by Henry Oliner
Both parties are fragmented, trying to assemble a consensus from groups that do not want to concede.
Populist movements are defined by their demons. It is why they are prone to seduction by saviors. They would settle for benevolent dictators; but when they are no longer benevolent they remain dictators. The framers of our Constitution understood this well and built a magnificent firewall against this option.
When they are unable to slay their main opponents, they will seek smaller dragons. This is when they turn on each other. Purity tests are used to express the narcissism of minor differences.
Having lost to Donald Trump in a defeat that is as illuminating as it is humiliating, the Democrats have splintered and doubled down on their costliest errors. Instead of correcting the liabilities of identity politics, political correctness, and contempt they have relied more on them. They are still silent on the economic issues that drove the working-class whites to Trump. They are still confounded that Trump did better with blacks and Hispanics and women than Mitt Romney.
They have resorted to the same sort of conspiracy theories the Republicans floated about President Obama. If the Russian collusion does not pan out then they will resort to his pathologies and unfitness for office. So far it seems as if the Russian investigation may entrap as many Democrats as Republicans.
Meanwhile the Republican are in in what Jonah Goldberg calls a Trump-22;
Republicans are stuck in a Trump-22 for as far as the eye can see. They cannot afford to alienate the core Trump base by being too critical of the president, and they cannot afford to alienate the Trump-critical elements in the party by being too supportive. So, like House speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, they have no choice but to focus on the policies that unite both constituencies. The problem, of course, is that absent a president who knows how to move an agenda through Congress, Congress is left looking both ineffectual and opportunistic at the same time.
Meanwhile the Democrats, who have their own populist challenges, see GOP dysfunction as an excuse not to remedy their own shortcomings — many of which made Trump’s victory possible.
These are confusing times where logical analysis is surrounded by opposing parties with no clear path of retreat. Trump is effectually a third party in Republican clothing. He has exposed a political diversity that always lay beneath the fragile consensus of the mythical two party system. It is Trump that has built the winning consensus that Peggy Noonan describes by being Lucky in His Enemies:
That most entrenched bastion of the progressive left, America’s great universities, has been swept by . . . well, one hardly knows what to call it. “Political correctness” is too old and doesn’t do it justice. It is a hysteria—a screeching, ignorant wave of sometimes violent intolerance for free speech. It is mortifying to see those who lead great universities cower in fear of it, attempt to placate it, instead of stopping it.
When I see tapes of the protests and riots at schools like Berkeley, Middlebury, Claremont McKenna and Yale, it doesn’t have the feel of something that happens in politics. It has the special brew of malice and personal instability seen in the Salem witch trials. It sent me back to rereading Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” Heather Mac Donald danced with the devil! Charles Murray put the needle in the poppet! As in 17th-century Salem, the accusers have no proof of anything because they don’t know, read or comprehend anything.
The cursing pols, the anathematizing abortion advocates, the screeching students—they are now the face of the progressive left.
Trump does not have to outrun the tiger, just the other hiker.
The left seems intent to preserve what cost them the election, hoping that Trump will eventually self-implode. They may want to develop a backup plan.
On the other side of this conflict is not a victor but a transition to a new consensus that will share aspects of our constitutional heritage, free markets and progressive commitments. I remain optimistic that the outcome will be the better features of our political heritage and not the worst.