Would the Democrats even exist as a national party if not for their shared hatred for President Trump? After a long primary lead-up marked by an oversized field of mediocre candidates, conducting an endless array of forgettable nationally televised debates, Iowa beckons. And panicky party leaders should be asking themselves: What exactly makes Dems stand out on their own in 2020?
The Mueller Russia probe fizzle and the impeachment of Trump that followed almost immediately have hurt Democrats far beyond their failure to seriously damage Trump’s standing. The party’s anti-Trump focus has allowed it to put off facing the serious internal problems it eventually will have to address in developing a coherent vision for its future.
The split within party ranks between the older establishment and younger progressive firebrands has been festering since Hilary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee slanted the 2016 Democrat primary to stave off the renegade challenge of democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). This divide deepened when young leftist Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) toppled establishment warhorse Representative Joe Crowley (D-NY) in a House primary election in June 2018. Crowley had been fully groomed to take his place alongside fellow lower chamber colleagues Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and other established party veterans in the upper ranks of the party’s congressional leadership. It’s no coincidence that AOC has endorsed Sanders for the 2020 nomination.
Ocasio-Cortez then took her insurgency further, hampering Pelosi’s attempts to reclaim her House Speaker gavel after Dems captured the lower chamber in the 2018 midterm elections. Pelosi was forced to strike a deal with AOC and her youthful allies that did little to ease the tensions between the two camps.
Fast forward to today, and AOC continues to be a thorn in the party establishment’s side, refusing to pay her dues to an official party campaign fund and saying she will instead use the money to help progressive candidates not being supported by official Dem national channels.
Where’s the Beef?
As this feud roiled throughout 2019, a throng of weak Democratic candidates threw their hats into a congested ring for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. The chief takeaway from a year of posturing on the campaign trail and multiple debate podiums is that none of the more than 20 Dem hopefuls were able to put forward a compelling policy platform worthy of challenging an incumbent president who remains wildly popular within his own political base. The empty verbiage of Dem senators such as Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) as they struggled to define themselves to a national audience highlighted the rudderless nature of Democrats at the highest levels of Congress. The fact that the two leading Dem candidates heading into Iowa, former vice president Joe Biden and Sanders, are 77 and 78 years old respectively showcases the dearth of dynamic new ideas coming from Dems older than the callow Ocasio-Cortez yet still young enough to be able to claim the mantle of leaders of the next generation of Democratic policy.
Rabid Opposition as Frail Fig Leaf
All of this points to just why Dems cannot let their anti-Trump obsession go. It may very well be the only thing keeping them together despite the anarchy, infighting, and incoherent political messaging that plagues them on a seemingly daily basis. That this reflexive opposition to Trump hasn’t even been consistent does not seem to matter to them at all, revealing again that it is not ideology but animus that drives the party.
Trump was universally castigated by prominent Dems in the fall for saying the United States would pull out of Syria. His supposedly weak signaling gave a “green light” to the bad guys in the Middle East, we were told. Then when Trump had top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani killed shortly after violent protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in early January, these same Dems denounced his reckless machismo as threatening to trigger World War III.
Far from hurting Trump, such compulsory criticism only hurts Democrats, as it keenly displays that they are not guided by beliefs, values, and policy on particular issues but by partisan hatred. This corrosive mindset seems to prevent them from cultivating their own ideas and dealing with the weighty matters within their ranks.
If Democrats wish to grow their party on a truly national level, and not stay cocooned in their coastal and big-city blue bubbles, they must move beyond the nonstop Trump slamming and define in stark terms to the American people just who they are and what they are about. Ceaselessly attacking the bogeyman in the White House in the hope that it will cover up dire intraparty fault lines, Dems set themselves up for a rude awakening in November.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.