Elections

Hapless in Democratland

Senators Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray with fellow Democrats at the State of the Union speech, January 30, 2018. (Photo: Win McNamee/Pool/Reuters)
‘Can’t stand church and family? Neither can we! Vote for the Democrats in 2018!’ It’s mind-boggling, isn’t it?

As America edges closer to the 2018 midterm elections, expect to hear a growing herd of weirdly confident political pundits talk about a coming and inevitable “blue wave” — you know, the overwhelming mass election of Democrats to Congress that’s sure to come as a response to the presidency of Donald Trump.

This very well might happen. It also very well might not. When it comes to the current rush of breezy “blue wave” chatter, I’m reminded of a simple lesson that even the biggest knucklehead in politics should have learned by now. It’s a truth that applies not just to politics, but to life, so take heed: Unless you’re Nostradamus and can trick a bunch of people by waving around a dramatic-looking beard and some mystical-sounding quatrains, don’t go around making broad and overly confident predictions. They might end up making you look daffy.

History is full of terrible predictions uttered by smart and prominent people — “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau,” from an economist in October 1929, is one particularly amazing specimen — so perhaps we shouldn’t be too harsh. The urge to predict is clearly hard to resist. But there’s a second and simpler reason to tread carefully around blue-wave predictions for this fall, and it is this: Strangely, the Democratic party’s strategy for 2018 seems to revolve around reminding people how happy they are that Democrats aren’t in charge.

Witness prominent left-leaning responses to Trump’s State of the Union address, which earned an impressive 75 percent approval rating in a CBS News poll. Eight out of ten of the viewers in the poll “felt that the president was trying to unite the country, rather than divide it,” and “two-thirds said the speech made them feel proud.” Sure, we can argue about the policy implications of the address, but that’s been true for almost every State of the Union in the history of the nation. (“Free” community college! The magical “creation” of hundreds of thousands of jobs! An army of hydrogen cars!) In short, it was a well-written, well-delivered speech.

Perhaps that sounds boring to you, so it’s high time for some hyperventilation. Over to you, Democrats! CNN’s Sally Kohn called the speech “scary” and “terrifying.” Elizabeth Warren tweeted that she attended only because she wanted its horrors “burned into my eyes.” But it was perhaps MSNBC’s Joy Reid who took the cake, tweeting out a bizarre and amazing word salad trashing various American institutions: “Church . . . family . . . police . . . military . . . the national anthem . . . Trump trying to call on all the tropes of 1950s-era nationalism. The goal of this speech appears to be to force the normalization of Trump on the terms of the bygone era his supporters are nostalgic for.”

Ah, I can see the campaign posters now: “Can’t stand church and family? Neither can we! Vote for the Democrats in 2018!” It’s mind-boggling, isn’t it? I mean, come on, people. Pretending to be a normal human being can’t really be that hard.

Or maybe it can. Look, if you will, at the Democratic party’s leading lights. There’s Nancy Pelosi, America’s favorite rich lady from San Francisco, who has somehow decided to combat the increasingly popular GOP tax cut by going around telling Americans that the extra $1,000 in their pocket equates to “crumbs.” There’s Bernie Sanders, who might start yelling at you about socialism at any moment. There’s Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, whose retirement sparked excited speculation about a future run for office, perhaps even in Texas! (This is kind of hilarious, given what happened the last time the Democrats ran an abortion zealot for governor in Texas, but again, it’s almost as if they’re trying to lose.) There’s the astoundingly cynical Kirsten Gillibrand, a former tobacco lawyer and gun-rights defender magically transformed into a passionate #MeToo sexual-harassment crusader — complete with a recent (and convenient) spurt of indignation directed at Bill Clinton, whom she was perfectly happy to pal around with when he was helping her campaign.

Look, if you will, at the Democratic party’s leading lights. Then there’s Hillary Clinton, who simply will not go away.

Then there’s Hillary Clinton, who simply will not go away.

Many Democrats will tell you that none of this really matters; all that matters, they insist, is that they are not Donald Trump. (As a reminder, Donald Trump won the presidency largely because he was not Hillary Clinton.) “There is absolutely nothing the Democrats could do that would be dumber than setting aside their criticisms of President Trump to focus solely on some ‘affirmative’ agenda,” wrote Paul Waldman in Wednesday’s Washington Post. Anger against President Trump, he argues, is all the Democrats need.

When you think about it, maybe he’s right. When you look at the party’s actual agenda — voting against tax cuts, cheerleading for abortion, rooting for government regulations, fighting against school choice, fixating on identity politics, and so on and so forth — things aren’t very pretty. Perhaps it is best to look away.

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