Objectively, the state of the 2020 election isn’t terrible yet.
After the Democratic debate last night, I watched as many lifelong Constitution-loving people voiced feelings of hopelessness. In a way, this was completely understandable. Whereas it is always possible that a third party or independent candidate could win, the fact remains that perceptions drive politics, and overwhelmingly the perception in the country right now is that there are only two parties who can win.
From those parties, the current options are Trump on the Republican side and one of a half-dozen or so candidates on the Democrat side. The person with the most support on the Democrat lineup is avowed socialist Bernie Sanders.
Trump is autocratic, and has repeatedly violated the law and basic decency while undermining the American system of government, alienating our allies and elevating our enemies. No person who ever defined themselves as conservative should be willing to countenance his presence in government, much less support him as President.
Bernie, while not repeatedly violating the law, otherwise promises to continue most of the worst offenses of Trump but with the added bonus of confiscating wealth and redistributing it in the Venezuelan style.
It should be apparent that both of these candidates are unacceptable.
This, naturally, encourages people to look for hope elsewhere. Instead, in debate after debate, the Democrats who are supposedly centrists are promoting policy which is starkly at odds with the beliefs of traditional conservatives. It seems that no matter who wins the nomination, the country cannot be salvaged.
Don’t believe it. Because the Democrats are lying.
They’re lying in the exact way that most politicians do, at this stage in a primary. They’re promising the most activist wing of their base that they’ll deliver on some key agenda items, while trying to avoid handing their opponents sound bites which will make them sound like an extremist or a wimp.
The thing is… overwhelmingly, the things promised to the activist wing in a primary are summarily ignored once the primary is over. When there are no options available, pledges like self-funding campaigns and withdrawing funding from the United Nations are forgotten, and campaign tentpoles like repealing Obamacare get weak public attempts at passage followed by abandonment.
This is the kabuki dance that politicians play for their citizenry, and they perform because it works. An excellent example is the recent attempt by the Virginia Governor, a Democrat, to pass restrictive gun laws. With Democrats crossing the aisle to vote against the laws, it became obvious that the entire effort was an act designed to bolster the Governor in the northeast part of the state where guns are distrusted and simultaneously boost Democrat state representatives in southern and western areas where gun rights are sacrosanct.
The same thing is happening on the national stage right now. The Democrats are campaigning not to their party moderates or crossover ex-Republicans, but rather to the activists who are most likely to vote in a primary.
Rather than feeling hopeless, you should be reminded why you likely never supported these policies, or the people who promoted them, in the first place… and you should also recall that, overwhelmingly, the actual policies enacted tended to be bad, but not catastrophic.
So, at the end of the day, you discovered that you’re not ideologically a Democrat activist, even if you are impressed by Schiff’s ability to reason and have developed a grudging respect for Pelosi’s tenacity. This should not be a great revelation. The issue then becomes who is less damaging than Trump, and who is likely to fail to deliver on the worst programs they’re proposing. The answer is: everyone except Bernie.
This is not going to be a “reverse the ship” moment pushing us toward originalism. The Republicans had that chance, and they chose destruction and despotism instead. It can be a stark reduction in the rate of decline, however, and there remain many options in that field. We just need to remain grounded in reality: it’s not about which candidates you think you might generally like, nor even about which ones you most dislike. It’s about who can win and who would be actually destructive if they did win.
According to polls, any of them can win against Trump, but Bernie would have the roughest time of it due to the Electoral College. Of them all, Bernie is the only one likely to be actively destructive on a level resembling Trump. Sure, the Democrats seem to suck… but they’re Democrats, working hard to appeal to their activist base. They’re going to suck.
In my view, Obama was terrible. Clinton was terrible. Carter was terrible. I expect any of the Democrats on that stage are going to range between bad to terrible. But with one exception (maybe two, if you think Warren still has a real chance at a comeback) they’re not going to be a nightmare, and only Bernie is going to approach Trump levels.
If you stop framing the argument as “finding someone you can support” and shift it to “finding someone that you can bear in order to get rid of Trump”, the options available expand greatly. And most of them still have a very good chance to win the nomination… particularly if we can convince some of the Democrats to attack their real enemies right now: the party-destroying Bernie and the country-destroying Trump.
One step at a time. People don’t shift immediately from late-stage cancer to perfectly healthy. The chemo used to get rid of cancer does a lot of damage on its own, and then you have to work to heal from the cure before getting back to health. We’re in the cancer stage now, and we’ve got our choices of chemo, with many non-fatal options available.
Things just aren’t that bad right now. Especially if we keep the eye on the ball and work against both Trump and Bernie, by exposing their failures.