Ok, now for something completely different. With the realization we all tend to read the same news sources from the same authors in the same places with the same people frequently, we’re going to do something not-the-same to remind us to get out of ourselves.
Today, we’re intentionally going to look at some pieces we may not like and which may offend us and we may not agree with. On purpose. To see how “the other half lives” and make sure we don’t become frogs in a well. Welcome to Echochamber Friday.
This next piece appears to be a typical piece of David Brooks’ Centrist groupthink regarding the Rs vs Ds manufactured drama. Brooks appears courtesy of the Intellectual, Yet Idiot and the Conservative Moral Hierarchy.
The Democrats fail to take on Trumpism. by David Brooks NYTimes Oct 22, 2018
Donald Trump and the other populists around the world have transformed politics in three gigantic ways. First, they told a different narrative. Their central story is that the good, decent people of the heartland are being threatened by immigrants, foreigners and other outsiders while corrupt elites do nothing.
Second, Trump and the other populists have overturned the traditional moral standards for how leaders are supposed to behave. He’s challenged basic norms of honesty, decency, compassion and moral conduct. He unabashedly exploits rifts in American society.
Third, they have ushered in a new conversation. In the 20th century the big debate was big government versus small government. Now, as many have noticed, the core debate is open versus closed. Do you favor basic openness, diversity and pluralism, or do you favor closed ethnic nationalism?
Along the way Trump has challenged America’s basic identity as a nation of immigrants. He’s challenged the American-led postwar international order.
In short, Trump and the other populists have transformed the G.O.P. and thrown down a cultural, moral and ideological gauntlet.
This election is the Democrats’ first opportunity to push back against a thoroughly Trumpified Republican Party. It is a remarkable opportunity to realign the electorate, since polls continually show the percentage of the country that buys Trump’s ethnic nationalism is in the low 40s.
So how, at this crucial moment in history, have the Democrats responded?
“The top three issues this year are health care, health care and health care,” J.B. Poersch, of the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC, told CNN.
The Wesleyan Media Project recently surveyed the political landscape and came out with a report called “2018: The Health Care Election.” It found that a majority of recent pro-Democratic political ads featured health care. Sixty-one percent of recent pro-Democratic ads in U.S. House races have been on health care.
Democratic candidates like Senator Claire McCaskill are hammering home the same point in debates. Republicans tried to take away coverage for pre-existing conditions.
In normal times, there’s good reason to run on this issue. Millions of families are plagued by inadequate insurance coverage. If you’re trying to win a swing voter in Arizona, it’s a bread-and-butter issue that has appeal.
But the Democratic campaign is inadequate to the current moment. It offers no counternarrative to Trump, little moral case against his behavior, no unifying argument against ethnic nationalism. In politics you can’t beat something with nothing. Democrats missed the Trumpian upsurge because while society was dividing into cultural tribes, they spent 2008 through 2016 focusing on health care. Now that the upsurge has happened, they are still pinioned to health care.
Worse, the Democratic strategy simply revives the old 1980-2008 playbook. It’s Democratic spending promises versus Republican tax cuts. This familiar, orthodox argument pushes left and right back into their normal categories. It destroys any possibility of a realignment.
We’ve learned a few things about the Democratic Party. First, it’s still fundamentally a materialist party. The Trumpian challenge is primarily a moral and cultural challenge. But the Democrats are mostly comfortable talking about how to use federal spending to extend benefits. Some Democrats want to spend a lot more (Medicare for all, free college education), and some want to spend less, but their basic instinct is that national problems can be addressed with more federal money. Their basic political instinct is that you win votes by offering material benefits.
Second, we’ve learned that when Democrats do raise a moral argument, it tends to be of the social justice warrior variety. The core argument in this mode is that the oppressive structures of society marginalize women, minorities and members of the L.G.B.T.Q. communities.
It turns out that if your basic logic is that distinct identity groups are under threat from an oppressive society, it’s very hard to then turn around and defend that society from authoritarian attack, or to articulate any notion of what even unites that society. You can appeal to women as women and to ethnic groups as ethnic groups, but it’s very hard to make a universal appeal to Americans as Americans, or defend the basic American norms that Trump calls into question. It’s a messaging vulnerability that Democrats have imposed upon themselves.
Democrats still seem likely to win the House, because Trump is so effective at driving away voters. But Democrats are blowing the political opportunity of a lifetime. They seem to be getting little traction in red states and now may end up losing ground in the Senate. Instead of drawing disaffected voters away from the G.O.P., they seem to be pushing Republicans back to Trump.
These days, culture is more important than economics.
(Header image: this picture of someone named Karlie Kloss appeared in my newsfeed today. Apparently she married Joshua Kushner in a “super-duper top-secret wedding after knowing each other for only 3 months. Sounds like that’s going to work out smashingly. And they have all the pictures on social media or something. Is this Kushner guy related to the Trump Kushner guy? He went to Jared? I have no idea. Anyone know?)