Six months ago, I wrote Hey, Democrats! We need you to get your act together!, a plea to the opposition to get its act together.
A month ago, a Democratic activist attempting a mass political assassination shot Steve Scalise through the hip. Today, Gallup’s job creation index at +37 in July—a record high.
In my previous post I stayed away from values arguments about policy and considered only the practical politics of the Democrats’ positioning. I will continue that here.
In brief: Democrats, when you’re in a hole, stop digging!
How has the Democratic party’s self-destruction been pursued since Trump’s election? Let me count some of the ways…
The new party vice-chair, Keith Ellison, has a notorious history of anti-white racism and anti-Semitism, about which the Republicans are now carefully holding fire, is certain to be hung around the party’s neck in the 2018 midterms. A few quotes from his days in the Nation of Islam are all it’s going to take. Anyone who doesn’t expect this to tip the GOP the balance in a couple of flyover-country states is delusional.
At a time when 59% of Americans (including 74% of independent swing voters) favor President Trump’s proposed immigration restrictions, Democrats are doubling down on support for “sanctuary city” laws.
Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low; in late May, a Republican Congressional candidate who body-slammed a reporter won a special election less than 24 hours later. Yet Democratic reliance on media partisans to make its political case has been increasing rather than decreasing since Election Night, often in bizarre and theatrical ways (cue CNN co-host Kathy Griffin’s display of a mock severed head of the President).
Do you want more Trump? Because this is how you get more Trump.
Dammit, Democrats, your country still needs an opposition that is smarter than this! But every time you temporarily abandon one suicidal obsession (like, say, gun control) you seem to latch onto another, like hamstringing the ICE. News flash: even legal immigrants to the U.S. are overwhelmingly in favor of an illegal-immigration crackdown.
Whether that’s good policy by some abstract technocratic measure is not the point here; the point is that you are choosing to fight Trump on an issue where public opinion is already heavily on his side. You can’t win that kind of fight with him; he’s way too good at making you look like out of touch let-them-eat-cake elitists even when you have a case.
You need to reconnect with the Middle Americans that are on Trump’s train. If the election should have taught you anything, it’s that the way to do that does not go through endless establishment-media tirades and celebrity endorsements and moralistic scolding about the deplorability of anyone in a MAGA hat. Yet this behavior is the lesser half of your post-election mistakes.
The greater half is your embrace of radicals advocating and many cases practicing political violence. BAMN. BLM. Linda Sarsour. Antifa. The voters you lost think that these people and organizations are their enemies, and they’re not wrong, and even if they were wrong the perception is what matters. You can have By Any Means Necessary in your coalition, or you can have the kind of people who attend Rotary meetings in the Midwest. You can’t have both.
Related: Every time Democrats are seen screaming and cursing and acting out in public, Trump wins. It’s no good pointing out that Trump himself is vulgar, boorish, profane, and often infantile in his presentation; his voters think “he fights!” and have already priced in his visible character defects. When you fail to look like the adults in the room, you don’t hurt Trump; instead, you disqualify yourselves from being seen as a better alternative.
But there is a mistake that may be even worse (though subtler) than playing footsie with violent radicals. And that is believing that only your messaging needs to change.
Every time I near a Democrat saying anything equivalent to “if we’d just gotten our message out better…” I wince. No. You didn’t lose because the people of the majority of the states in the Electoral College failed to understand your program; given the spin of a largely Democratic-leaning establishment media, there is no way they can’t have seen its best possible face in endless repetition.
What you have to process is that they did understand…and rejected it. Continuing to believe that you merely suffered from bad messaging is an excuse that will only prevent the real self-examination you need to go through.
I have watched in vain for any sign of that self-examination. I’ve seen no more than occasional flashes of humility from the Democratic leadership, always rapidly sniffed out by a shrill replay of talking points that are anything but humble.
Given the friction costs of substantive change, you’re running out of time before the 2018 midterms. And, as I began this post by noting, Trump has seized the high ground by actually moving on pocketbook issues. You may not think “regulatory relief” is a big deal, but that and the high-profile commitments to in-U.S. manufacturing by outfits like Foxconn matter a lot to an electorate who has seen way too many blighted small towns and deserted malls.
Finally: in my earlier post I noted that you need to banish the words “racism” and “sexism” from your vocabulary, and take a strap to any Democratic partisan who uses the phrase “angry white man”. I observed that these tags are traps that impede your ability to speak or even think in terms Trump’s base won’t reject as demonizing and toxic. Well…in the ensuing six months, it has been easy to identify two more such labels.
Those are “nationalist” (especially in the compound “white nationalist”) and “alt-right”. As I’ve explained before, when you talk about the alt-right, you create the thing you fear. And in order to win against Trump, you cannot repudiate “nationalism” – that won’t fly. not outside the deepest blue of blue-tribe areas. No. To win against Trump, you need to take nationalism away from him..