Friday, November 18, 2016

The Democrats Double Down

The lesson the party is learning from its loss is that it didn’t spend and regulate enough.


By Kimberley A. Strassel 
The Wall Street Journal
November 18, 2016

We teach our children that what matters isn’t how we handle success, but how we handle defeat. Tell that to the collapsing Democratic Party.

Here’s what Democrats know: They got thumped last week. Donald Trump cleaned their clocks, despite his disorganization, controversies and lack of money. Senate Democrats blew at least seven competitive races, and they remain in the minority. House Democrats blew even more, and they remain in the minority. Democratic governors got thumped. Democratic state legislators got thumped. Democratic dog catchers—if there were any on the ballot—got thumped.

What Democrats should realize, because everyone else does, is that voters rejected both their policies (which have undermined middle- and low-income families) and their governance (which has fueled rage at a power-hungry federal government). Hillary Clinton proposed more of the same. Coal workers said no. Blue-collar union workers said no. Suburban moms said no. Small businessmen, drowning under Dodd-Frank and ObamaCare, said no.

Instead Democrats think last week was an accident. Mrs. Clinton tells donors that she only lost because of FBI Director Jim Comey.Barack Obama faults Hillary’s tactics—she didn’t spend enough time in the right states. Michael Dukakis says Democrats only lost because of the Electoral College. Rachel Maddow blames third-party candidates.

All this denial has cleared the field for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the leading voice now calling on the party to recognize it has erred and needs change. She is telling the masses, however, that Democrats lost because they didn’t go big enough. They didn’t spend enough. Didn’t regulate enough. Didn’t socialize health care enough. Her prescription: Double down.

That is precisely what Democrats are doing. The party is falling in line to install a Minnesota radical, Rep. Keith Ellison,as head of the Democratic National Committee. No one seems concerned that Mr. Ellison is a progressive to make even Mrs. Warren blush, utterly out of tune with the concerns of average Americans.

The party’s only real interest? Mr. Ellison is black and Muslim, which checks the diversity boxes. But might not the party help itself more by electing a Latino leader? Maybe even a Latino woman? This is exactly the approach that Mrs. Clinton pursued by practicing identity politics and catering to specific blocs of voters, while alienating whites and ignoring core issues.

Nancy Pelosi in 2010 oversaw the loss of 63 Democratic House seats, the biggest wipeout in 70 years. After last week, her third failure to retake the House, that net loss figure remains virtually unchanged. Her response was to make another run for House minority leader, though Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan announced Thursday that he will challenge her.

New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer this week attained his dream of ascending to lead his party in the Senate, and rumors are that he didn’t always agree with the obstructionist tactics of his predecessor Harry Reid. So he has already reached out to Mr. Trump. Sen. Schumer has an interest in doing so, if only to try to save the skins of the 10 Democrats up for re-election in 2018 who hail from states that Mr. Trump won—among them, Indiana, West Virginia, Montana and North Dakota.

But this assumes that Mr. Schumer will be running the show. The party’s two super-senators, Ms. Warren and Bernie Sanders, have other ideas. Both intend to rally the furies of the progressive movement to oppose any Republican reform. Even Mr. Schumer’s polite outreach to Mr. Trump provoked a progressive meltdown, with screams that Senate Democrats are already “selling out.” This might be why Mr. Schumer, in penance, threw his support behind Mr. Ellison to lead the party.

A few lone dissenters are shouting in the gale. Boyd Brown, a Democratic National Committee member from South Carolina (and therefore a dying breed), told Politico this week: “When you have Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer making the sale for you, that dog don’t hunt. It’s time to reshuffle the deck and get some younger folks in there with some more diverse backgrounds.” Mr. Boyd is likely to be ignored, and for reasons that go beyond his folksy reference to hunting dogs.

That’s because Democrats right now look a lot like the House Republicans of the early 2000s, who became ever more desperate to hold on to power in the face of scandal, laziness and a loss of principle. As more voters abandoned them, the GOP became ever more interested in culturally catering to a shrinking circle of supporters, in particular the religious right. Remember the explosion over Terri Schiavo? That was the GOP version of executive orders on transgender bathrooms.

Republicans had the benefit of a broad grass-roots movement in the Tea Party that soon after defined the terms of the party’s re-election: If it wanted power again, it would have to embrace a reform agenda for a center-right country. It would have to give up earmarks and self-dealing, focus on fixing taxes, entitlements, health care. The GOP took back the House in 2010.

In Mrs. Clinton’s defeat, progressives see their chance to finally run the Democratic Party. And they may run it—in the minority—for a very long time.


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