In today’s Washington Post, Richard Cohen writes:
“As my colleague Dan Balz has pointed out, the past two midterm elections have done to the Democratic Party what World War I did to the French political elite — decimated it. What was lost was not just individual races but the future. Republicans will now control 23 states — the governorship and the legislature — while the Democrats will have just seven. States, in the coinage of Justice Louis Brandeis, are the laboratories of democracy. They’re where both interesting ideas and personalities often come from.”
It wasn’t policy or race or ideology that sank the Democrats at state level. It was attitude. Since things started to go south with Obamacare – still the most consequential policy moving voters to throw out Democrats – the progressive left adopted an ill-advised but wholly of a piece with their worldview posture: the American people are stupid.
The left said we were stupid for not appreciating their awesome economy and all the jobs “saved” by stimulus, Dodd-Frank, and countless regulations on commerce and capital. Never mind that the labor participation rate plummeted while unemployment benefits, food stamps and other dependency programs championed by Democrats were accelerated. Never mind that the ACA rewards business for keeping employees under 40 hrs/week or that environmental zealots at EPA have crushed the coal industry and sent Appalachia into a real depression. Leftists who today insist that Democrats should have run harder on their economic record are implicitly (or explicitly, as in Jonathan Gruber’s case) saying again that Americans are stupid, because they just couldn’t register the great economic gains that would be apparent were they smarter, and therefore the message needs to be crafted to jibe with the simpletons.
But the coup de grace of the Democratic Party’s institutional decimation is indeed the Affordable Care Act, No matter how much New Republic or Vox or Slate you read, Obamacre is still a massive albatross on Democrats and progressivism writ large. And again, for all the tangible policy failure in Obamacare – community rating, IPAB, expansion of Medicaid, mandatory benefits, absence of real choice for doctors and/or coverage – it was the attitude of its proponents that animated such an electoral drubbing. For as soon as Obamacare’s disastrous rollout and corresponding revelation that millions would be losing their plans and doctors as a result confronted the left with a serious dilemma, their solution was to double down on saying “you’re doing it wrong.” That may fly as a meme or clever retort on a message board, but it is not a good course of action to go about telling people directly harmed by a coercive, expansionary new law that what they had before for health insurance was a “crap plan” or that they’re being selfish for objecting to a federal government mandate to purchase insurance.
Throughout the rollout debacle, all anyone on the left spoke about was how confused everyone was, or how they were reacting to “misinformation” or how even if they were being forced into higher premiums and deductibles with fewer choices for networks and doctors, that they should shut up and accept it anyway, as now they will enjoy “better” plans with “first world” coverage and also how can you complain when we’re giving poor people free insurance?
When this all went down I said “if the GOP doesn’t have 55 senators as a result of this single issue next year…” OK, so I was probably off by one. But make no mistake, if the Democrats don’t address their progressive wing, they are going to continue losing, as the progressives know no other way than to continue making it their life’s mission to coerce the whole country into accepting their preferred narrative for how things are. In that endeavor, only one-size-fits-all top-down answers will do, and any talk of federalism or states’ rights is to be shouted out of polite discussion. For progressives, the work of social justice is all too important to be left up to transient whims of voters or to be interfered with by a nostalgia for ancient parchment concerning inalienable rights. Rights are what government gives you as far as the left is concerned, and it follows that if government itself (and not nature as our Founders believed) is the lone arbiter of the dispensation of rights, then it will have to be somewhat authoritarian in its administration of such a huge undertaking.
The lesson of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid era for normal, middle of the road liberals is to reject the nascent authoritarianism found in the nether regions of progressive and academic othodoxy. The bullying attitude that says only progressives are “on the right side of history” suggests therefore that anyone who politically disagrees is on the wrong side of history. Besides the silliness of an argument where one side proclaims its place in something that has not yet been determined (and therefore does not yet exist), the obnoxious arrogance of a political faction claiming to be at the vanguard of good and decency is bound to get under the skin of the opposition. The election results revealed the degree of pushback political movements get when they presume to act like they know what’s best for the rest of us. And there you go. Let’s see if the left learns from this and makes any changes, or will it rationalize away the defeat and return in the New Year with the same level of conceit they’ve exhibited for the last few years?
Forgive me however, for being pessimistic about the party which has of late attempted to repeal the 1st amendment, celebrates speech codes and censorship on campus, says the phrase “trigger warning” without a trace of irony, holds religious freedom in outright contempt, either fundamentally misunderstands or else legitimately despises capitalism and the free market, and believes ultimately in the tyranny of the majority, all in the name of fairness or equality or some other mindless bromide. Based on the evidence, the safe bet is that in no time, the left will be back asserting their superiority over us rubes and telling us in so many words, “we’re smarter than you.”
That kind of attitude and posture is how you end up with a Democratic deluge of defeat on election day. Also, literally calling the American voter “stupid” shouldn’t play very well moving forward. Watch: