Liz Peek: Struggling Dems need their own Donald Trump

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Hatred of President Trump is driving our country crazy. Only crazy people would gush over the sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un – a representative of the murderous despot – in order to upstage Vice President Mike Pence at the Olympics in South Korea.

Only a crazy person would send a letter containing a suspicious white powder – which police later said was harmless – to Donald Trump Jr., along with a letter calling him an “awful, awful person.”

Will this hatred ever end? Probably not, and here’s why: Democrats are panicked that President Trump is winning. There is a good possibility that the president will survive his four years in office and be re-elected in 2020.

Internal polling done for Priorities USA, a leading Democratic Super PAC, suggests that President Trump’s popularity is rising. His approval rating was 44 percent early this month, up from 40 percent in November.

Democrats, too, need a new story. They need their own Donald Trump, someone who can weave progressive threads together with mainstream American values to create a new tapestry, winning over disaffected voters on the left and the right. That person has not yet emerged.

The same survey showed the Democrats’ generic ballot lead had shrunk during the same period, with 46 percent of people preferring Democratic candidates to 42 percent for Republicans, echoing public readings.

Of course, polls go up and down, but it appears that if President Trump delivers on important issues, like cutting taxes and streamlining regulations, he will be rewarded. It also seems as though the relentless assault on the president from the liberal media has helped polarize the country but is not bearing political fruit; supporters of the president most likely tune it out.

But here is the real reason why the frustration and hatred from the left will only grow: Democrats have no one who can contest Trump’s grip on the presidency. This is their problem.

Trump stormed onto the scene and succeeded against long odds because he offered the country a new story. Voters were bone weary of the same old arguments and failed nostrums; they delighted in Trump’s bold attacks on establishment policies. They feared the country was sliding in the wrong direction and welcomed a new approach.

Democrats, too, need a new story. They need their own Donald Trump, someone who can weave progressive threads together with mainstream American values to create a new tapestry, winning over disaffected voters on the left and the right. That person has not yet emerged.

The person who will energize Democrats and independents cannot trample the American flag and cannot put people illegally in the country ahead of our citizens, even as he or she must absolutely push for legalization of the so-called Dreamers. This person will necessarily support abortion rights, but perhaps temper that stance by condoning the 20-week ban recently voted down by the Senate.

To enlist progressives, the candidate will need to advocate for higher taxes on the wealthy, but should also push policies that encourage economic growth and would mitigate the damage from higher taxes.

Opposing regulatory excess, as President Obama (ironically) advocated – and perhaps agreeing to reform the permitting process for infrastructure spending, as President Trump has suggested – could be part of a reasonable pro-growth agenda.

Could this be a Democratic platform? Who cares? Many have said that Trump is not really a Republican. That is correct, and one reason why he broke through some 16 GOP rivals to win the primaries.

Candidate Trump brought to the table not a predictable and stale orthodoxy, but something novel and shaped for our times. For example, unlike his primary rivals, he was willing to buck the Chamber of Commerce, mouthpiece of the normally GOP-friendly business leadership. He was willing to challenge trade policies long championed by the chamber because he saw the interests of the corporate elite as diverging from the interests of the nation. Workers saw it that way, too.

Trump was willing to criticize our military engagements overseas, risking the ire of traditional GOP allies at the Pentagon. More recently, he has dared to sign off on tax cuts and budget deals that swell our deficits, infuriating conservatives, and has offered up an immigration package that faces as much opposition from the right as from the left.

Some consider his wandering across party or ideological lines a sign of confusion or a lack of discipline. To many, it looks like pragmatism. The country wants solutions to our problems, not party-driven fatwahs.

To win in 2020, Democrats need to find a candidate who is similarly willing to challenge liberal orthodoxy. They need ideas about how to fix ObamaCare, not just blind allegiance to a clearly flawed program. They should question how we will shore up our entitlements programs, though broaching that issue is a risky business.

It might be that in 2020 Democrats will need to take some risks and offer new solutions to some of our oldest problems. Most importantly, they need to focus on the issues that matter most to voters.

Asked in a recent Economist/YouGov poll to rank their most pressing concerns, 1,500 U.S. adults put health care, Social Security and the economy at the top of the list. Priorities USA noted in a memo that accompanied its latest polling that President Trump enjoyed a plurality of support for his tax and economic policies, and that voter approval for his stance on health care had also been climbing.

Gay rights, abortion and gun control – headliners for Democrats like Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York – were at the bottom of the list.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., may be wising up. In a recent tweet he suggested that “we have the chance this wk to help #Dreamers become Americans … & to improve border security, something Ds & Rs have long supported.” That balance has been missing of late.

Schumer also recently offered his colleagues some good advice: “You cannot just run against Donald Trump," he said, speaking at the University of Louisville. "And it is the job of we Democrats to put together a strong, cohesive, economic group of proposals aimed at the middle class and those struggling to get there." His grammar is execrable but his sentiment is sound.