David Brooks finds the Democrats' midterm message deeply disappointing.
... Trump and the other populists have transformed the G.O.P. and thrown down a cultural, moral and ideological gauntlet.
This election is the Democrats’ first opportunity to push back against a thoroughly Trumpified Republican Party. It is a remarkable opportunity to realign the electorate....
So how, at this crucial moment in history, have the Democrats responded?
“The top three issues this year are health care, health care and health care,” J.B. Poersch, of the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC, told CNN.
... the Democratic campaign is inadequate to the current moment. It offers no counternarrative to Trump, little moral case against his behavior, no unifying argument against ethnic nationalism. In politics you can’t beat something with nothing. Democrats missed the Trumpian upsurge because while society was dividing into cultural tribes, they spent 2008 through 2016 focusing on health care. Now that the upsurge has happened, they are still pinioned to health care.
Yes, why don't Democratic candidates say that Donald Trump is a ghastly person? Why don't they make that their main message in 2018?
Funny, I could have sworn that David Gelernter was telling us just yesterday in The Wall Street Journal that the Democrats' only message this year is that Donald Trump is a bad person:
Every big U.S. election is interesting, but the coming midterms are fascinating for a reason most commentators forget to mention: The Democrats have no issues....
For now, though, the left’s only issue is “We hate Trump.”
But Brooks complains that Democrats talk too much about healthcare and big government, and when they do talk morals, they do it in that icky interest-group way:
... we’ve learned that when Democrats do raise a moral argument, it tends to be of the social justice warrior variety. The core argument in this mode is that the oppressive structures of society marginalize women, minorities and members of the L.G.B.T.Q. communities.
It turns out that if your basic logic is that distinct identity groups are under threat from an oppressive society, it’s very hard to then turn around and defend that society from authoritarian attack, or to articulate any notion of what even unites that society.
Gosh, what would it look like if Democrats were to run against Trump's moral failings, and do it in a way that showed we're all one people?
Hypothetically, it would look something like this:
That, of course, is an actual ad from the actually existing 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign. Here's another one:
The first ad went live in July 2016. A couple of months later, in a column titled "Yes He Can? Here's How Donald Trump Could Win," Ad Age's Simon Dumenco wrote:
What the Clinton campaign seems to forget is that Donald Trump announced his candidacy a long time ago (June 16, 2015) and he's said hundreds of outrageous things since then, and we're all used to it by now. We're inoculated to it. Spending money to try to crank up the outrage machine over Outrageous Donald is probably not going to move the needle at this point. And, again, there's a condescension factor at play (are you saying I'm a bad parent if I support Donald Trump?!).
That's basically the world we've been living in since the summer of 2015. We've tried offering a "counternarrative to Trump," a "moral case against his behavior" -- and at least 45% of America thinks we're getting upset over nothing, or is inspired to like Trump more.
So screw those people. We can't talk to them. We've made the moral case against Trump, but making it is an exercise in futility. So now we make it only among ourselves; with everyone else, we talk about other issues.
We tried, David. For three years, half of our fellow citizens have told us unambiguously that they don't care. They're the ones who are failing morally. Why is it our responsibility to keep trying to make them change?
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog