July 3, 2019

Future of the Democratic Party

Editor’s note: Happy 4th of July week! Assuming there isn’t a revolution in the next few days, we’ll be back in full swing Monday morning. Pro tip if you’re visiting family: mentioning The Flip Side is a great way to defuse tense political debates! ;)

Following the first set of Democratic primary debates, polls from CNN and Quinnipiac showed Joe Biden’s support falling and Kamala Harris (D-CA) moving into second place. CNN, Quinnipiac

See our initial coverage of the debates here and here. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left is encouraged by the debates but believes the candidates will have to refine their messages to appeal to general election voters.

“The best course for Democrats, in elections and in government, is to develop a new agenda that synthesizes progressive values with conservative wisdom… Sanders has spent a lot of time in this campaign, as he did in 2016, defending socialism. It’s a losing and unnecessary battle. Democrats actually believe in capitalism. They just don’t like the ruthless, runaway version that has betrayed and antagonized working people…

“Healthy capitalism starts with stronger competition. When powerful companies aren’t regulated, the first thing they do is crush or buy out their competitors to escape market pressure. To preserve the market, the government has to constrain such behavior… It’s true that much of what was said on stage was dogmatic, tone-deaf, and self-destructive. But that’s only half the story. The other half is that through these debates, Democrats are beginning to articulate new ways of thinking about these problems and solving them.”
William Saletan, Slate

The Democratic candidates are talking more honestly about health care than about immigration. To develop a coherent approach to immigration in an era of rising asylum claims, Democrats need to explain—among other things—whom they would and wouldn’t let in… One of the internationally accepted legal criteria for who deserves asylum—fear based on ‘membership of a particular social group’—is extremely vague. Different immigration judges interpret it in vastly different ways. Since those judges currently work for the attorney general, and thus ultimately for the president, the Democratic candidates need to clarify what standard they support… They need to do so to let primary voters make an informed choice. And they need to do so before Donald Trump launches an onslaught of nativist attacks next year. The 2020 Democratic candidates don’t actually support open borders. They’re just not yet comfortable explaining why.”
Peter Beinart, The Atlantic

“Democrats can [also] spend more time talking about the party’s emerging solutions to the single most urgent crisis in the news right now… Plans have been introduced by House Democrats and Senate Democrats… These plans include things such as increased funding to Northern Triangle countries; creating additional in-country options for asylum seekers to apply for refugee status from afar to disincentivize the trek to the border; big investments in judges and programs to track asylum-seeking families awaiting hearings; and so forth… There’s more consensus here than you think.”
Greg Sargent, Washington Post

Some argue, “Activists are pressing candidates to take aggressively progressive stands on broad issues like Medicare-for-all but also narrower ones like including undocumented immigrants in health care plans and providing relief from graduate school debt. This is, however, precisely the wrong lesson to learn from the Trump era. It’s true that Trump is president, but it’s nottrue that Trump ran and won as an ideological extremist

“Trump ran as an Iraq War [opponent] who vowed to avoid new Middle Eastern military adventures, as an opponent of cutting Social Security and Medicare (and Medicaid), and as the first-ever Republican candidate to try to position himself as an ally to the LGBTQ community — going so far as to actually speak the words ‘LGBTQ’… Far from being a counterexample to the theory that moderation pays off, Trump’s election is, if anything, a testament to its power. The millions of progressives baffled that someone as coarse, ignorant, and scandal-plagued as Trump could win an election should reflect on the fact that he was able to partially recover from those things due to his positions on the issues.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Others ask, “In what sense are the Dems moving too far left?… Voters want to raise taxes on the rich and expand government social programs. In moving to the left on taxes and spending, then, Democrats are actually moving toward voters’ preferences, not away from them… On fiscal and economic responsibility: Nobody who endorsed the 2017 tax cut has any right to criticize Democratic proposals to spend more on things like child care. That tax cut, after all, appears likely to add around $2 trillion to federal debt — with around a third of that going to foreigners. Meanwhile, the promised surge in business investment is nowhere to be seen…

“Last but not least, if your view is that the progressive agenda is morally wrong, that people shouldn’t receive more in government benefits than they pay in taxes… [then] you should be calling on ‘donor’ states like New Jersey and New York to cut off places like Kentucky and let their economies collapse. And if that’s what you mean, you should let Mitch McConnell’s constituents know about it.”
Paul Krugman, New York Times

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is criticizing Democrats for adopting far-left positions unpopular with general election voters.

