President Trump attacks Republican leadership, and that’s all the liberal media says about the supposed Republican civil war that’s engulfing the party in chaos. Yes, the GOP only controls pretty much everything, but we’re a party in shambles. Our fundraising is down. Our strength at the state and local level is dismal, we don’t control Congress, and we’re now a regional party. Oh wait; that’s the Democrats. The Democrats are now the party constrained to its urban and coast strongholds, have crappy fundraising, virtually zero presence in rural America, and have lost every significant special election since Trump won. As the party remains in ruins, it’s a question of what to do and where to go. Would Democrats have clinched a win if they pursued a hard left push? What about white working class outreach? For many veterans of the Bill Clinton era, they rang the alarm bells; the young kids on the Clinton team didn’t listen. They thought this was Obama’s third term. It wasn’t. They thought white working class voters were relics of the past; that was not true. It was a punch to the gut to the big data operation the Obama machine had cultivated, though the irony is that the former president did venture out into red America—twice. And he won—twice. It all shows that the Obama era didn’t change the game as much as these young liberals thought—and Hillary Clinton having zero political skill didn’t help either. The liberal media may be talking up the so-called GOP civil war, but the Democratic internal strife is one of silent fury for now. It could be a pressure cooker ready to blow and the party still hasn’t figured out what they’re doing as we enter the 2018 cycle. Susan Glasser of The New Yorker has more:
…when I arrived at the townhouse of Stanley Greenberg, the veteran Democratic strategist, on Capitol Hill, later that morning, it was not the distractions of the Trump White House that had him worked up. Greenberg was still fuming about Hillary Clinton.
Clinton was guilty of “malpractice” in how she conducted her 2016 Presidential campaign, Greenberg told me.
I spoke with several other veterans of the Bill Clinton years who shared his appraisal of Hillary’s campaign—and said that their advice had also been ignored. “They viewed people like me and Bill Clinton as yesteryear,” one, who ran his campaign in a key Midwestern state and played a public role in Hillary Clinton’s campaign there as well, said. “They thought the world has changed, politics has changed. But their analytics were flawed. They were treating this like a third term for Obama, and it was a big mistake.” The internal critics, they told me, had also included the former President, but he was, as Greenberg put it when we talked, “frozen out.”
Should they give up on the white voters who went for Trump in 2016 even though many had been reliably Democratic in the past? Was Clinton’s defeated primary challenger, Bernie Sanders, right to try to pull the Party to the left?
Without a resolution to these questions, the next Democratic nominee may well end up caught in the same trap in which Hillary Clinton found herself, stuck defending the legacy of the two-term Obama Presidency, even as the economic dislocations of the Obama era fuelled the rise of populism on both left and right.
“The Democratic Party today is divided over whether it wants to focus on the economy or identity,” Greenberg said when we talked. That is, as he pointed out, just what the Clinton campaign was fighting about a year ago. Greenberg and others who came out of the Bill Clinton era—like the former President himself—had never really let go of the economy-first mantra that got them to the White House in a different time, and they felt that there was a generational conflict with the Obama operatives who held sway over Hillary Clinton’s 2016 strategy. It was a fight that dogged the Clinton campaign all the way until its final days, when Greenberg and his allies inside the campaign pushed unsuccessfully to close with a focus on her plans for the economy.
Again, it’s all about those white working class voters, who the Democrats appear to have developed an allergy to concerning elections. Obama did it. He won. At times, it’s not about winning this demographic, just doing well enough with them to avoid a rural surge that wipes out urban Democratic voters. Losing red counties by 40 points as opposed to 70 is a lot of votes on the margins that leads to a win. We’ve talked about how the path out of the wilderness for Democrats might be right before their eyes, they just don’t want to take it; sacrificing it on the altar of identity politics. Heck, even CNN has mentioned that these voters matter.
For now, the laundry list for the Left is extensive. They need to raise money, find good candidates, have an agenda that doesn’t just resonate with the kale-eating, Birkenstock-wearing progressive from San Francisco, and craft a message that compliments the former. Right now, they’re very content on calling anyone who isn’t a liberal a racist.
Also, the debate about using single-payer health care and abortion as litmus tests is starting to give both wings of the Democratic Party heartburn. The progressive wing is for it; the establishment cohorts—noting their 2006 midterm success—know better. A New York-style liberal is not going to win in rural America, which is how the blue wave crashed into the Bush White House that year. Some Democratic strategists have warned this approach will solidify their party as a regional and coastal one. In other words, they’d become an irrelevancy.
For single-payer, it’s much more serious. That debate has splintered the party. In California, it reached a head when state Democrats tabled a single-payer initiative for a good reason: there were no funding mechanisms. The $400 billion bills contained zero mentions on how it would be paid for—but it sent the progressive Left into a rage. That state more than anything could be ground zero for the all-out civil war the Democratic Party could be facing. I mean, look at the progressive reaction to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) a hard core liberal, announcing that she would seek another term next year.
If Democrats are hoping that low approval ratings is the key to their victory—they’re heading for the cliff again. Yeah, Trump’s numbers aren’t the best, but a hollowed out organization, no money, crappy candidates, and no message is a guaranteed way to blow it. Trump’s numbers will rebound. His personality scores low, but how voters feel about his policy positions are not terrible.
With the Democrats’ track record so far post-2016, how many elections are they willing to lose before they realize the poisonous nature of identity politics.
I'll leave you with Hugh Hewitt’s take on how the GOP is not in a state of civil war:
Four data points have set off this chorus on the imaginary intra-party conflict: two speeches and two retirements. That and Bannon’s dislike of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which is unfathomable except as a grudge. McConnell is easily the most effective GOP Senate leader of my adult life, and the likely confirmation this week of four more circuit court judges underscores that conclusion.
The flimsily constructed “civil war” narrative is built out of discrete episodes that have in common only the calendar.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) let fly a full-throated, hardly veiled attack on Trump, and its proximity to former president George W. Bush’s address on civility dragged the latter into the same category, though there are reasons to believe that W was aiming not just at Trump but also at the More Cowbell Caucus and Democrats. “Everybody tone it down,” the most gracious of former presidents seemed to be saying.
Retirement announcements from Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) added two more “civil war” talking points. Both came with Trump denunciations stapled on, which diverted from the undeniable facts in both cases. First, Flake was going to lose to Kelli Ward in a GOP primary next year, not just because of his Never Trump status but also because of the massive miscalculation of the 2013 Gang of Eight’s immigration “reform,” an enormous bust in the Grand Canyon State. Second, Corker was a disappointed office-seeker also imperiled by a potential 2018 primary triggered by his almost off-the-cuff August sideswipe of the president.
So, a civil war, or a quintet of episodes stitched together by the mainstream media’s self-interested narrative-makers? “This is nothing!”