The Kugler-Ross model, also known as the five stages of grief, suggests that there is a standardized series of emotions experienced by terminally ill patients. It consists of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
It seemed an apt model for Democrats to follow after their Election Day drubbing at the hands of Donald Trump and Republicans up and down the ballot. And yet it appears that Democrats only have two stages: anger and denial. They’re angry at the result and then deny that there is a problem with their ideas. As Kimberly Strassel writes for the Wall Street Journal:
What Democrats should realize, because everyone else does, is that voters rejected both their policies (which have undermined middle- and low-income families) and their governance (which has fueled rage at a power-hungry federal government).
Instead Democrats think last week was an accident. Mrs. Clinton tells donors that she only lost because of FBI Director Jim Comey. Barack Obama faults Hillary’s tactics—she didn’t spend enough time in the right states. Michael Dukakis says Democrats only lost because of the Electoral College. Rachel Maddow blames third-party candidates.
All this denial has cleared the field for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the leading voice now calling on the party to recognize it has erred and needs change. She is telling the masses, however, that Democrats lost because they didn’t go big enough. They didn’t spend enough. Didn’t regulate enough. Didn’t socialize health care enough. Her prescription: Double down.
Warren isn’t alone. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who lost a heated primary battle with Hillary Clinton, was elected the chair of outreach in the Senate, a clear sign that Democrats intend to take a more progressive stance in the upcoming session. Senate Democrats apparently believe that the Sanders wing of the party can foment the left-wing populism necessary to peal away voters from Trump.
House Democrats are taking a different, though just as misguided an approach: Reelecting a rash of graying, coastal elites that don’t speak on behalf of a vast swath of middle America. As James Hohmann observed in The Washington Post: “The top three Democrats in leadership are 76 (Pelosi), 77 (Steny Hoyer) and 76 (Jim Clyburn). The top three Republican leaders, in contrast, are 46 (Paul Ryan), 51 (Kevin McCarthy) and 51 (Steve Scalise).”
All of those leaders appear poised to be reelected, a stunning outcome given that their ‘leadership” guided the party to historic losses in 2010 and a dramatic underperformance in subsequent elections. As recently as June Pelosi suggested that Democrats could flip the 30 seats they needed to recapture the majority. They picked up six seats.
Of course, the House and Senate leadership races are just window-dressing. The real leftward lurch of the Democrat Party is happening behind closed doors (where else?) as a group of cloistered rich Democrat donors plot how best to reach out to blue collar voters. Politico’s Kenneth Vogel reports:
George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton are gathering in Washington for a three-day, closed door meeting to retool the big-money left to fight back against Donald Trump.
The conference, which kicked off Sunday night at Washington’s pricey Mandarin Oriental hotel, is sponsored by the influential Democracy Alliance donor club, and will include appearances by leaders of most leading unions and liberal groups, as well as darlings of the left such as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman Keith Ellison, according to an agenda and other documents obtained by POLITICO.
“Big-money left”? “Darlings of the left”? Oh yes, I’m sure this is exactly the group that will come up with the left’s next great strategy for appealing to working class voters.
Throughout it all, Democrats appear content to allow the progressive faction of the party beat out the pragmatists. And it happened before the fight even truly began. But Democrats may soon learn that a party led by progressives ends up regressing as it moves further away from working class voters and their economically-driven concerns.