In a nation defined by its heterogeneous and politically diverse population, there have been times when we put our differences aside to defeat an enemy committed to our destruction. It should have happened during the pandemic, but shamefully did not. It did materialize for a short time after the attacks of 9/11, and for years during World War II and the “greatest generation,” when Republicans and Democrats alike recognized the existential threat posed by Germany and Japan and united under the banner of saving the world.
An Alliance Built on Hate
A most unfortunate manifestation of that type of alliance has been on display over the last four years. Democrats, defeated, divided, and adrift at sea following a shocking renunciation by voters in 2016, found a common lifeboat to which they could all cling. It was a mutual hatred of Donald Trump which knitted together a tired, discredited party establishment with fired-up progressives on a joint mission to take down the evil orange man.
Whether legitimately or not, this alliance between the left and the Swamp succeeded. The relic Joe Biden is set to assume the presidency. But much like the classic movie The Candidate, in which Robert Redford comes out of nowhere to win a Senate seat and then looks at his campaign manager, deer in the headlights, and asks, “what do we do now?” Democrats no longer united by a revulsion to Trump will soon be reduced to arguing among themselves. Joe Biden was all they could offer for the highest office in the land. The first-ever negative coattails of this declining figure named our next president obliterated the party’s substantial majority in the House. The best they could do in the Senate they expected to control was a messy last-minute tie.
With Trump out of the picture, what exactly will unite a party so fractured that everyone openly suspects its leader won’t even last one term in the White House, and the woman who would take his place is widely distrusted and unpopular? Its leading light, AOC, openly admits to wanting Nancy Pelosi removed as speaker of the House. Its remaining so-called moderates (read traditional liberals) begged the party’s progressive bigwigs (read Bernie Sanders) never to use the word socialist again, while those very socialists form the base of the party.
Rebels Without a Cause
Neither dual victories in Georgia nor the attack on the Capitol nor the present talk of a second impeachment changes the fact that a party given over to the singular mission of destroying one man and his followers for the entirety of his administration is hardly prepared to govern. We can already see the cabinet named by the prospective new president as little more than a balancing act designed to mollify a party with no clear vision. After defining themselves as the resistance for lo these many years, and their presidential candidate solely as not Trump, is their core hollowed out? Can they even credibly present a positive vision when their unrelentingly negative actions have infuriated half the nation? Will they actually be able to govern when tens of millions of voters are convinced the election that put them into power was illegitimate?
Any coalition cobbled together for the sole purpose of destroying a common enemy is inherently fractured at best, disastrous at worst. American history is replete with worst-case scenarios that backfired in the worst possible way: Our common cause made with Josef Stalin in defeating Hitler. Our temporary alliance with Osama bin Laden to run the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Our takedown of Saddam Hussein with the aid of rebels who later threw the middle east into violent chaos.
This is not to say that progressives and liberals are enemies, but they are competitors, adversaries even, for the soul of a party which has so tarnished its honor and integrity – collusion hoaxes, impeachment over a phone call, name-calling and scurrilous accusations to make a schoolyard blush, pure derangement – that it will take far more than carefully crafted slogans about building back better to convince the American people that the Democratic Party is now prepared to lead.
Read more from Tim Donner.