As Rep. Nancy Pelosi stood behind President Donald Trump at the conclusion of the State of the Union address and childishly ripped his speech in half, it symbolized more than just the Democrats’ contempt for the president. It represented the party’s final break with reality -- its shamelessness exceeded only by its transparent desperation for relevancy.
In the blunt words of long-time Democrat guru James Carville, his party has “tacked off the damn radar.”
The bizarre, leftward course now being charted by America’s oldest major political party did not start with Sen. Bernie Sanders becoming a presidential nominee front-runner, or with Pelosi throwing a series of very public tantrums. In many respects, the answer to the questions of how and why the Democrat Party reached this point starts with Twitter, the social media platform that in many respects now dominates news and politics.
Democrats recognized early on Twitter’s potential for spreading their message, and party adherents quickly latched onto the social media platform as their vehicle of choice. In this, they have been joined by cadres of liberal reporters and journalists in the mainstream media, who similarly have flocked to Twitter to get the scoop on trending topics they then purport to transform into “news” stories.
However, the very platform Democrats believed would amplify their message, has, in reality, become an ideologically incestuous echo chamber for extremist positions in which the party itself has become entrapped, and increasingly deaf to mainstream issues important to moderate voters.
Adding to the danger of this closed feedback system are mainstream media reporters who believe the trending topics they read on Twitter -- elevated by online activists who represent a tiny fraction of Americans overall -- are newsworthy. An isolated topic or issue that otherwise would pass without notice now makes headlines, thus becoming fodder for discussion among Democratic politicians eager to cash in on the latest outrage. As a result, all of the fringe extremism that previously was contained within social media overflows into the public square.
Unable or unwilling to separate the online world from reality, Democrats have come to believe the same behavior and issues that make them “Twitter famous” will also make them popular with voters. Not so.
Rather than making them more connected to their constituents and better attuned to local sentiment, candidates and elected Democrats drift further into the extremes as they seek online glory and their next “viral” moment, paying only nominal lip-service to the issues that once existed at the heart of the Democratic Party and fueled its electoral successes. The downward spiral continues as candidates realize it is not enough to be “woke” on just one or two issues. If they are not 100 percent on all the issues important to progressives, they risk losing their online status should they be “canceled” for failing this absurd, all-or-nothing litmus test.
The result is a Democratic Party that is electable in New York’s Bushwick neighborhood or San Francisco’s Mission District, but utterly unpalatable to voters outside such “progressive” urban areas.
Still, Democrats don’t seem to get it, as evidenced by how poorly the 2020 race has gone for them so far. Rather than crafting a populist message like that which helped elevate Trump to the White House in 2016, Democrats climb over themselves to be seen as the “most progressive” of the bunch.
It did not help that they were thrown into a series of issue-specific town halls by news outlets who calculated this would be great for advertising dollars, but where for hours candidates had to figure out ways to stand out from each other on niche topics such as guns and climate change. This naturally took them to greater and greater extremes through the night, leading to some pretty embarrassing moments, as when all the candidates raised their hand as a vow to provide universal healthcare to illegal immigrants – a position extreme even for traditionally liberal voters.
The cumulative effect of this pandering for notoriety on a platform used by less than 10 percent of the population, of which even less are politically like-minded, has created the state of extreme discord among Democrats we are witnessing today. It is a rift in which candidates look, act, and sound increasingly alien to the mainstream voters to which they need to appeal in order to succeed in the general election.
It remains to be seen whether Carville is to be a prophet or a pariah for speaking this truth.