From the Right

The right is criticizing Democrats for adopting far-left positions unpopular with general election voters.

“The Democrats are doing everything they can to keep the Flight 93 panic alive on the right. They’re doing this by running so far to the left that many Trump-skeptical Republicans feel like they have no choice but to vote for him again (I hear this from my fellow conservatives every day). Democratic candidates have openly praised socialism, the Green New Deal, the abolition of private insurance, voting rights for incarcerated felons, federal funding of abortion late into pregnancy, confiscatory ‘wealth taxes,’ and even the right to sex-change operations paid for by taxpayers.”
Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times

The Democrats seemed to be tag-teaming to prove Republican talking points… While the consensus Democratic position appears to be allowing people to buy into a Medicare-type insurance program, enough Democrats are pushing ‘Medicare-for-all’ that they run the risk of the public thinking that is their overall approach. Another example was ‘open borders.’ Trump and the Republicans often speak about how the Democrats are for ‘open borders,’ or allowing anyone to enter the country, regardless of need for asylum or ability to contribute to society. I’m not sure that’s the consensus Democratic view… But when asked about what they would do about people crossing the border, no Democrat seemed to take the position that the U.S. should be able to decide (fairly) who needs to be offered asylum and who could be – safely and fairly – refused entry.”
Arnon Mishkin, Fox News

“On several polarizing issues, Democrats are refusing to offer the reassurances to moderate opinion that they once did. They’re not saying: We will secure the border and insist on an orderly asylum process, but do it in a humane way; we will protect the right to abortion while working to make it less common; we will protect gun rights while setting sensible limits on them. The old rhetorical guardrails — trust us, there’s a hard stop on how far left we’ll go — are gone.”
Ramesh Ponnuru, New York Times

Biden had a lane all to himself in the debate Thursday night, but he couldn’t stay in it… Biden’s drift to the left — supporting health care for illegal aliens, expressing strong distaste for deporting any of them who hadn’t committed major crimes — is illustrative of a Democratic party held hostage by its woke minority. Twice as many Democrats are over 65 than are under 30. More than half of Democrats who voted in 2018 identify themselves as moderate or conservative. ‘Very liberal’ Americans account for only 19 percent of the party’s voters. There is absolutely no need for Biden to be afraid of the Left. He was doing fine without them, they’re absolutely prepared to vote for him over Trump, and what Democrats crave is electability, which they think he’s got more of than anyone else. He doesn’t need to buy off the activists during primary season. But he did it anyway.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

“In the 2018 midterm elections, Pelosi’s Democrats far outdid Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance. Pelosi’s Democrats won the popular vote over Republicans by 6.7 points nationwide. How? By relentlessly talking about pocketbook issues, particularly the Democrats’ commitment to protecting voters’ existing health-insurance arrangements. Attack ads against Republicans in 2018 focused on the provision of a bill that would have weakened protections for those with preexisting conditions. Pelosi’s Democrats said Republicans would ‘raise your premiums’ and ‘kick you off your health-care plan’…

“For good measure they accused Republicans of ‘doubling the debt.’ Pelosi and Chuck Schumer tried to tamp down the story of the migrant caravan then traveling through Mexico, calling President Trump’s focus on it a distraction from health care. Pelosi’s Democrats retook the Rust Belt districts that Donald Trump had won in 2016… [She must have watched the] Democratic primary debates in horror.”
Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review

“A presidential election loss discredits the party’s insiders, and so the outsider grassroots say, with vehemence—and oftentimes no little justification—it’s our turn, give us a chance. Thus the activists, fired by ideological zeal, seize control of the party’s nomination…

“They raise their voices, walk the precincts, show up at meetings, flock to the polls, and generally set the tone for the party. That’s how the left-wing Senator George McGovern of South Dakota won the 1972 Democratic nomination. There was no social media back then, but if there had been, McGovern would have dominated Democratic Twitter. Yet of course, dominating the intra-party discussion is not the same thing as winning an inter-party election. So while McGovern surged to win the Democratic nomination in the summer of 1972, he crashed in his actual bid to win the White House that November. He crashed badly, in fact—he lost 49 states.”
James P. Pinkerton, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

On the bright side...

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