Democrats are reaping what they have sown. What began as a trickle of cautionary advice has become a torrent, as Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, columnists Thomas Friedman and Frank Bruni, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, BET Founder Robert Johnson, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and so many others warn Democrats that their far-left lunge is likely to reelect President Trump.
A recent piece in the New York Times analyzing the president’s polling in several important states brings home the high cost of Democratic extremism. Given Trump’s standing in the Rust Belt and other states key to his 2016 victory, the piece concluded that Trump’s "advantage in the Electoral College, relative to the national popular vote, may be even larger than it was in 2016."
The analysis concludes, "Trump could win while losing the national vote by as much as five percentage points." Why might this happen? Because "the major Democratic opportunity – to mobilize nonwhite and young voters on the periphery of politics – would disproportionately help Democrats in diverse, often noncompetitive states."
Simply stated, Democrats are playing too much to the progressive wing of their party, which is concentrated in blue states like New York and California that Trump lost in 2016 and will likely lose again in 2020. Meanwhile, in the Rust Belt, where more moderate voters prevail, the president is in pretty good shape. Further, his popularity in the Sun Belt battleground states, which Democrats hoped might be fertile ground, remains strong.
That is one big bucket of ice water on Democrats’ smug assurance that the president was day by day self-destructing, and that their attacks on him would bear fruit.
For four years, starting during the 2016 campaign, liberal politicians and media figures like those columnists now warning of their party’s likely defeat, have denounced Donald Trump in the most vulgar and salacious manner, calling him a bigot, misogynist, criminal and worse. They seem clueless that those insults also, by inference, targeted those who voted for Donald Trump.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, recently tweeted, "Trump and his ultra-right wing base have a symbiotic relationship. They feed his narcissism and he feeds their hatred of others. A match made in totalitarian heaven."
That kind of attack causes Trump voters to dig in their heels. Attacks on the president, after all, are attacks on them, and they don’t like it.
That’s one reason why 90 percent of Republicans, according to Gallup, approve of the job Trump is doing.
Hirono comes from a state which Hillary Clinton won by 62.2 percent, her highest vote percentage of any state. Moreover, it was one of only two states in which she won every county. Hirono does not have to worry that her slams against Trump and his supporters might offend some of her constituents. But others in her party do have to worry. Offensive smears like that ripple through the nation like a virus; for the embattled moderates in the Democratic Party, there is no cure.
After Democrats took the House in 2018, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted: "We have tremendous unity in our caucus. That unity has been our strength, and it will continue to be as strong as ever in the 116th Congress."
Talk about wishful thinking. As I wrote at the time, numerous important issues divided Democrats, including gun control, the environment and health care. As it has turned out, the rift between progressive and moderate Democrats have only widened in the months since, leading to what is arguably now a split party.
President Trump’s spat with four freshmen progressive women in Congress, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., forced Democratic leaders to support a group that, like Hirono, has nothing to lose by attacking him, but that further alienates voters that Democrats need.
Trump’s call for "the squad," as that group is known, to go back to their "home" countries was widely condemned. But the women, who have in the past supported Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitism, have further roiled party politics by attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "disrespectful" of "newly elected women of color."
Pelosi has tried to ignore and belittle the controversial group, but that dismissal has done nothing to keep their attention-seeking antics from sucking all the air out of her party. Instead of covering moderate campaigners like Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., or former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, liberal media outlets have devoted enormous ink and airtime to the Squad, making those four the face of the Democratic Party.
That is surely not helpful to moderates trying to win back blue-collar voters in the Rust Belt.
It has now been reported that Pelosi will meet with squad leader Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman progressive from the Bronx. That proposed get-together should have taken place months ago, away from the glare of the cameras. Pelosi should have privately encouraged AOC, as she is called, to use her celebrity and social media following to boost Democrats in other parts of the country, and to work for the good of the party. She should have enlisted her as a valued and valuable colleague.
Instead, the meeting is now a made-for-TV spectacle, following on the heels of incendiary charges of racism the progressive group has hurled at Pelosi. We’ll no doubt hear happy talk from both parties about reconciliation and partnership, none of which will be believable.
Democrats have only themselves to blame for this threatening divide. The constant thrashing of Trump has fed a years-long frenzy that has exalted the most extreme personalities and policies.
Now, as 2020 approaches, many ask: do Democrats want to win an election or are they content to win a popularity contest among liberal elites in California and New York? We shall see.