Will Radicalization Work for the Democrats?

With the political struggle slowly but surely heating up heading into the 2020 presidential campaign, the Democrats find themselves in search of a campaign strategy that will bring them victory. While some observers believe that a successful campaign would appeal to moderate and undecided voters, others urge giving the Republican opponents a fierce fight. The proponents of the moderate approach argue that admonitions from the Democratic camp such as those of Hillary Clinton who dismissed any civility in a dialogue with the Republicans, or Eric Holder, who said that “when they [Republicans] go low, we kick them,” or Cory Booker, who urged protesters of President Trump to confront administration officials (just like Maxine Waters before him) -- are turning off moderates while unifying and agitating the Trump base against the “liberal mob.” Distorted with rage and hatred, the faces of the “Resistance” movement with its many marches, seething hostility at town halls and anti-Trump placards shouting at passersby from bungalow windows add some nasty colors to the picture.

 Many other commentators, however, call for even more offensive and energetic approach against the Republicans, and President Trump most of all, and blast those “bridge-building” moderates like Joe Biden -- as they portray him -- as cowards who have nothing else to offer but consensus-seeking. Trapped in a black-and-white, all-or-nothing categorical thinking, those Democrats are ready to fight against Trump with whatever means necessary. For if Donald Trump is a pure evil, then everything he stands for is evil, and cannot be accepted, period. For instance, both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer were harshly criticized for supporting Trump’s infrastructure plan – even though it’s impossible to imagine a more nonpartisan project that would benefit all Americans regardless of their political views! Or the rejected DACA deal proposed by Trump which would include not just the roughly 700,000 Dreamer immigrants who have applied for DACA protection since 2012, but an additional 1.1 million illegal immigrants who could have qualified but have not yet applied? “Democrats would be crazy to reject it,” – ran CNBC. Apparently, they were.

Then there is the ideological aspect to consider. The Democratic camp is rapidly leaning further to the left. This tendency is personified in the dramatic ascent of politicians such as Bernie Sanders of Vermont, against whom Hillary Clinton had to play dirty to win the nomination in 2016. The most prominent socialist in America, Bernie, 77, could energize the voters in the way no other Democrat could, drawing far more votes in the primaries from those under the age of 30 than did Clinton and Trump combined. The purely socialist ideas that he’s been voicing way before they become mainstream -- Medicare for all, higher top marginal taxes, ultra-liberal immigration legislation and abolishment of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, free college tuition and many others, are now being echoed and promoted by other Democratic candidates participating in the race. 

“The future of the Democratic Party, and by extension the country, may well depend on whether the party is finally willing to ditch its fretful posture of peacemaking and give war a chance,” -- beats the war drum of the New Republic. So what are the chances that further radicalization and unwillingness to negotiate will help Democrats in 2020?

The first thing to consider would be an economic reality that the people are actually experiencing themselves. Trump’s economic policies resulted in a growth of the real gross domestic product (GDP) that exceeded 3 percent over the last four quarters of 2018 and 4.2 percent in the second quarter. More than five million jobs have been created since President Trump’s election and the unemployment rate remains below 4 percent, with the record-low unemployment among African Americans and Hispanics. Now, how can you possibly wage war against a booming economy? Freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did, and her “victory over Amazon” cost New Yorkers “at least 25,000-40,000 good paying jobs and nearly $30 billion dollars in new revenue to fund transit improvements, new housing, schools and countless other quality-of-life improvements,” as NY Governor Andrew Cuomo wailed.

Radicalizing leftism exposes its most dangerous and destructive thread -- a growing hostility to free markets and capitalism, in many cases to the point of barely contained contempt for it and for the wealthy. In other words, to the very economic basis of the American economic system. History has proven many times – and keeps proving – the economic inefficiency of socialist methods. Sure, Democrats reject the Soviet or Cuban model (well, Bernie did). Leftists idealize Nordic countries, but refuse to see that they, for starters, are not even “socialist,” as they practice typical capitalist broad economic freedoms and, for example, have no minimum wage laws. Also, they built the wealth their citizens now enjoy long before leftist ideas took hold. Interestingly, when their economic growth started to slow down, the Scandinavian governments reacted by cutting taxes and slashing the wasteful bureaucracy in half, and now Scandinavia is slowly “returning to its free market roots,” as the experts put it. So why going that road and not learning from the experience of others?

In their power hunger, Democrats seem to get out of touch with reality – they are not building their agenda around issues that are important for people, even though they claim they do. They fail to comprehend that the very phenomenon of Donald Trump was possible because of the alienation of the traditional Washington elites from the values and needs of ordinary people -- the working class of America, to use the Marxist term. Those are the blue-collar workers that Democrats have claimed to take care of for decades and viewed as their concrete electoral base versus fat-cat white-collar Republicans. What are the values that Trump appealed to and the Democrats failed to grasp? First of all, the value of productive economy as the foundation for the sustainable well-being of the society. Logically, the second value would be reindustrialization and, in broader terms, modernization of economic and social development. The third value is the nation’s own labor force and an appropriate migration policy that would protect it. Hence, sound economic protectionism. Politically, protectionism embodies a strong national sovereignty, which was explicitly reflected in the “Make America Great Again” motto. None of these is a personal invention of Donald Trump, as they have always been an integral part of rightist discourse. But the “miracle” of Trump’s victory has raised this set of ideas to the level of a national agenda. Its factual implementation bears fruits that reasonable people cannot deny. If the same had been accomplished by a Democratic president, the party, media, and the myriads of liberal expert and observers would worship him/her. But Trump is not a Democrat. Moreover, he is an outsider who can outsmart their fancy elitist strategists by simply voicing people’s concerns, winning despite all odds. Now Trump calls to “Keep America Great,” and raises more campaign contributions in two days than all the Democrats in the first quarter of 2019 combined.

Further radicalization of the Democrats built on anti-Trumpism would turn into a destructive power aimed to reverse and demolish all Trump’s achievements. It will undoubtedly appeal to some radicals, but is unlikely to resonate with the interests of most middle-class Americans who would not want to shoot themselves in the foot by voting against Trump. But… oh well, the leftists have never had a high opinion of deplorables’ mental abilities.

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