Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Anthropological Field Trip to Study Americans

Chuck Schumer and fellow Democrats unveil “A Better Deal” in Berryville, Va., July 24, 2017. (Reuters photo: James Lawler Duggan)
‘A Better Deal’ tries to focus on economic issues, but the cultural issues are inextricably intertwined.

The Democrats have sensed weakness, and chosen this moment to pounce. To capitalize on Donald Trump’s low approval ratings they are rolling out Elizabeth Warren (38 percent approval), Nancy Pelosi (29 percent), and Chuck Schumer (26 percent). Delivering the message that the party has fresh ideas are three emissaries who are a combined 211 years of age, deploying a phrase — “a better deal” — that harks back to the hottest policy proposals of 1933. To prove they’re in tune with the concerns of middle America the Democrats are dispatching emissaries from Harvard, San Francisco, and Brooklyn. Oh, and the Democrats’ chief problem, according to the Democrats? Americans just aren’t mentally supple enough to understand how great our program is for them.

“Too many Americans don’t know what we stand for,” Schumer declared in a Trump-voting county of Virginia on Monday. “Not after today.” Mark it down, kids: July 24, 2017, was the day the Democrats finally clarified their message. Democrats will no longer have to moan What’s the Matter with Kansas, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin? Because Monday is the day the right-learning parts of the country learned that Schumer, et al., have better ideas than the Republicans do.

The latest Democratic anthropological field trip to establish contact with the alien life forms known as Trump voters is focused on economic issues. That sounds wise. But far from being too subtle for Meathead America to understand, the progressive economic agenda is, as always, simple: You get the goodies you want now, someone else will pay, and never mind the future consequences. Who wouldn’t find such a platform enticing? You might as well tell a junior-high school, “Free PlayStation and Mountain Dew.” If the Democrats could stick to buying votes with other people’s money, they’d be dangerous.

As a matter of fact they are dangerous, now and always, for precisely this reason. Raising the minimum wage, one of the Democrats’ cornerstone ideas in their latest re-re-re-rebranding, is popular because it’s a simple fix that provides tangible benefits with invisible costs. Lower-rung workers get a bigger paycheck and the pain is hidden from view in the accounting divisions of faceless corporations. Never mind that a $15 national minimum wage would backfire and render many working Americans unemployed in the future. Government-dictated lowering of drug prices is popular too, never mind the invisible follow-up cost of hampering innovation that will extend lives in the future. The Democrats’ economic policy is sufficiently tempting that if  elections were held tomorrow, with generic Democrats on the ballot, they might well manage to retake the House and the White House.

Except Warren, Pelosi, and Schumer are non-generic Democrats. They’re ardent progressives, and they’re far too old and well-known to pass themselves off as something they’re not. Just as leopards don’t change their spots, a donkey can never stop acting like an ass.

Moreover, the flip side of saying, “We’re the party focused on economic goodies for working people,” is Don’t mention the culture! The effort is as doomed as Basil Fawlty’s effort to forestall mentioning the war, in an English hotel full of Germans, by repeatedly crying out, “Don’t mention the war!” The stuffed moose that prompts Basil’s strange behavior by falling on his head in Fawlty Towers is like the Democratic donor base of special-interest groups and social-justice plutocrats. You’d say crazy things too if your brains had been scrambled by Act Blue.

Do Americans really have a hard time figuring out what the Democratic party stands for?

Do Americans really have a hard time figuring out what the Democratic party stands for? These are their foundational beliefs: Abortion must be available on demand, with the leading abortion provider to be heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars. The NRA is a bigger threat than radical Islam. The federal government must make restroom policy. Religion is for suckers to cling to. Bakers who decline to participate in gay weddings must be destroyed. White people outside the sophisticated neighborhoods of the better cities are largely racist. Illegal immigration isn’t much of a problem, or is maybe even desirable. Fracking is at best a necessary evil, at worst an actual menace, rather than a boon and a blessing. Oil and coal must be punished for their wicked ways. 

Notice how seamlessly I slipped from issues of culture and taste into economic matters? The two are intertwined. To Democrats, the frackers are the Christians are the gun owners are the racists are the immigrant-haters are the gay bashers. It’s not possible for the Democrats to say, “I don’t care about your fondness for AR-15s and love for fossil fuels if you’ll work with us on the minimum wage.” The Democrats can’t even leave you alone if you like soda or carrying your groceries home in fresh plastic bags. “It’s the economy, stupid,” was the motto at Bill Clinton’s campaign offices in his successful 1992 bid for the presidency. It still is. But the Bill Clintons have been steadily driven out of the party in favor of the Hillary Clintons, and the motto of the leaders of the Democratic party today is, “Let nothing go untouched by progressivism.”


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— Kyle Smith is National Review Online’s critic-at-large.

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