Si ustedes siguen así, van a perder las elecciones. Y lo merecerán.
Translation for the linguistically benighted: “Democratic friends, if you go on like this, you’re going to lose the elections. And you’ll deserve it.”
In this week’s Democratic debates, it wasn’t just individual candidates who presented themselves to the public. It was also the party itself. What conclusions should ordinary people draw about what Democrats stand for, other than a thunderous repudiation of Donald Trump, and how they see America, other than as a land of unscrupulous profiteers and hapless victims?
Here’s what: a party that makes too many Americans feel like strangers in their own country. A party that puts more of its faith, and invests most of its efforts, in them instead of us.
They speak Spanish. We don’t. They are not U.S. citizens or legal residents. We are. They broke the rules to get into this country. We didn’t. They pay few or no taxes. We already pay most of those taxes. They willingly got themselves into debt. We’re asked to write it off. They don’t pay the premiums for private health insurance. We’re supposed to give up ours in exchange for some V.A.-type nightmare. They didn’t start enterprises that create employment and drive innovation. We’re expected to join the candidates in demonizing the job-creators, breaking up their businesses and taxing them to the hilt.
That was the broad gist of the Democratic message, in which the only honorable exceptions, like Maryland’s John Delaney and Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, came across as square dancers at a rave.
On closer inspection, the message got even worse.
Promising access to health insurance for north of 11 million undocumented immigrants at a time when there’s a migration crisis at the southern border? Every candidate at Thursday’s debate raised a hand for that one, in what was surely the evening’s best moment for the Trump campaign.
Calling for the decriminalization of border crossings (while opposing a wall)? That was a major theme of Wednesday’s debate, underlining the Republican contention that Democrats are a party of open borders, limitless amnesty and, in time, the Third World-ization of America.
Switching to Spanish? Memo to Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker: If you can’t speak the language without a heavy American accent, don’t bother. It just reminds those of us who can that the only thing worse than an obnoxious gringo is a pandering one.
Eliminating private health insurance, an industry that employs more than 500,000 workers and insures 150 million? Elizabeth Warren, Bill de Blasio, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris support it (though the California senator later recanted the position). Since Democrats are already committed to destroying the coal industry and seem inclined to turn Silicon Valley into a regulated utility, it’s worth asking: Just how much of the private economy are they even willing to keep?
And then there are the costs that Democrats want to impose on the country. Warren, for instance, favors universal child care (estimated cost, $70 billion a year), Medicare-For-All ($2.8 trillion to $3.2 trillion annually), student-debt cancellation and universal free college ($125 billion annually), and a comprehensive climate action plan ($2 trillion, including $100 billion in aid to poor countries), along with a raft of smaller giveaways, like debt relief for Puerto Rico.
As Everett Dirksen might have said: A trillion here, a trillion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money. Someone will have to pay for all this, and it won’t just be the very rich making between seven and 10 figures a year. It will be you.
Throughout the debates, I kept wondering if any of the leading candidates would speak to Americans beyond the Democratic base. But Joe Biden seemed too feeble, oratorically and intellectually, to buck the self-defeating trend. Pete Buttigieg was, as always, fluent, knowledgeable and sincere. But his big moment — a mea culpa for a racially charged policing incident in South Bend — felt like another well-mannered white guy desperate to put his wokeness on display.
Harris, meanwhile, came across as Barack Obama in reverse, especially with her scurrilous attack on Biden for the sin of having had a functional political relationship with two former segregationist senators in the 1970s. This was portrayed as a clever debate move but it will come to haunt her.
Obama’s political genius was to emphasize what Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, authors of ‘The Coddling of the American Mind,” have called “common-humanity identity politics”— he made you feel comfortable no matter the color of your skin. Harris’ approach, by contrast, is “common-enemy identity politics.” Making white Americans feel racially on trial for views they may have held in the past on crime, busing and similar subjects is not going to help the Democrats.
None of this means that Democrats can’t win in 2020. The economy could take a bad turn. Or Trump could outdo himself in loathsomeness. But the Democratic Party we saw this week did even less to appeal beyond its base than the president. And at least his message is that he’s on their — make that our — side.