Democrats, abetted by their allies in the mainstream media, constantly warn of the existential threat President Trump poses to all things decent. If they are to be believed, his tweets and actions are causing permanent damage to America’s international standing, race relations, and democracy itself.
Put aside for the moment the fact that they have used similar rhetoric before to describe every recent Republican president or nominee, from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush to Mitt Romney. The only Republicans the media seem to like are those considerate enough either to die or lose gracefully.
Despite their dire warnings, Democrats are certainly not acting as if Trump poses such a threat as to require them to put country above party. Democrats are overly confident Trump will be a weak general election opponent and gleefully dream of taking back the White House and the Senate. Calling to mind Rahm Emanuel’s admonition, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Democrats see today the same opportunity they had after the 2008 election cycle to “do things that you think you could not do before.”
Barack Obama used the political momentum he gained due to a combination of his soaring rhetoric, a failing economy, and dissatisfaction with Bush’s responses to the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina to spend $1 trillion, pass Obamacare, and significantly expand federal regulation of the financial industry.
Democrats still debate whether he should have used his political capital and unique opportunity instead to pass legislation enacting carbon emissions caps, card check, immigration reform, or tax increases. What they don’t debate is whether he instead should have pursued a bipartisan agenda in response to the Great Recession, perhaps including targeted tax relief designed to spur investment and job creation, traditional infrastructure projects designed to make the economy more productive, and modest gradual entitlement reforms to help pay for both over the long term.
The Democratic Party Could Propose Modest Policies
Democrats today are similarly ambitious and ideological in their goals. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti admitted the Green New Deal “wasn’t originally a climate thing at all,” but they “really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.” Not simply content with covering the uninsured, Sen. Bernie Sanders now wants to pass Medicare for All and take away private insurance, competition, and meaningful choice from all Americans.
Suspend reason briefly and imagine a very different election platform. Imagine if Joe Biden, or whatever candidate passes for a moderate Democrat these days, promised a centrist administration. Rather than simply assuming “Never Trumpers” and other swing voters will have no choice but to vote for whatever Democrat gets nominated and against Trump, what if the Democratic Party made defeating Trump more of a priority than implementing its radical agenda designed to appease various far-left groups?
A more sincere Democratic Party could propose an inclusive administration representing the moderate middle, which would frustrate activists at either end of the ideological spectrum. Just as Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama included members of the other party in their Cabinets, Democrats could commit to nominating even more Republicans. It would be perhaps too ironic for Romney, the father of Romneycare, to be named Health and Human Services secretary, given responsibility for overseeing Obamacare.
Democrats could promise to nominate judges acceptable to both the Federalist Society and the American Civil Liberties Union, or alternate between the two if consensus proves impossible, with a promise not to alter the balance of the Supreme Court. Naming a liberal jurist to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be slightly less objectionable to mainstream conservatives than expanding the court or replacing a conservative jurist with a liberal activist.
They could foreswear any sweeping domestic policies or regulations, new entitlement programs, significant new spending or taxes, or foreign policies passed on a partisan vote and insist on truly bipartisan majorities. If they are truly confident in the popular support for their sweeping revamp of American society and its economy, surely that majority will still be there four years hence when the centrist ticket expires.
Democrats Can’t Resist Putting Party over Country
This, of course, will never happen. But if Democrats truly believed their own rhetoric about the menace Trump poses to civilized society, wouldn’t it be their patriotic duty to do everything possible — even work with Republicans — to beat him? Instead, Democrats seemingly do not really believe Trump to be that dangerous or cannot resist the temptation to use this opportunity to force far-leftism on the American people.
There is precedent for this type of partisan bait and switch. Republican Roy Moore faced serious allegations of sexual misconduct during his campaign for the U.S. Senate, allegations that surfaced after he had won the primary but before the general election. Democrats, again aided by the mainstream media, appealed to traditionally Republican voters to abandon their party’s nominee out of decency and to support the “law and order” Democrat.
Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee expected to lose in a state that Trump carried by more than 28 points, was “skilled at muting his liberal stands on such issues as abortion and gay rights,” emphasizing his lack of scandal and support for gun rights, and appeared set to become a moderate Democrat like Joe Manchin. Despite occasionally hinting he might vote with Republicans, for example to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Jones has instead voted with Trump about as often as Mark Warner, who represents a state Trump lost.
Obviously, nothing in the Constitution requires Jones to reflect the will of the majority of the voters in the state he represents, for example, by voting to confirm more of Trump’s nominees. Democrats had the good fortune of facing one of the only Republicans who could lose the Alabama Senate election, and Jones has decided to serve as if he has a mandate for his liberal views.
Democrats should spare voters the histrionics about the moral imperative to defeat Trump, as if the ballot choice were actually a referendum on each voter’s core decency. Voting against the Democratic nominee does not automatically make one a racist or a sexist, just as voting for the same nominee does not automatically confer virtue.
If Democrats actually believed that, they would act accordingly and put aside their petty partisan goals for the good of the country. They should instead do the harder work of trying to make the case for their radical ideas and compete against Trump’s track record of economic success.