing a thing,” (ditto, of course, for Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal, Jerry Brown, Andrew Cuomo, Eric Schneiderman, and every simpering twit of a California congressman or Bay-Area Supervisor taken apart nightly by Tucker Carlson). For more of this apparently suicidal blindness, note The New Republic’s outraged critique of Bernie Sanders for slighting “gender identity issues” while being insensitive enough to press on economic ones: “What Sanders didn’t do was mention bathrooms—or transgender Americans—even once.”
Why are the Democrats so far off the mark? Perhaps, someone progressive and certifiably edgy, like Woody Allen, can help answer that question: “It reminds me of that old joke- you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office and says, hey doc, my brother’s crazy! He thinks he’s a chicken. Then the doc says, why don’t you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs.”
They need the eggs, or as that big serious guy sitting behind Rex Tillerson might put it, “they have to respond to the real imperatives presenting themselves now and can’t afford to gamble on alternative-universe fantasies about the Democratic Party of the Future. Bills have to be paid, seats have to be held, and their own and their nieces’ and nephews’ careers have to be secured. In the face of these immediate needs, the vision for a renewed Democratic Party will just have to take care of itself.” What are these inexorable imperatives that demand crazy behavior? Fortunately, a picture handily brings them into focus.Shop-worn, legacy politicians desperate to hold on; big-money donors with the hubris and the power to designate the valid issues and the acceptable positions on them; and single-issue lunatics. It is slave-like dedication to satisfying the needs of these three beasts of the post-election Democrat Apocalypse that drives the opposition today, tomorrow, and next week– nothing else.
To the extent that long-term considerations, like positioning for 2020, preserving Obama’s legacy, or hampering Donald Trump’s agenda allow Democrats to serve the immediate interests of preserving the power of legacy politicians, satisfying donors with an ax to grind, and keeping single-issue maniacs at bay, great, but the immediate priority will be feeding the three beasts – everything else be damned. As we have seen in the imaginative interrogation of CIA Director-Designee Mike Pompeo by show-horse freshman Senator Kamala Harris, this amounts to a strategy, if it can be called that, of flailing about opportunistically and randomly at any passing target—concocting, as Churchill put it, any sort of laughable pudding without a theme, as long as it feeds the beasts. In the hands of a master like Bill Clinton, a version of “small ball” defensive rope-a-dope to keep in the game was marginally successful, but this time the players and the environment are very different.
So, while we must accustom ourselves to spectacles like Senator Elizabeth Warren duly feeding the three beasts by grilling Ben Carson, of all people, about his devious plans to enrich Donald Trump through corrupt public housing deals, what opportunities does Democrat Defensive Micro-Ball present for the new administration?
Governing through stealing the other guy’s clothes seems promising. Already, we have talk of a novel approach to infrastructure spending, serious K-12 school choice that finally pries urban blacks from dysfunctional old allegiances, and tax reform that includes enhanced targeted child care assistance for working families who actually work. What about immigration reform that gives Silicon Valley what it really wants—eased (but limited) entry for high-skilled workers—without opening the floodgates to the low-skilled as well? And don’t forget the Millennials; there are plenty of opportunities to bring them into the fold, from some form of college loan relief that recognizes both the role of the institutions in creating this mess and the concept of moral hazard, to “infrastructure” development that includes fostering new so-called “third tier” suburbs that enable them to find a Millennial version of the American Dream.
Let Elizabeth Warren shake that bony finger all she wants—distraught Democrats have withdrawn to a defensive crouch, at least for a while. Meanwhile, Donald Trump and his team can muster the entrepreneurial skills and creativity, matched with the sheer competence, to shake the political trees –with potentially Yuuuge results.