Just days ago, Democrats suffered one of the most astounding political losses in generations. In the moments before the election returns began to trickle in, Democrats firmly believed that they would win the White House, capture a Senate majority, and make substantial inroads into the GOP’s House majority. None of that happened.
Instead, Democrats are left with 11 fewer Senate seats, 60 fewer House seats, 14 fewer governorships, and 900 fewer state legislative seats than they had eight years ago. That’s their worst position since 1922, almost a century ago.
Typically, such an unexpectedly disastrous result would prompt some self-examination. Democrats needed to take the time to understand how they could have so fundamentally misunderstood the nation’s roiling political dynamic. And they needed to put some effort into taming liberalism’s manifest excesses such that it’s authoritarian style and bullying tendencies are minimized.
But Trump’s election seems to have sent the wrong signal. Rather than shed a light on a huge number of disaffected Americans, many of whom were once reliably Democratic voters who voted with the party for years, the election is serving as a cover up to Democrat’s self-destruction.
Rather than assess what they could do, they’re instead pointing the finger of blame in every direction.
They blamed party insiders for sticking them with a candidate like Hillary Clinton because she was “due” rather than deserving. They blame Bernie bros, who got puffed up with his hot air and then deflated when left with less appealing candidates. They blame the “basket of deplorables” who are surely either racist and misogynist, and thus used their vote to repudiate the current black president and the thought of a future woman one. They blame the media for giving Trump too much airtime. They blame Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson from stealing votes away from Clinton despite having no chance to win. They blame FBI Director James Comey for publicly re-opening the investigation into Clinton’s above-the-law behavior. And they even blame Facebook, of all things, for not properly curating the stories that are shared by members of its site.
This, put simply, is ridiculous. The fact that a Trump-like outsider successfully beat a battle-hardened professional politico doesn’t excuse liberals bad behavior. It only highlights the depth of their failings. To smugly shrug off the outcome of this election is to indulge in the same impulse that led to it, which is to say that perpetuating liberal condescension of alternative viewpoints hasn’t, and won’t, work.
Fortunately, there are some reform-minded liberals who understand the party’s self-destructive tendencies and are proactively looking for alternative solutions. Artemis Seaford writes for The American Interest:
Within our privileged, cosseted circles we have gotten used to not only thinking that we are right, but that we are obviously so. … In all, we missed the writing on the wall about shifting patterns of exclusion and alienation, and ended up with a paradoxically antiquated and incomplete version of “progressivism.”
Nowhere has this benevolent but ultimately self-defeating myopia been more pronounced than on college campuses. We have dismissed our conservative peers in the classroom and taunted them on social media all while refusing to seriously engage their views. We have taken hard questions like affirmative action and abortion entirely off the table, as if we had already provided an answer that should be immediately convincing to all. We have refused to consider a diversity of viewpoints on what constitutes “diversity.” We have resolutely resisted paying more than lip service to socioeconomic inequality, rural alienation, and shifting patterns of exclusion while still purporting to speak on behalf of all marginalized people. We have proclaimed that the only reasonable way to respond to racial and gender inequality is to entrench pre-existing identities rather than overcoming them through what unites us all.
Although some Republicans would surely disagree, I find this promising. Conservatism deserves an ideological counterpoint. It’s what drives us forward and keeps things in perspective. As Paul Ryan framed it in 2010, “We owe the country an alternative. It is our obligation to give the country a different path forward on how we would do things differently. Do you want to be a free market democracy, what I would call an opportunity side with a safety net, or do you want to go down the European social democracy path of the cradle-to-the-grave welfare state.”
Republicans should feel confident enough in the strength of their ideas and philosophy to win the battle. And it would make us all better if we had a worthy, reform-minded adversary.
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