Monday, November 5, 2018
It has been suggested that the anticipated Democratic takeover of the House will bolster Donald Trump's chances for a second term by providing a scapegoat for failures; much like the 2010 GOP takeover of the House did for Barack Obama's in 2012.
Nonetheless, we also know that the most important factor in an incumbent's chances for re-election is the caliber of the challenger the other side offers up.
Along these lines, although Gallup tells us that there are more self-identified conservatives than liberals in the American electorate, our liberal party has somehow managed to win the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential contests.
The most obvious explanation for this incongruity is that four of those six Democratic victories were won by the two most talented politicians of the post-Reagan era, Bill Clinton and Obama (and also because they had the good fortune to run against hapless opponents like George Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney).
In other words, campaigns and candidates matter.
Therein is also found the central problem facing the Democrats in 2020 -- that there are no Obamas or Clintons (or least not a Clinton with any political appeal) anywhere in sight. Indeed, if everyone who is currently making noises about running actually runs, the Democrats could present one of the largest collections of mediocrities in American electoral experience, perhaps even more dismal than the motley GOP crews of 2008 and 2012.
When the figures topping your polls are former Vice President Joe Biden (Obama's "impeachment insurance"), Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, New Jersey Sen. Cory "Spartacus" Booker, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and celebrity oddballs like Mark Cuban and porn lawyer Michael Avenatti are hovering about, it's no wonder that Hillary Clinton is thinking about giving it another go, to Democratic dismay and Republican delight.
As bad as all this is, it is likely to get worse on the Democratic front as the actual campaign draws closer, for two related reasons.
First is the inherently "centrifugal" nature of primary competition, in which the contenders must move further leftward or rightward in order to appeal to far left and right primary voters. If the anti-Trump "resistance" has already driven the Democratic Party into dangerous ideological territory, this tendency will be further magnified when Iowa and New Hampshire roll around.
A leftward bidding process already is underway among Democratic hopefuls making positions that were considered well out of the mainstream only a few years ago increasingly mandatory, including abortion on demand at taxpayer expense, a ban on so-called assault weapons, tax increases, Medicare for all and free college. Few Democrats will be able to resist demands for a $15 minimum ("living") wage and the abolition of ICE, while support for sanctuary cities and even reparations for slavery will become obligatory.
"Democratic socialism" (however vaguely defined) will be the party's official ideology, with Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street minions and #MeToo/#Survivor feminists firmly in charge. By July, 2020 Colin Kaepernick might end up being the perfect choice to give the keynote address at the Democratic convention.
The problem of looming ideological extremism will be further magnified by the Democrats' full-fledged embrace of identity politics and intersectionality logic; more precisely, as race, ethnicity and gender become determinative of status they will also determine the victors and losers of future intraparty competition.
The victims in the identity politics sweepstakes, by its very nature, become the victors in a political party based on such politics.
Biden, Sanders, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will be consequently rejected because, as white males, they sit atop the intersectionality oppressor/oppressed hierarchy, while Warren will lose out because she is a white female instead of the Native American female she once pretended to be.
By process of intersectionality deduction, the race could well come down to California Sen. Kamala Harris (who, being female and black, has two identity politics cards to play) and former San Antonio mayor and Obama HUD secretary Julian Castro (representing the somewhat belated Hispanic entry into the victimology competition).
Ultimately, identity politics and the broader theory of intersectionality that flows from it constitutes an ideology every bit as comprehensive and suffocating as Marxism-Leninism once was, demanding complete conformity and submission to orthodoxy (in the form of a constantly expanding political correctness) for all adherents.
If anything, Marxists occasionally engaged in spirited debate about theory and strategy; identity politics permits none, with even the notion of debate itself rejected as a tool of patriarchal oppression.
Within this context, Democrats will ultimately face something akin to the "red versus expert" dilemma that communist states used to face and which led to their eventual collapse: Do you promote people based on ability/expertise or ideological reliability, given that the two are unlikely to go together?
In the case of the Democrats do you henceforth select nominees on the basis of political talent and their ideas, or because they have the right gender or pigmentation?
Within such a choice lies a dismal political future filled by party hacks, brain dead conformity and lost elections.
Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.Editorial on 11/05/2018
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