Democrats obviously didn't take their defeat in 2016 well. That debacle has, however, produced virtually none of the soul-searching and reform that usually occur on the loser's side. One would think that they had won rather than lost more than 1,000 elected offices nationwide during the Obama era.
As such, the "resistance" developed even before Donald Trump was sworn into office and has become steadily more ferocious even as evidence accumulates that it is enhancing rather than eroding his support.
The party has also doubled down in just about every conceivable way upon the "identity politics" stratagem, with apparently no desire to mend fences with the white working-class voters whose defection in places like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania cost Hillary Clinton the presidency.
Despite evidence that they had moved too far left to be competitive in many parts of the country, Democrats have now moved even further in the past 18 months, going, in one pundit's words, "full Venezuela."
Abortion on demand at taxpayer expense, free college, socialized medicine, guaranteed federal jobs for all, a $15-dollar minimum wage, and the abolition of ICE with "sanctuary" cities and open borders are now, in essence, the party's non-negotiable program.
National Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz had a hard time during the 2016 election cycle explaining the difference between a socialist and a Democrat, but whatever distinctions existed have now been erased by the party's embrace of "democratic socialism."
In the words of Kyle Smith, "The Democratic love of socialism was for many years the love that dared not speak its name. No more. Now the party is figuratively jumping on Oprah's couch shouting its love of socialism. You'd have to plug your ears not to hear it."
The Democratic Party is now firmly the party of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
This failure of adjustment in the form of increasing extremism will likely lead to still more electoral disasters, probably even the re-election of Donald Trump (as remarkable as that might sound), but can be explained by several overlapping factors.
First was the exceeding narrowness of Hillary Clinton's defeat, amounting to about 80,000 votes in three middle industrial states, combined with the fact that she won the popular vote by a full two percentage points.
Clinton's array of excuses--Comey, the Russians, voter disenfranchisement, the electoral college, etc.--also came together amid the shock to provide Democrats with an overarching, soothing narrative of a stolen election. This belief, with its corollary that Trump's presidency is fundamentally illegitimate, has provided the justification for both the fury of the resistance and the party's further radicalization on the ideological front.
In short, if you believe that you were the real, rightful winners, then there is no need to learn any lessons from defeat; you can keep on doing what you've been doing, only more so.
That Democrats have been shellacked in recent years at every other level of government can even be conveniently attributed to factors outside their control, including the allegedly archaic, undemocratic structure of the Senate (two per state, regardless of population), the perfidy of Republican gerrymandering (for the House), and the tendency of birds of a feather to flock together (liberals clustering in the same states and large urban areas).
The presumably obsolete architecture of the American federal system can thus be cited as another excuse for Democratic failures that have little to do with what the party is actually offering voters.
Second, there has been a predictable blaming of the messenger rather than the increasingly hard-left ideological message. The problem wasn't their ideology or the positions that flowed from it but that Democrats got stuck with a historically bad candidate who came burdened by too many scandals and character questions and then proceeded to run an overconfident, tactically inept campaign.
Even then, for all her mistakes and lack of personal appeal, Hillary still would have won, so the argument goes, if only she had heeded Bill's advice and spent a bit more time and money in states that she mistakenly assumed were locked up (the now forgotten Democratic "blue wall").
That the worst possible Democratic messenger was still highly competitive suggested for the faithful that nothing was wrong with the message.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, especially in terms of explaining Trump's improbable victory, was what can be called the "contempt factor," more specifically, the extent to which Democrats have experienced increasing difficulty in recent years concealing their disdain for our deplorable electorate.
Hillary ultimately lost, apart from other considerations, because there were (and still are) simply too many racists and sexists out there in an incorrigibly racist and sexist country.
This ill-concealed belief is intrinsically tied to the sense of moral superiority that pervades the contemporary left and provides its members with tribal solidarity and purpose. In such an unsavory nation filled with bigots, losing lots of elections becomes further evidence of moral virtue, a badge of courage of sorts. The problem, then, isn't the Democrats, it's America, a country that just isn't good enough for them.
A dismal pattern is thus established: Democrats lose elections and then blame the voters; which causes them to lose still more elections and . . .
Funny how that works, isn't it?
Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.
Editorial on 07/16/2018
Print Headline: Failure to adapt