Saturday, December 11, 2021

Can the Democrats Defeat Trump and Trumpism?

That's the subject of Tom Edsall's latest Times column. Some excerpts that I agree with:
"Skocpol is sharply critical of trends within the Democratic Party:
"The advocacy groups and big funders and foundations around the Democratic Party — in an era of declining unions and mass membership groups — are pushing moralistic identity-based causes or specific policies that do not have majority appeal, understanding, or support, and using often weird insider language (like “Latinx”) or dumb slogans (“Defund the police”) to do it."
The leaders of these groups, Skocpol stressed,
"often claim to speak for Blacks, Hispanics, women etc. without actually speaking to or listening to the real-world concerns of the less privileged people in these categories. That is arrogant and politically stupid. It happens in part because of the over-concentration of college graduate Democrats in isolated sectors of major metro areas, in worlds apart from most other Americans."
Along similar lines, William Galston, a senior fellow at Brookings and former White House aide during the Clinton administration, wrote, “For the first time in my life, I have come to believe that the stability of our constitutional institutions can no longer be taken for granted.”
Galston argues that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party threatens to limit, if not prevent, efforts to enlarge support: “Everything depends on how much the Democrats really want to win. Some progressives, I fear, would rather be the majority in a minority party than the minority in a majority party.”
“In my view,” Galston continued,
"the issue is not so much ideology as it is class. Working-class people with less than a college degree have an outlook that differs from that of the educated professionals whose outlook has come to dominate the Democratic Party. To the dismay of Democratic strategists, class identity may turn out to be more powerful than ethnic identity, especially for Hispanics."
Democratic leaders generally and the Biden administration specifically, Galston said, have “failed to discharge, or even to recognize” their most important mission, the prevention of “Donald Trump returning to the Oval Office. They cannot do this with a program that drives away independents, moderates, and suburban voters, whose support made Biden’s victory possible.”
The party’s “principal weakness,” Galston observes, “lies in the realm of culture, which is why race, crime and schools have emerged as such damaging flash points.” In this context, “the Biden administration has failed to articulate views on immigration, criminal justice, education and related issues that a majority of Americans can support.”....
Jennifer L. Hochschild, a professor of government at Harvard, wrote by email that she certainly sees threats, “but I am not at all sure right now how deeply I think they undermine American democracy. If the Civil War (or more relevantly here, 1859-60) is the end of one continuum of threat, I don’t think we are close to that yet.”
At the same time, she cautioned,
"the Democratic Party over the past few decades has gotten into the position of appearing to oppose and scorn widely cherished institutions — conventional nuclear family, religion, patriotism, capitalism, wealth, norms of masculinity and femininity, then saying “vote for me.” Doesn’t sound like a winning strategy to me, especially given the evident failure to find a solution to growing inequality and the hollowing out of a lot of rural and small-town communities. I endorse most or all of those Democratic positions, but the combination of cultural superiority and economic fecklessness is really problematic."...
[Political scientist Sean] Westwood, however, does agree with Skocpol and Galston’s critique of the Democratic left:
'If the Democratic Party wants to challenge Republicans they need to move to the center and attempt to peel away centrist Republicans. Endorsing divisive policies and elevating divisive leaders only serves to make the Democrats less appealing to the very voters they need to sway to win."
The Democrats, in Westwood’s view,
"must return to being a party of the people and not woke-chasing elites who don’t understand that canceling comedians does not help struggling Americans feed their children. When it comes to financial policy Democrats are far better at protecting the poor, but this advantage is lost to unnecessary culture wars. Democrats need to stop wasting their time on cancel culture or they risk canceling themselves to those who live in the heart of this country."...
In a parallel argument, Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the pro-Democratic Center for American Progress, wrote in an essay in The Liberal Patriot, “Democrats, Not Republicans, Need to Defuse the Culture Wars”:
"Democrats are not on strong ground when they have to defend views that appear wobbly on rising violent crime, surging immigration at the border and non-meritocratic, race-essentialist approaches to education. They would be on much stronger ground if they became identified with an inclusive nationalism that emphasizes what Americans have in common and their right not just to economic prosperity but to public safety, secure borders and a world-class but nonideological education for their children."....
Edsall concludes:
"The Biden administration is....pushing an agenda of economic investment and expanded health care, but the public is not yet responding. Part of this failure lies with the administration’s suboptimal messaging. More threatening to the party, however, is the possibility that a growing perception of the Democratic Party as wedded to progressive orthodoxies now blinds a large segment of the electorate to the positive elements — let’s call it a trillion-dollar bread-and-butter strategy — of what Biden and his party are trying to do."

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