Despite the noise he or she can make, a Democrat’s lot is not a happy one. If you’re a Democrat you have a choice of joining either the Hysteria Chorus or the Denial Chorale. Either way, you won’t accomplish much except a painfully sore throat.
The Democrats, like nearly everyone else, were stunned by President Trump’s speech on Tuesday night — calm, measured and with some of the promised details of his legislative agenda. The response, from Democrats, Republicans and independents out in flyover country, was so favorable the Democratic leaders hardly knew how to respond.
The best spokesman they could come up with for the official response was a 72-year-old former governor of Kentucky, fresh from the shellacking his Democratic colleagues took in November. Steve Beshear did his best, seated in a modest diner without anything to eat or drink and surrounded by a dozen white folks recruited to illustrate the blue-collar appeal that was once, in a galaxy long ago and far away, the party’s own.
But this was mission impossible. Not because of the gimmicky premise (which didn’t help), but because Democrats have long since abandoned their blue-dog base in favor of multi-ethnic, multi-sex, multi-culti, multi-ideology and multi-coastal elitism. You can’t blame a Democrat for not knowing exactly who he/she/it is.
Only three election cycles ago, blue-dog Democrats were the most influential swing bloc on Capitol Hill, with more than 50 members. They used their clout to nudge the party toward the center; the Blue Dogs were more connected to the heartland. But tempus fugits. Moderation went out of fashion in the Obama years, where transgender rights, a focus on big government, big spending, and pandering to every aggrieved identity group was the prescription for electoral success. When Bernie Sanders, thinking he was being inclusive, agreed that Black Lives Matter but so did all other lives, the roof fell in on him. He was forced to retreat to a safe space. He learned that “other lives” are expendable.
Whatever was left of these blue-dog Democrats — who celebrated the Second Amendment and held all life born and unborn to be precious — were largely driven to extinction under Mr. Obama. Only 14 Blue Dogs remain, and they must retreat into the deep woods whenever they feel an urge to bark.
With the Rust Belt having forsaken them — Democrats lost all of 12 targeted Republican-held House districts with large working-class population — the party of Jefferson and Jackson is trying to regroup, but without much spirit or confidence.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, who dreams of returning as speaker of the House, quashed an uprising by Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio to hold on as House minority leader. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, came within a hair of winning the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, christened by The New York Times as the “avatar of the liberal resistance,” the great white Democratic hope for 2020, and Bernie Sanders are the only surviving remnants of grass-roots heroes.
“The Midwest is red, and we need to try to get it back,” Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan tells Politico. “Point blank, we’ve forgotten who our base is. Our base needs to be broad. It isn’t ‘us versus them,’ it’s ‘we,’ but we’ve got to remember who the ‘we’ is.”