October 24, 2018


The Materialist Party: The Democrats fail to take on Trumpism. (David Brooks, Oct. 22, 2018, NY Times)

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, since polls continually show the percentage of the country that buys Trump's ethnic nationalism is in the low 40s.

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 Wesleyan Media Project recently surveyed the political landscape and came out with a report called "2018: The Health Care Election." It found that a majority of recent pro-Democratic political ads featured health care. Sixty-one percent of recent pro-Democratic ads in U.S. House races have been on health care.

Democratic candidates like Senator Claire McCaskill are hammering home the same point in debates. Republicans tried to take away coverage for pre-existing conditions.

In normal times, there's good reason to run on this issue. Millions of families are plagued by inadequate insurance coverage. If you're trying to win a swing voter in Arizona, it's a bread-and-butter issue that has appeal.

But 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. 

This is, of course, exactly wrong, but grows out of a common misunderstanding.  

On Bill Kristol's Conversations podcast he was talking to Jonah Goldberg about his Suicide of the West and Nationalist/Ethno-nationalist politics and they both spoke of how the Tea Party was the only small government, classically liberal populist movement they could remember, which reflects their isolation in the Beltway, where the leaders of the group were well-known libertarian-leaning lobbyists and activists.  All the polling of folks who identified with the Tea Party showed that they were older, wealthier white males who opposed any cuts to entitlements.  They were basically scared by the UR's election and driven by fear that  Democrats would redirect a limited pool of money away from their own cohort to poor minorities. It was a reaction to a perceived threat to the socialized medicine they depend on.

While Democrats have not been savvy enough to cast their argument this way, they could easily win elections by pitching their health care program at the white middle class. They just need to make it clear that it is not an either/or issue: providing coverage for the poor and uninsured is not about diverting money away from the working and insured--the latter would benefit too.

Republicans, meanwhile, have wasted a decade when they could have stolen this march by creating a universal HSA program which would have also grown wealth.

Posted by at October 24, 2018 4:02 AM