Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Post-Hillary Democrats

How in God’s name, the Democrats wonder, did we ever lose the 2016 election to him?


By Daniel Henninger
The Wall Street Journal
July 27, 2017

On climate change, Democrats believe they know to the 10th decimal place that Earth is on the brink of an apocalypse. But by their own admission this week, they don’t have a clue about which way the wind is blowing with the American voter.

On Monday the Democrats released something called “A Better Deal,” a set of policy ideas to win back voters. Think of it as the party laying down the first quarter-mile of blacktop on its road back to power.

The short version of “A Better Deal” is that they would bust up corporate trusts (Teddy Roosevelt, circa 1902), ramp up public-works spending ( FDR, circa the Great Depression) and enact various tax credits (Washington, circa eternity).

The more interesting question here lies in the document’s unspoken subtext: How in God’s name did we lose a presidential election to . . . him?

In a recent Washington Post interview, one of Hillary Clinton’s closest advisers, Jake Sullivan, admits, “I am still losing sleep. I’m still thinking about what I could have done differently.” Who wouldn’t? What happened Nov. 8 was like losing five Super Bowls in one day.

Hillary Clinton has taken to citing one fact: “Remember, I did win more than three million [more] votes than my opponent.” True, notwithstanding the pesky two-centuries-old Electoral College vote, which she lost.

Here’s another fact that still poses a maddening question for many: Donald J. Trump got more than 62 million votes. It wasn’t long before Election Day that many political sophisticates wondered how Donald Trump would get 620 votes, much less 62 million—after the McCain slander, the “Access Hollywood” tape, the generalized ignorance.

A conventional explanation for the loss—and we know this because Chuck Schumer conventionalized it last weekend—is to blame her. “When you lose to somebody who has 40% popularity,” said Sen. Schumer, “you don’t blame other things—Comey, Russia—you blame yourself.”

This is rich. It’s almost oxymoronic. The reason Democrats lost to him is that they had an unelectable candidate. But if both parties were running “unelectable” candidates, then a lot of that day’s 138 million voters based their decisions on something more concrete than the personalities of two celebrities.

Hillary Clinton was running as the extension of Barack Obama’s two-term presidency. If the Democrats are now throwing her under the bus, Mr. Obama is down there with her.

The Obama presidency was a watershed for the Democratic Party for reasons having little to do with his historic candidacy. Mr. Obama moved his party significantly to the left, arguably as Ronald Reagan had moved his to the right. But those two buzzwords—left and right—have substantive meaning. In practice, the Obama years constituted an abrupt enhancement of state power. ObamaCare was the tip of the iceberg.

Barack Obama was as smooth as Bill Clinton was slick, and he used his eloquence to soften the hard edges of the many policy coercions by his Justice, Labor and Education departments and the omnipresent EPA.

In 2016, the Clintons, especially the ex-president, recognized the risks of running on this leftward legacy in a general election. Thus Hillary’s efforts to essentially talk and fog her way past that reality.

But Bernie Sanders wouldn’t let her. Like Banquo’s ghost, Bernie reminded voters for months what the real face of the Democratic Party looked like—the unelectable left.

Yes, some forgotten voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan tipped the vote to Mr. Trump. But those states turned because millions of more-easily identified voters dumped the Obama Democrats, too.

A total surprise? I’d say there were at least five canaries in the Democrats’ fatal 2016 mineshaft. Any map of the party’s famous “blue wall” of electoral votes includes Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. What each of those deep-blue states has in common is that their presumably liberal, Democratic voters have elected Republican governors— Larry Hogan in Maryland, Charlie Baker in Massachusetts, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Bruce Rauner in Illinois and Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Throw in Chris Christie in irredeemably blue New Jersey.

Maryland’s Mr. Hogan is the benchmark. He won in 2014 because his Democratic predecessor, Martin O’Malley, desperate for revenue, had taxed Maryland’s people unto death. Naturally, Mr. O’Malley then ran for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Obama-era Democrats barely admit the states as part of the American system, and they obviously dismissed as irrelevant these GOP governors winning inside blue-wall states.

I almost forgot—the Better Deal. It sounds a lot like the federal spending initiatives in JFK’s New Frontier, except for one element: the Kennedy tax cuts of 1964.

In anyone’s lifetime, a tax under a Democratic president can go only one way. “Better” would not be the word for it. That, too, is the sort of thing voters would notice when forced to choose between a Democrat and a Trump.


Article Link To The WSJ: