Donald Trump is neither a good president nor a particularly popular one. To oppose him effectively, serve as a counterbalance, and even attract many votes from reasonable people in the next presidential election, all the Democratic party has to do is to present a sane, moderate alternative, behind which the broad mainstream of American voters can rally.
Instead, they are giving us a growing collection of CREEPs: volunteers for what is, in effect, the Committee to Re-Elect the President.
CREEP is the acronym Richard Nixon’s people gave to the dirty tricks squad tasked with helping the president win in 1972. It was foolish—these were the idiots who gave us the Watergate break-in—but also unnecessary. The people who actually got Nixon re-elected were the far-left supporters of George McGovern, who sent voters running to Nixon in a wave.
Nixon won in 1968 with 43 percent of the vote in a three-way race. In 1972 he was reelected with 61 percent of the vote. For a sense of scale: In his 1984 landslide reelection, the far more charismatic Ronald Reagan only got 59 percent.
If Democrats think 1972 can’t happen again, they’re fooling themselves. It doesn’t matter what kind of dirty tricks Trump’s hangers-on might be planning. The real Committee to Re-Elect the President is the group of radicals who are rapidly becoming the public face of the Democratic party.
Topping the list of Democratic CREEPs is Representative Ilhan Omar. Before last week, what was one of Donald Trump’s biggest liabilities? He’s the guy who thought there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, when one of the sides was a gang of white nationalists chanting “Jews will not replace us.” He was also the guy who, during the campaign, tweeted an anti-Hillary Clinton meme borrowed from a white nationalist, complete with a yellow six-pointed star to imply that Hillary was in the pocket of the Jews.
Yet Omar has erased that liability by making the entire Democratic party look like a bunch of anti-Semites.
After first accusing defenders of Israel of being in the pay of the Jews, Omar doubled down by deriding them for their “allegiance to a foreign country.” In an attempt to control the damage, the Democratic leadership proposed a House resolution condemning anti-Semitism—but they couldn’t pass it.
Remember how a few years ago protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter,” and some politicians responded with “all lives matter,” and this was denounced as horribly insensitive because it watered down the attempt to draw attention to the unique problems of young black men? That’s exactly what Democrats did with the anti-Semitism resolution, demanding that it be broadened to include all kinds of racism and discrimination—including “Islamophobia.”
By Tuesday night, with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus pushing back, it became clear to Ms. Pelosi that the measure would have to be rewritten to include a condemnation of anti-Muslim bias. (Ms. Omar, who has been facing accusations of anti-Semitic bias for weeks, has herself been the target of Islamophobic attacks, including a death threat in Minnesota.)
So Democrats went from rebuking Ilhan Omar to treating her as if she was the victim.
Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley explained, “We need to denounce all forms of hate. There is no hierarchy of hurt.” Yet a hierarchy is exactly what Democrats are erecting, and the person who made that clear was not one of the Democrats’ inexperienced young radicals, but House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. Citing Representative Omar’s experience as a refugee from Somalia, he said, “There are people who tell me, ‘Well, my parents are Holocaust survivors.’ ‘My parents did this.’ It’s more personal with her. I’ve talked to her, and I can tell you she is living through a lot of pain.”
Yes, he literally told Jews that they shouldn’t take the Holocaust so personally.
As David French points out, this shows how “intersectionality” can provide cover for bigotry. “Intersectionality” is the idea that different kinds of victimhood intersect, so that the person with the most intersections is the biggest victim of all, the person at the top of the hierarchy of hurt—and they get a free pass for hatred toward those who are lower down in the hierarchy. In this case, “progressive” Democrats are making clear that Jews are at the bottom of the hierarchy, treated as just another category of privileged white people.
Give them a few years, and American Democrats will catch up to Britain’s Labour party, which is being torn apart by anti-Semitism. In the latest news, an advisor to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was revealed as having complained that “Hitler is uniquely excoriated because his victims were almost all white Europeans, while those of [British colonialism] . . . were Asian, African, and Arabs.” He and Jim Clyburn really ought to get together.
(None of this should surprise us, by the way. Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including future President Barack Obama, met and let themselves be photographed with notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan back in 2005.)
This sort of thing is an in-kind contribution to the Trump 2020 campaign, because it allows Donald Trump of all people to get in front of the cameras and seize the high ground on bigotry, denouncing Democrats as an “anti-Jewish” party. Chutzpah? Maybe, but there goes one of Trump’s big weaknesses, neutralized with the help of the opposition.
