Imagine things were different in America today. That unemployment on average wasn’t the lowest of any presidency at this point in a first term of office, buoyed by cuts in tax rates and regulations. That we were mired in a war on the other side of the world, with Americans impatient that, years on, it seemed to be getting worse, and no end was in sight. And that a porous border and illegal alien criminality wasn’t topping the list of issues of importance to the public.
Democrats took both houses of Congress from Republicans in 2006 by exploiting big problems, in particular the Iraq war. “U.S. forces in Iraq should transition to a more limited mission focused on counter-terrorism, training and logistical support of Iraqi security forces, and force protection of U.S. personnel,” Nancy Pelosi and 11 other Democrat leaders wrote to President Bush in July of that mid-term election year, charging that “your administration lacks a coherent strategy to stabilize Iraq and achieve victory” and there should be “an effective alternative to the current open-ended commitment which is not producing the progress in Iraq we would all like to see.”
Later that year the voters didn’t quite buy Republicans’ charges that Democrats wanted the U.S. to “wave the white flag of surrender.”
Today, by contrast, really the only thing Democrats have to exploit is President Trump’s supposedly “lawful but awful” behavior chronicled in special counsel Robert Mueller’s hundreds of pages that no one outside the Beltway is interested in reading. And as 2020 approaches, the public are as fatigued with Trump-Russia as they were with Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006, and 2008 when they elected Barack Obama.
“The Democrats have no ideas” has been a GOP talking point for a long time, but it’s actually worse than that. Their biggest idea, ObamaCare, was exposed as based on lies (“If you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you keep your health care plan.”) and built of straw, as premiums didn’t drop dramatically as promised but instead rose steeply, while multitudes lost their coverage.
When President Obama was selling ObamaCare in a special address to a joint session of Congress in September, 2009, he grandiosely called it the “great unfinished business of our society,” quoting Ted Kennedy. By October, 2016, six and a half years after its enactment, Obama was referring to his troubled Affordable Care Act as “just a first step.”
Not In A Vacuum
The generational-seeming rise of unashamed socialism-by-name in the Democratic Party, far from taking place in a vacuum, is happening in this context of the real-world failure of liberal policy. More government has indeed worsened health coverage for Americans. Cutting marginal income tax rates and dramatically reducing our globally disadvantaged corporate tax rate, on the other hand, has electrified the U.S. economy.
In this environment, just what can a Democrat run against Trump on next year? The choice seems to be “Impeach Trump,” “Green New Deal,” “Medicare For All,” or some unequal mixture of the three ingredients. But will voters really throw Trump out for committing “crimes and misdemeanors” that don’t warrant prosecution? Or because they believe the earth has 12 years left? Or to copy Britain and Canada’s disastrous health system?
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg catapulted himself from the obscurity of a crowded field of unknown Democrat presidential candidates into third place, right behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, not with some captivating idea on how to fix a big national problem but by cleverly playing the holier-than-thou card: picking a fight with the evangelical Vice President Mike Pence.
Party starlet Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) recently narrated a time machine animation in which the Green New Deal and Medicare For All had turned America into a Utopian paradise. If Obama, Hillary Clinton, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have been discredited, alternative ideas (and leadership) within their party that can excite the Democrat grassroots will come only from further left, like hers.
AOC, Sanders and their supporters are still intoxicated with their successes, convinced that perennially socialist-hostile America is now poised to embrace a movement the younger generation finds new and exhilarating. In fact, however, the heavy artillery has never been deployed against an explicit socialist like Sanders because none has ever come close to being elected to national power.
Shredding the Constitution
Americans will discover that their objectives go beyond the economic, seeking to destroy the very soul of the American form of government by the people. The game, it so happens, was just given away by Democratic Socialists of America ex-vice-chairman Bhaskar Sunkara in The Socialist Manifesto, being published by Basic this month.
For “democratic socialists” to gain power, the Constitution of the United States must be incinerated. “The American government is structured by an eighteenth-century text that is almost impossible to change,” Sunkara laments. “These ills didn’t come about by accident; the subversion of democracy was the explicit intent of the Constitution’s framers. For James Madison, writing in Federalist No. 10, ‘Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention’ incompatible with the rights of property owners.”
What Sunkara – 29 and less than four months older than fellow socialist AOC — disparages as Madison’s “Byzantine Constitution” is “the foundation for a system of government that rules over people, rather than an evolving tool for popular self-government.” It must be discarded and replaced with “a new political system that truly represents Americans,” which would feature “a strong federal government powered by a proportionally elected unicameral legislature.”
Imagine such a thing: Nancy Pelosi’s House of Representatives with no Republican Senate to restrain it, and the likes of Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) in charge of confirming cabinet appointments and Supreme Court nominees.
Also among Sunkara’s “intermediate steps” to full socialism: “abolishing the filibuster, establishing federal control over elections, and developing a simpler way to amend the Constitution through national referendum,” as well as “Abolishing the Electoral College and pushing toward more proportional voting systems,” the latter steps being “immediate demands.”
Lawbreaking is a key component of Sunkara’s strategy. Steps to “encourage working-class militancy” like rolling back right-to-work laws, and to “expand the scope of legal workplace actions” should not be taken to mean, according to Sunkara, “that labor activists should refrain from breaking these laws in the meantime – often, that’s exactly what it takes for the labor movement to be successful.”
And no one should be under the illusion that the militant Sunkara sees Sanders or AOC as sellouts; on the contrary, he considers them both to be the genuine article. “Sanders identified and helped create what could be an enduring constituency in American politics…If it’s possible that Bernie Sanders can win a national election, that means that the capital of capitalism may be months away from having a socialist in the White House.” AOC “is just one example” of what Sanders began, Sunkara believes.
If this is what the Democratic Party will represent in 2020 and it can be exposed as such – an avowed hatred of the U.S. Constitution and the advocacy of lawbreaking (almost certainly accompanied by union mob violence) to foment a war on property and capitalism – the Democrats’ presidential nominee will be an easy target. And President Trump and House and Senate Republicans will be having a very good day when the people go to the polls in November of next year.