Democrats on the Rocks?

President Trump may have poor approval ratings, and the Republican Congress looks a little shaky at the moment in the Getting Big Things Done Department (like repealing Obamacare and getting a serious tax reform package together), so in the ordinary cycle of politics you’d be reasonable to forecast a bad election for Republicans in 2018. This may yet come to pass for all of the conventional reasons, but it is worth looking at the Democrats for a moment, and realizing that they’re in terrible shape.

That’s not just a partisan spin from me, but the judgment of veteran liberal journalist Thomas Edsall, writing in the New York Times earlier this week. (Though I’ve always disliked Edsall’s ideology and some of his journalism, the one time I met him I found him to be a very nice man, unlike many—even most—Washington journalists.) One thing I like about Edsall these days is that he calls it as he sees it, and has often been self-critical of liberals and Democrats in the past. He was one of the few liberal writers not surprised at Trump’s appeal to formerly reliable Democratic voters, and he also agrees with the conservative critique that Democrats have become too beholden to wealthy coastal elites on Wall Street and Hollywood/Silicon Valley. Edsall notes the growing survey data that show more and more voters believe that “the party of the rich” is the Democratic Party more than the Republican Party.

Here are a few excerpts from “The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought”:

Sifting through the wreckage of the 2016 election, Democratic pollsters, strategists and sympathetic academics have reached some unnerving conclusions.

What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide.

Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and race are in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets. . .

From here Edsall goes on to review a symposium of liberal analysts in The American Prospect quarterly. A couple of highlights:

While the populism espoused by Sanders and Warren is economic, challenging C.E.O.s, major corporations and “the billionaire class,” Trump is the messenger of what [Guy] Molyneux calls “political populism,” which “is, fundamentally, a story about the failure of government.” . . .

For decades, the perception that an intrusive federal government promotes policies favoring African-Americans and other minorities at the expense of whites has driven anti-government animosity.

In May, the Public Religion Research Institute released a report, “Beyond Economics: Fears of Cultural Displacement Pushed the White Working Class to Trump.” It found that

“more than half (52%) of white working-class Americans believe discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities” and that “four in ten white working-class Americans agree” with the statement that “efforts to increase diversity almost always come at the expense of whites.”

It’s going to be fun watching Democrats try to work their way out of the Identity Politics Box they have locked themselves into.

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