It’s the first rule of politics that you can’t beat somebody with nobody, but the Democrats are determined to repeal that rule in the year 2020. If anybody can do it, the Democrats think they can. They’ve got a lot of nobodies to choose from.
The ghost of George McGovern is hovering close over these latest proceedings, and that wind shaking the trees and bushes in the graveyard is from a shudder by Mr. Magoo, who can’t believe that the Democrats learned nothing from his losing 49 states to Richard Nixon.
The party didn’t learn anything 16 years later, either, when the Democrats, this time with Walter Mondale, lost 49 states again. But for the kind heart of Ronald Reagan it would have been a clean sweep. With Election Day at hand, the campaign’s wise men, armed with polls predicting victory in 49 states, tried to persuade the president to stop on the way home from a late visit to California for an airport rally in Minneapolis. “We’re within 10,000 votes of taking Mondale in Minnesota, and just an airport stop will put you over the top in every state. Nobody will ever again win all the states.”
The Gipper shook his head. He wouldn’t consider it. “I’m not going to humiliate a man in his home country,” he said. “I’ll be satisfied to win.”
And so he did, losing only Minnesota, and by 3,761 votes. The polls were correct, but the Gipper was right. Those were different times, and going for a man’s throat as he lies bruised and dying in the street, was not thought cricket. But cricket is dead now. Democrats would be satisfied only to shred a reputation with a vengeance, taking care only not to get blood on their shoe tops.
Next year the Democrats, always eager to accuse the Republicans of being the extremists, think they will have a lottery, not an election, and they hold all the tickets. They may come to a late recognition of reality, but that’s not the way to bet.
Conrad Black of National Review likens it to a rout on the range. “The Gadarene stampede to (and over) the edge of the abyss of all who advocate open borders, 70 percent income taxes, the green terror, socialized medicine, legalized infanticide, reparations to native and African-Americans, packing the Supreme Court and vacation of the Electoral College has finally elicited in a Churchillian expression a tiny mouse of dissent. The charge to oblivion reminds me of 1972.”
Richard Nixon, he writes, told him of watching from California Mr. Magoo’s acceptance speech at 3 o’clock in the morning amidst the chaos of the Democratic convention in Miami. “All our time in politics,” he recalled telling his wife Patricia as they watched and listened in disbelief, “we have fought the Democrats of Roosevelt, Truman, Stevenson, Jack, Lyndon and Hubert; all substantial and formidable men. How did that great party fall into the hands of such jerks?”
In time the party climbed out of those hands, only to fall again to jerks, although this time to call the nobodies jerks is to be unkind to jerks. Like Gulliver, in the Jonathan Swift classic, the jerk party is tied down by men (some of them women) by Lilliputians 6 inches tall. Lilliputians put their emphasis on trivial matters.
“For example,” writes Swift, “which end of an egg a person cracks becomes the basis of a deep political rift within that nation.” Swift confessed he wrote “Gulliver’s Travels” only to “vex the world rather than divert it.”
The world in our time is well vexed by the front pages of the newspapers for those who can read, and blogs, Twitter, Instagram, television and other modes of gossip, for those who can’t. The Democrats are becoming a party without hope, white or otherwise. The great Russia collusion fantasy vanished like a cloud of fog on a rainy morning, though millions of the Democratic faithful are standing by as The New York Times attempts one more time to apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the corpse.
Good economic news is closing in on those who have only dreary disdain. Nancy Pelosi looks at the Trump tax and deregulation reform and calls it “the worst disaster in history,” with its full employment (applications for unemployment benefits dropped this week to the lowest number in 49 years), rising wages in an expanding workforce and a stable economy.
The likes of Beto, Pocahontas, the boy mayor of South Bend, Kamala Harris and an army of nobodies the size of 6-inch-tall Lilliputians are not likely to make that slam-dunk the Democrats dream of. The only constant in politics is change, but from here the smart money is on the Donald by a TKO. And maybe more.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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