Thursday, November 17, 2016

The New Trump Democrats

Trump voters have become journalism’s biggest archaeological excavation site.


By Daniel Henninger
The Wall Street Journal
November 17, 2016

Will the donkey lie down with the elephant?

Two days after the election, Sen. Elizabeth Warren told the AFL-CIO executive council, “I will work with” Donald Trump.

Bernie Sanders: “I and other progressives are prepared to work with him.”

The Washington Post: “Pelosi says Democrats are willing to work with Trump.”

That was easy. Someone should tweet the news to the Occupy Trump Tower mobs on Fifth Avenue.

Of course this burst of Trumpian bonhomie comes with the word “if” attached: They’ll work with Donald Trump . . . if he becomes one of them. Which is to say, if he adopts the progressive policies and attitudes that just got the Democratic Party wiped out, from the presidency down to dogcatcher.

“If Republicans want to force through massive tax cuts,” thundered Sen. Warren, “we will fight them every step of the way.”

Even by the normal standards of post-election schadenfreude, it is hard not to be agog at the spectacle of Democrats trying to figure out what hit them and what to do about it.

A personal favorite is that Democrats must now distance themselves from “wealthy donors.” Party check-writers from Barbra Streisand to Jay Z put it all out there for Hillary, and this is the thanks they get—Bernie Sanders denouncing them to Stephen Colbert as “the liberal elite.”

A conclusion has emerged that the party forgot the forgotten man. In the past week, Trump voters have become the biggest archaeological dig in journalism, with the New York Times last weekend outputting three reports on lost tribes in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.

President Obama paused during his trip to Greece to admit Mr. Trump won because of voter “anxiety” over the economy. That is the emerging Democratic consensus: The party needs to rediscover the economic well-being of the kind of people who voted Democratic from FDR to Bill Clinton. It is a good question how a party could forget an 80-year constituency.

Nancy Pelosi’s leadership of House Democrats is now under challenge, we are supposed to believe, from members who seethed in silence for years as the party became defined by the Streisandian elites on the East and West Coasts.

Ohio’s Rep. Marcy Kaptur and fellow Ohioan Tim Ryan are both considering an attempt to overthrow the party’s most-famous San Francisco Democrat after Thanksgiving.

Will the progressive websites publish their annual advice column, “How to talk to your uncle at Thanksgiving dinner”? Maybe this year they should just listen.

Somewhere inside this Democratic mess may be the beginning of wisdom. But for all the commitment to rediscovering the lives of blue-collar Americans, Tiger Woods is more likely to figure out his golf swing before the party relearns the realities of the American economy.

This generation of Democrats doesn’t even know what the economy is anymore.

For the Democrats, America’s daily life of work, profit and loss across 50 states is essentially an alien phenomenon that sends them revenue, the way a pipeline transmits natural gas. This pipeline fuels their “economy,” which is the thousands and thousands of spending and line items in the $4 trillion federal budget.

Some would call this redistribution. The Democrats would call it their life’s work. Truth is, it isn’t working for them anymore.

There is no possibility that the Democrats are going to gain back enough of these Trump voters unless someone in their party stands up and shouts that these emperors of “economic fairness” aren’t wearing any clothes.

Other than the direct injection of infrastructure spending, you will look in vain through the party’s postmortems for a policy idea that would lift the economic prospects of people in places like Wilkes-Barre, Pa., who went over to Donald Trump.

In 1962 John F. Kennedy, whose campaign pledge was “get America moving again,” proposed a tax cut at the urging of his Republican Treasury Secretary, and Wall Street grandee, Douglas Dillon.

In a speech, Kennedy called for “an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes” to reform a system that “reduces the financial incentives for personal effort, investment, and risk-taking.” The economy grew strongly for years.

We’re there again, in a system that is risk averse and suppresses effort and investment. But the Democrats saying this week that they need to rediscover the economic life of America’s voters would rather drink arsenic than cut taxes on capital, lest some employer on one of the distant stars, say Wisconsin, might, ugh, make more money.

Possibly this assessment of the Democrats’ economic obtuseness is too harsh. If proven wrong, it will be withdrawn.

New Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has brought West Virginia centrist Joe Manchin onto his leadership team. In 2018, Democrats must defend 10 Senate seats in states Donald Trump won. If I were one of these 10, I’d give the Democrats 2017 to reboot their persona. If not, I’d go over to the other side.


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