In the wilder­ness, Democrats can’t chart their way for­ward

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - MATT MACKOWIAK ● Matt Mackowiak is the pres­i­dent of Austin­based Po­tomac Strat­egy Group, a Repub­li­can con­sul­tant, a Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion and BushCheney re-elec­tion cam­paign vet­eran, and former press sec­re­tary to two U.S. se­na­tors. He is the host of a new n

In the fog of breath­less me­dia cov­er­age of the Trump White House, scant at­ten­tion has been paid to the civil war break­ing out on the other side of the aisle. Like most mi­nor­ity par­ties that lose the White House, the Demo­cratic Party is with­out a na­tional leader. Their leg­isla­tive cau­cuses in the House and Se­nate have elected lead­er­ship, but the party it­self has sev­eral elected of­fi­cials fight­ing to lead it into the fu­ture, all with an eye to­ward 2020. And the party’s most vis­i­ble fig­ures aren’t ex­actly fresh faces.

Con­sider: Hil­lary Clin­ton is 69, Sen. Bernard San­ders is 75, former Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den is 74, House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi is 77, and Mas­sachusetts Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, the baby of the group, turns 68 in June. Not one of these five Democrats were born in the sec­ond half of the 20th cen­tury. Does this look like the Party of the Fu­ture?

Now cou­ple that ag­ing lead­er­ship with fis­sures within the party that have bro­ken out into the open just in the past two weeks.

A “unity tour” fea­tur­ing new DNC Chair­man Tom Perez and Mr. San­ders re­sulted in: neg­a­tive head­lines, un­happy at­ten­dees boo­ing the speak­ers, Mr. San­ders ad­mit­ting he still won’t call him­self a Demo­crat, and the bizarre spec­ta­cle of Mr. Perez con­sis­tently us­ing vul­gar lan­guage in public. How uni­fy­ing.

Min­nesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the new DNC vice chair, sharply crit­i­cized former Pres­i­dent Obama, say­ing, “Given we lost a lot of state­house seats, gov­er­nor­ships, sec­re­tary of states [un­der Mr. Obama], his true legacy is in dan­ger, and I think he can’t say that he wasn’t part of those losses.”

Mr. San­ders cam­paigned in Omaha for a may­oral can­di­date who sev­eral years ago sup­ported a pro-life bill in the Ne­braska leg­is­la­ture, spark­ing fierce and un­re­lent­ing crit­i­cism from the party’s pro-choice left wing. Mr. San­ders and Mrs. Pelosi ar­gue that not all Demo­cratic can­di­dates must sup­port abor­tion rights, a po­si­tion Mr. Perez re­jected en­tirely.

A re­cent ABC News/Wash­ing­ton Post poll found that only 28 per­cent of Amer­i­cans think the Demo­cratic Party is “in touch with the con­cerns of most peo­ple in the U.S.” — 10 per­cent lower than the com­pa­ra­ble find­ing for Pres­i­dent Trump. Back in 2014, the same poll found that 48 per­cent be­lieved Democrats were “in touch,” a 20-point drop in just three years.

Ms. War­ren, a lib­eral icon, stood out among Democrats in openly op­pos­ing Mr. Trump’s pop­u­lar and pro­por­tion­ate re­sponse to the chem­i­cal at­tack in Syria, in­sist­ing there was “no com­pelling strate­gic jus­ti­fi­ca­tion” for the ac­tion.

The re­sult: In the af­ter­math of one of the most dev­as­tat­ing and shock­ing na­tional elec­tion losses in Amer­i­can his­tory, Democrats re­main di­vided on their fu­ture. Opposition to Pres­i­dent Trump may unify them, but that is not a pol­icy agenda, and should Democrats gain seats in the midterm elec­tions, it will not of­fer them a man­date.

For now, Democrats ap­pear en­tirely un­in­ter­ested in con­tribut­ing to the public de­bate, con­tent to of­fer no new so­lu­tions or ideas.

Do they have a tax re­form plan? No. How would they pro­pose Congress “fix” Oba­macare? Crick­ets. Do they sup­port stronger border se­cu­rity? Of course not. In­cred­i­bly, Democrats ap­pear to be­lieve that Hil­lary Clin­ton un­think­ably lost this elec­tion be­cause she was not lib­eral enough.

In fact, Mrs. Clin­ton lost be­cause she ig­nored the white work­ing class in the Mid­west and ran as a sta­tus quo can­di­date in an elec­tion year when vot­ers were crav­ing change. The Clin­ton cam­paign ar­ro­gantly as­sumed that op­pos­ing Mr. Trump would be enough to win the White House. It was not.

Democrats now ap­pear to want to dou­ble down on that los­ing strat­egy.

While Repub­li­cans are work­ing to un­leash the power of the econ­omy, re­peal and re­place Oba­macare, re­form the tax code, rebuild the mil­i­tary and se­cure the border, Democrats ap­pear un­will­ing to part­ner with them on any of these pri­or­i­ties. Not even the Democrats up for re­elec­tion in dis­tricts and states that Mr. Trump won have moved in the White House’s di­rec­tion — yet.

Elected Democrats are deeply fright­ened of their own base, fear­ing pri­mary fights from more lib­eral chal­lengers next year.

The dy­namic be­came ev­i­dent in the de­bate over Supreme Court nom­i­nee Judge Neil M. Gor­such, one of the best qual­i­fied nom­i­nees in re­cent decades. Democrats chose to pur­sue the first par­ti­san fil­i­buster of a Supreme Court nom­i­nee in his­tory, rather than ask tough ques­tions and be­grudg­ingly sup­port Mr. Trump’s qual­i­fied choice.

Will Democrats of­fer nothing of any sub­stance for the rest of 2017? Per­haps they are try­ing to fore­stall messy pol­icy de­bates that di­vide their party.

Sim­ple math should tell them to come back to the mid­dle ide­o­log­i­cally. But alas, their base de­mands oth­er­wise.

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