Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Odd Bargaining Tactics

(James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)
If liberals want to convince voters to hand them control of Congress this fall, they have a funny way of going about it.

On Wednesday, former FBI director James Comey joined a political chorus with a message that’s steadily gaining steam inside the Beltway, if not beyond: This fall, true patriots will vote for Democrats.

“The Republican Congress has proven incapable of fulfilling the Founders’ design that ‘Ambition must . . . counteract ambition,” Comey announced on his Twitter feed in the wake of Trump’s widely panned Helsinki press conference with Vladimir Putin. “All who believe in this country’s values must vote for Democrats this fall. Policy differences don’t matter right now. History has its eyes on us.”

Well, that’s good enough for me!

Here in Texas, let’s forget about the inconvenient fact that I disagree with the vast majority of Democrats’ policy prescriptions, most of which seem focused on spreading the left-leaning dysfunction of California: Beto O’Rourke for Senate it is! Oh, and for governor, instead of voting for Republican Greg Abbott, I’ll vote for Lupe Valdez, a Democrat who earned the following glowing review from the Dallas Morning News: “We were disappointed by her gross unfamiliarity with state issues . . . particularly an almost incoherent attempt to discuss state financing. At one point, Valdez, 70, volunteered that she didn’t know whether the state was spending $8 million or $8 billion on border control.”

Oh. Right. Well, never mind. Sincere apologies to the readers who got all fired up about my upcoming Team D voting spree. As you can see, this particular plan might not work.

It has long seemed apparent that many prominent figures in the Democratic party do not really understand markets — witness the current rise of the party’s wildly enthusiastic, factually challenged socialist wing — and it is now beginning to seem that many also don’t understand the basics of bargaining. The “Vote Democrat to Repudiate Trump” campaign makes logical sense, I suppose, on the surface — but it’s ultimately paired with a strange sense of electoral entitlement and an impressive lack of self-awareness from a party lurching alarmingly far to the left.

Perhaps, in the end, Democrats will successfully translate Trump-related discomfort into electoral victories. We’ll wait and see. But painting all Republicans as mini-Trumps seems more than a bit out of touch, does it not?

Witness the rather amazing report from Politico, published Tuesday, that details a call to Senator Bob Corker “from a prominent politician” who allegedly offered this doozy of a request: Would Corker, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, halt the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court “as payback for Trump’s refusal on Monday to acknowledge Russia’s election meddling”? In colloquial terms, this would be the equivalent of dousing your own birthday cake with gasoline and fire ants because you’re mad you weren’t thrown a surprise party. In even more colloquial terms, it might be the equivalent of a rip-roaringly drunk person half-heartedly yelling at a wall.

In the end, Corker put it best: “Why would I cut off my nose to spite my face? I like the Supreme Court nominee. So what the heck?” What the heck indeed! Unfortunately, with today’s fascinating brand of politics — fascinating, that is, in that it sometimes inspires a mute sense of mortified awe — questionable proposals like this often abound.

Most average Americans — and by “average,” I mean people who have a job that doesn’t involve regularly whipping themselves and others into a frenzy on Twitter 24 hours a day —recognize that we’re in weird political territory. But most Americans also likely know that the weird can be strong on both sides of the political aisle.

“If the Republican establishment has proven incapable of shaping its party,” as Josh Kraushaar noted in National Journal last week, “some formerly reasonable members of the Democratic establishment are now eagerly surrendering to the whims of their own increasingly dogmatic base.” Interestingly enough, the fresh wave of Comey-style laments about Republicans refusing to stand up to Trump came literally a day after a sizeable proportion of Republicans very publicly stood up to Trump. The president’s press conference was almost universally criticized, with Republicans from Paul Ryan to Ben Sasse to Liz Cheney to Newt Gingrich chiming in, together with right-leaning opinion journals and Neil Cavuto from the much-maligned Fox News.

Perhaps, in the end, Democrats will successfully translate Trump-related discomfort into electoral victories. We’ll wait and see. But painting all Republicans as mini-Trumps seems more than a bit out of touch, does it not? Meanwhile, the Left’s enthusiastic doubling down on economic illiteracy, high taxes, identity politics, socialist policies, abortion on demand, and the promise to reverse significant Republican policy victories — tax cuts, regulatory reform, right-to-try, and more — likely won’t help their cause. It might even inspire some voters to simply sit things out.

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Heather Wilhelm is a columnist for National Review. Her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, RealClearPolitics, the Washington Examiner, Commentary magazine, the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, and the Kansas City Star


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