President Trump has already telegraphed the ground on which he would like to fight the 2020 election: denouncing the Democrats as socialists and pointing to Venezuela as the nightmare at the end of their road. So naturally the Committee to Re-Elect the President is accommodating him on this, too.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave the Trump campaign a twofer: both defending an anti-Semite and defending the socialist dictatorship in Venezuela, all in one tweet.
There have been a few Democratic congressmen who have brought moral clarity to their response to the Maduro regime in Venezuela—though I should note that they are mostly from Florida and have an electoral interest in appealing to Cuban and Venezuelan exiles who know firsthand the evils of a socialist dictatorship. They have also been criticizing Bernie Sanders and other Democrats for having “a soft spot for Latin American strongmen” and ceding the moral high ground on this issue to Republicans like Marco Rubio.
Outside of Florida, I don’t think a lot of voters have been following events in Venezuela or care too much about where politicians stand on the conflict there. But they probably do care about where leading Democrats stand on socialism, and the party won’t be helped by its apologies for left-wing tyrants.
They are also identifying themselves with radical environmentalism, with almost every Democratic presidential candidate endorsing the Green New Deal and Bernie Sanders saying, “You cannot go too far on the issue of climate change.” Combined with his love of strongmen, that ought to terrify the voters.
And it’s not just Crazy Uncle Bernie. Also doing her best to get Donald Trump re-elected is Kamala Harris. In an attempt to wrest some of the far left vote from Sanders, Harris is embracing every leftist idea from the Green New Deal to rent control, because anything that failed dismally in the 1970s is good enough for today’s Democrats.
But Harris’s biggest contribution to the Committee to Re-Elect the President is her embrace of reparations for slavery.
Last week, on the popular radio show “The Breakfast Club,” Senator Kamala Harris of California agreed with a host’s suggestion that government reparations for black Americans were necessary to address the legacies of slavery and discrimination. Ms. Harris later affirmed that support in a statement to The New York Times. “We have to be honest that people in this country do not start from the same place or have access to the same opportunities,” she said. “I’m serious about taking an approach that would change policies and structures and make real investments in black communities.”
[Elizabeth] Warren also said she supported reparations for black Americans impacted by slavery—a policy that experts say could cost several trillion dollars, and one that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and many top Democrats have not supported.
The Democrats lost the last presidential election in part because they lost the votes of rural and blue-collar whites who used to be a key part of their political coalition. Donald Trump won at least some of these voters by appealing to racial resentment. His enthusiastic fans on the “alt-right” made this more explicit, screaming about “white genocide” and complaining that Democrats want to benefit everyone else at the expense of white voters.
Now leading Democrats are doing their best to validate those arguments by embracing a policy that, in addition to being overwhelmingly unpopular, would turn all of American politics into a racial battleground on a scale we haven’t seen in 50 years.
This is already creating a problem for moderate Democrats in swing districts, who get a tiny fraction of the press that Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez get, but who are the ones who actually won the House majority for the Democrats. Now they’re being forced to field hostile questions from their constituents about socialism and anti-Semitism. And this is not just a bunch of conservatives showing up to town halls to heckle. Polls consistently show that rank-and-file Democrats want the party to become more moderate. Instead, the party’s leaders are letting themselves be pushed as far to the left as possible—and toward the most repugnant and illiberal strains of the left. They let their hatred of Donald Trump radicalize them, when the best way to win against him in 2020 was to keep their heads and move to the neglected center.
I’m not saying this as a moderate or a centrist. I am a radical in my own way—a radical pro-free-marketer. But I recognize that the Constitution is not designed to give full rein to the radicals, and a system that prevents people like me from enacting laissez faire economics prevents other radicals from enacting their agendas, too. So I understand that the job of a national politician is partly to bring Americans together around harmonizing sentiments that have broad support. If we radicals want to change things, it’s our job to change those harmonizing sentiments and move the Overton Window toward our agendas.
The problem is that we tend to think of the Overton Window as moving backward and forward from the traditional left to the traditional right. But it can also go off in crazy directions, and that’s what is happening now. On the right, the Overton Window has been moved to accommodate an intolerant, big-government nationalism. On the left, it is moving to embrace socialism again—but a more intolerant, anti-Semitic, and in its own way a more nationalistic socialism than we’ve seen in a while.
That’s what is dangerous about the Democratic party’s CREEPs. It’s not just that they are bungling their party’s electoral interests. It’s that they are responding to the illiberal distortion of the other major political party by plunging their party deeper into its own illiberal dysfunction.
Which leaves the voters with no way to register their revulsion at either direction.