Given his consistently poor approval ratings, and growing concern about the polarization that he has exacerbated, Democrats should have little trouble ousting President Trump next year. But instead, with a series of outlandish and often deeply unpopular proposals, they have morphed effectively into the Committee to Re-Elect the President.
Democrats could succeed easily if they focused on basic middle class issues, such as health care and reforming the tax system, where popular opinion, including among working class whites, is largely on their side. Infrastructure spending, if they can somehow disassociate it from the usual pork-barreling, could also gain support, particularly from construction workers.
Instead many Democratic candidates appear if they are trying to win the campus and media intersectionality challenge, emphasizing cultural “purity” in ways that worry such craftier politicians as Barack Obama. The views now commonly expressed on gender, race, immigration and the environment may work in the deep blue recesses of our majority cities, but are unlikely to play in Peoria.
Democrats have been ahead of public opinion on issues of female empowerment and gay rights, and these issues help them against the misogynistic, alpha-male President. Support for gay marriage has risen dramatically in the past decade, and has become a clear winner for the Democratic Party.
Yet, in a pattern depressingly common, the Democrats seem determined not to acknowledge victory but take on ever more marginal positions. Their often obsessive focus on transgender issues not only impact a small part of the population, but could allow Republicans to identify them with such things as allowing biological males to use women’s restrooms and encouraging parents to allow their children to be raised without gender identity, an agenda rejected by two-thirds or more of the population.
Perhaps the most fraught part of the Democrats’ gender politics revolves around abortion. The country — including millennials — may be divided on the practice overall, but roughly four in five oppose late-term abortions which, to some, resemble infanticide. These positions could hurt them in culturally conservative regions of the Midwest and Mid-south and among Latinos as well as.
As in the case of gender, Democrats can, and should be, proud of their support for minority rights. Relatively few Americans, particularly among the young, now oppose inter-marriage between races and a solid majority support affirmative action. Yet this comity does not extend to such things as reparations for slavery — a position rejected by 70 percent of Americans but embraced by candidates like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.
As in so many cases, the reparations embrace reflects an ideology, popular on campuses but not among the general public, that sees American history as little more than a litany of oppression. To be sure, our history with racial minorities, and Native Americans, has often been shameful, but much of it is also uplifting, from the work of the antebellum abolitionists, the over 300,000 Union soldiers who died, in part, to free the slaves to the work of the modern Civil Rights movement.
Trump’s white identitarian politics, particularly associated with immigration, represents a long-term gift to the Democrats, given that the country will be as much as half non-white by 2050. Yet some candidates, including New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, want to “dismantle ICE,” and others, like Texas’ Beto O’Rourke, want to tear down existing barriers. Such stances are likely to remain not at all popular with the vast majority of Americans.
Both Bernie Sanders and Trump identified the problems faced by working class people by unrestricted immigration, people who share neighborhoods, schools and hospitals with the largely impoverished newcomers and could benefit economically from a more restrictive policy. Of course, this is not much a problem for wealthy people living in the sanctuary cities like New York, San Francisco or L.A.’s Westside for whom mass immigration, including the undocumented, promises an endless supply of nannies, gardeners, dishwashers as well as distinctive restaurants and cultural festivals.
The Green New Deal: The Ultimate Delusion
Nothing threatens a potential Democratic sweep than the so-called “Green New Deal”. Driven by often hysterical media accounts, the proposal from the leader of the Democratic Stalinoids, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, pledges opposition to Democrats who might object to the destruction of whole industries — aerospace, oil and gas, and large-scale agriculture— at the behest of climate hysterics.
Rather than support incremental changes — such as replacing coal with natural gas, reconsidering nuclear power and embracing work at home — the GND would deliver a death blow to our electrical grid, which they want to rely on more, just as we remove the most reliable sources. The devastation of blue collar California and New York, in large part due to high electricity policies and “feel good” regulations likely can’t be easily sold in the politically critical Midwest that relies on cheap power and large scale manufacturing.
Rather than win the battle on fundamental economic issues, the Democrats seem to be working overtime to assure the re-election of the erratic and widely disliked Trump. If he wins re-election, he can only do it with the connivance of the “resistance.”
This article first appeared in The Orange County Register.
Joel Kotkin is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He authored The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, published in 2016 by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He is executive director of NewGeography.com and lives in Orange County, CA.