Tuesday, August 11, 2015

2016 Primary Season: The Democrats' Reckoning

Donald Trump is currently pointed to as an example of the fundamentally dysfunctional nature of today's GOP. There's a lot of truth to that point, but it's ultimately made less relevant by the fundamentally strong and enduring nature of the GOP's current position nationally (26 governorships, control of 30 state legislatures, a 58-seat majority in the House of Representatives, and control of the US Senate) as exhibited by the wealth of other major candidates for President.

That wealth is conspicuously lacking among Democrats. Under Obama's tenure, the Democrats' cupboard is bear. As a result, there are very limited ways for the increasingly frustrated components of the Dems' ruling coalition to find expression and influence.

Jonah Goldberg has a great new column laying this out.
The trouble for [Hillary] Clinton and the Democrats generally is that while Barack Obama was able to unite the factions of the left to get himself elected, it's not clear anyone else can.

Obama wanted to be a Reagan of the left, a "transformative" president who moved the magnetic poles of American politics leftward. The jury is out on that project, but he did succeed in at least one sense. Reagan united foreign policy hawks, social conservatives and economic conservatives — the famous three legs to the stool of the conservative movement.

Obama did something very similar on the left. He united the civil rights or identity politics wing, the economic or egalitarian wing and the more elitist technocratic wing. Obviously, these movements overlap — just as the different factions of the Reagan coalition overlapped — but each has its own priorities and passions.

Aided by his experience as a former community organizer and his historic status as the first black president, Obama held the coalition together through force of personality.

The Democratic Party has always had internal conflicts. Franklin D. Roosevelt's coalition contained socialist Jews and blacks and Southern segregationists. That coalition held for 20 years after his presidency. But the Obama coalition seems to be fraying while he's still in office, and none of his presumptive heirs have the charisma or skills to repair or sustain the coalition.
He concludes by saying, "The GOP's Trump problem will eventually melt away. I suspect the Democrats' troubles are far more durable."

I couldn't agree more. People talk about the demographic wave about to overtake the GOP, but the future belongs to those who show up. The irony here is that, while taking their triumph-by-demography for granted, Democrats have put themselves at real risk of becoming marginalized as a viable national party for a generation or so.

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