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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Although there is no scientific proof of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, millions of children still believe. That’s not a bad thing as it keeps the kids in line in the weeks leading up to Christmas and Easter. Not all myths are for children. Take for example, the fantasy that there is inherent strength in diversity. This is a core tenet of progressive doctrine and has become a keystone of every Democratic Party platform for decades. Many children are crushed when they learn there is no Santa. The collapse of strength in diversity myth is coming as a terrible shock to many Democrats.

Franklin Roosevelt made the Democrats the party of interest groups in the third decade of the last century with an appeal to organized labor, unemployed victims of the Great Depression and the intellectual left. By 1968, African-Americans had joined the mix when Richard Nixon’s white-oriented Southern Strategy drove most African-Americans out of the Republican Party. During the 1970s, Democrats also endorsed other progressive causes; these included abortion rights, Latino farm workers demands and the plight of American Indians. Soon, interest group politics had morphed into identity politics. Now that the LGBT movement is embraced by the party, many traditional Democrats are beginning to wonder if the party stands for anything anymore beyond the beating of Donald Trump. One wag recently lampooned Michael Bloomberg’s and Joe Biden’s dilemma by noting they are facing a fake Indian, a gay guy and a raving socialist; “they must think that they’re running against the Village People.”


Many older African-Americans, Latinos, and members of organized labor don’t want to be associated with some of the more radical positions that their party has adopted in support of LGBT issues, and one radical feminist group has even made common cause with a right wing group in opposing demands by transgendered males to invade spaces formerly reserved for women. Non-whites in the party of diversity are miffed that African-American and Latino candidates have already been run out of the democratic nomination process. Older party members are also showing signs of disapproval of the “soft on immigration” stance that virtually every major Democratic candidate has adopted.

The party’s fascination for embracing climate change issues — including the elimination of fossil fuels — has alienated many energy industry workers, and Bernie Sanders’ threat to eliminate private health care plans has deeply shaken union leaders who have worked to make that part of negotiated benefits plans with management for decades. In addition, union leaders have struggled for years to shed the image of being communist or socialist. Now, the Democratic front runner openly identifying as a socialist.

Progressives mock Trump voters in general, but — beyond being anti-Trump — Democratic voters will be right in asking what is my party for? If those voters can find no self-interest in the party of interests, they will either stay home or give Mr. Trump another look. Particularly impacted are the forgotten Democrats; those 40-plus employed white and black middle-class traditional party members who have company health plans, grown-up kids or never had kids. Stripped to its essence, the party’s message is: “we’ll raise your taxes, replace your health plan, and make you pay for other people’s college tuition.” What’s not to like?

What is left of the traditional party establishment is in a justifiable panic. If they unite to keep Mr. Sanders off the ticket by running a moderate candidate, they will face the ire of the party’s newly energized far left which could well produce the ultimate nightmare — a third-party Sanders campaign that would assure a Trump reelection. If Democrats allow a Sanders nomination to become a reality, Team Trump is almost sure to drive wedges into the party’s electorate by exploiting the above-mentioned divisions. He has already done so by making blatant appeals to middle-of-the road African-Americans and can be expected to make similar overtures to other democrats disaffected by the party’s far-left lurch.

If Mr. Sanders acquiesces to a third-party kamikaze run, he loses nothing. He’s too old to run again, and he could hope emulate what Barry Goldwater did in 1964 becoming the founding father of a new re-birthed left-leaning Democratic Party just as Goldwater pushed the Republicans to the right.

The Democratic Party has indeed built itself a big tent, but the big tent is in danger of becoming a big top. When you craft a circus with a bunch of unpopular acts, you run the risk of ensuring that the only people who will show up are the clowns.

• Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.


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