In the year since Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, Democrats have doubled down on the tactics that led them to electoral disaster. For example, in Alabama, Roy Moore appears likely to win a special election to the Senate, despite a nutty persona and unseemly revelations about his financial dealings.
But while Moore’s radicalism has received national attention, his opponent, Doug Jones, is an extremist, too: he effectively supports abortion on demand until birth. Given a rare shot at a Senate seat in Alabama, the Democrats nominated a candidate who supports killing full-term babies. All together now: this is how you got Trump.
Millions of Americans voted for Trump despite viewing him unfavorably. This was in part due to Hillary Clinton being a terrible, loathsome candidate in her own right, but it was also because the Democratic Party has become increasingly extreme. Confident that facing Trump meant she had the election in the bag, Clinton didn’t bother to appeal to the center after fending off socialist Bernie Sanders.
Following her loss, most Democrats are moving further Left, in the belief that Trump’s victory was a fluke that can’t happen again. In contrast, while Trump is deeply alienating to many people, Republicans have lapsed into policy incoherence; it is the Democrats who are combining personal animosity with radical culture war policies.
Aggressively Alienating Moderates
Instead of viewing Trump’s unpopular presidency as an opportunity to establish a strong center-left coalition, Democrats are aggressively alienating moderates on issue after issue. They’re so confident that Trump will bring down the GOP they’re making no concessions to win back swing voters or soothe Republican fears of Democrat radicalism.
For instance, on immigration Democrats have rocketed leftward, embracing the view that anything short of universal amnesty and open borders is racist. While a few liberals have noted the folly of this position (read Damon Linker here and here), they have been ignored by a Left increasingly convinced that any limitation on immigration, or enforcement of existing laws, is wicked.
On gun control, Democrats have been dancing the Australian two-step, insisting they have no interest in taking anyone’s guns, then praising Australia for doing just that with a mandatory “buyback” program (i.e., sell the government your guns for whatever it deigns to give you, or go to prison). When Clinton got caught saying this approach was “worth considering,” she tried to backpedal while her allies in the media covered for her, but American gun owners knew that she meant what she said: gun confiscation is “worth considering.” And while significant gun control is stymied nationally, Democrats have aggressively enacted anti-gun policies in states they do control.
The Democratic Party also supports taxpayer-funded abortion on demand until the baby’s last toenail has cleared the birth canal. And they have the gall to insist that this extreme legal regime, which is one of the most radically pro-abortion in the world, is constitutionally required. Further, they want to make everyone complicit in it.
The American Civil Liberties Union is currently engaged in an aggressive campaign against Catholic hospitals, and is even trying to force them to commit abortions. Democrats, prodded by NARAL Pro-Choice America, are passing laws that will punish churches and other religious institutions for requiring ministers and other employees to uphold Christian standards of behavior by rejecting abortion. Occasional half-hearted mutterings about accepting pro-life Democrats mean nothing in the face of this extremism.
Democrats have embraced coerced conformity, as seen in their efforts to criminalize dissent from the LGBT agenda. Christians and other religious nonconformists can be jailed for declining to participate in promoting and celebrating same-sex wedding ceremonies, and new laws they favor allow the government to send people to prison for “misgendering” someone. The Obama administration even argued in the Supreme Court that the federal government can interfere in the hiring and firing of religious ministers, and that it can force nuns to facilitate and pay for the distribution of contraception.
Rejecting Coexistence and Persuasion
To the extent that Democratic moderation exists, it is mostly in service to big business and the foreign policy establishment. Culturally, Democrats are rejecting coexistence with those they consider deplorable. If you are a Christian conservative or part of the white working-class in America, it seems that Democrats don’t want to persuade you and win your vote. They don’t even want to live and let live; rather, they want to shame and punish you. Their party is not offering a unifying vision of America, but only the poisonous division of identity politics.
Democrats could have responded to Trump by moderating their stances in an attempt to build a nationally competitive majority party. Such a Democratic Party might support legal abortion, but accept limitations on late-term abortions and not seek taxpayer funding for abortion. On immigration, it might favor generous legal immigration and amnesty for those already here illegally, but recognize a need for border security and that concerns about immigration are not intrinsically racist. It might support gay marriage, but it would not hijack anti-discrimination laws to persecute those who hold a traditional religious view of marriage and human sexuality. And so on.
Such a Democratic Party would be relatively tolerant and liberal while advancing a center-left agenda. It would probably be politically successful, too. In many ways, this was the vision Obama seemed to promise in 2008, which was the high-water mark for Democrats this century. This vision proved to be illusory (along with the Democrats’ dreams of permanent majorities), but there are still Democrats who don’t want to wage a relentless culture war on their countrymen.
Yet they are doing little to restrain the rest of their party, even though one of the most effective ways for Democrats to resist Trump would be to rein in the radicals in their midst. Trump needs millions of voters who don’t like him to nonetheless rally to him in response to left-wing extremism. And it works, because people will side with almost anyone to avoid being ruled by those who hate them. So, Democrats, the more you build your policies around a culture war against the “deplorables,” the more you empower Trump.