The Left’s reaction to Donald Trump’s victory in the Iowa caucuses suggests that it has learned absolutely nothing in the last eight years.
While the Democrats continue to obsess about identity and reparations for slavery and pronouns, the 45th president is making great strides towards his goal of becoming the 47th. And nothing that Joe Biden’s party is saying sounds remotely relevant to the kind of people for whom Trump provides an attractive and realistic candidate for the presidency.
In 2017, talk show host and Left-wing comedian Bill Maher put it as succinctly as anyone, telling Democrats: “While you self-involved fools were policing the language at the Kids’ Choice Awards, a madman talked his way into the White House.”
A year earlier, the Democrats were so dismissive of Trump and the electoral threat posed by the Republicans that they believed they could nominate Hillary Clinton, whom polls assured them was divisive and unpopular, under the arrogant assumption that she would make history by being elected as the nation’s first female president. When Trump was formally nominated, the Democrats were cock-a-hoop, believing the election had just been gifted to them. Who, after all, would ever vote for the billionaire property developer?
A campaign perforated by Clinton’s undisguised contempt for blue collar voters living in the kinds of states that she would never visit outside election time (ironically, the kind of state her husband was brought up in) culminated in a Saturday Night Live sketch, aired a few days before polling, in which the Democrat nominee was described as “President Clinton”.
When reality bit, it was a painful experience. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and from that perspective, it was possible to see what had happened and why. Voters across the country, but particularly in the south and mid-west, felt abandoned by the elites of both main parties, whose language and priorities simply didn’t resonate. Clinton’s description during the campaign of the large minority of the population who supported Trump as “deplorables” helped clarify how those same voters felt about her.
From 2017 to 2021, the media were awash with apocalyptic warnings of the end of democracy and the onset of modern day fascism, warnings that reached hysterical levels with the riot by Trump-supporting thugs who, if they really were attempting to take over the government on January 6, 2021, were the most incompetent and ill-prepared revolutionaries in history. But it was, in some ways, a comforting event for Democrats because it confirmed their criticism of Trump as a new-age Hitler whom the nation could never trust again.
As Trump now prepares to cruise towards his party’s nomination for a second time, the online and media hysteria is already surpassing previous records. He remains entirely unsuited to the position of president and he would undoubtedly make a mess of it all over again. But that is not the considered analysis of the Democrats. A Trump victory would signal the end of the republic, or at least the end of democracy as we know it. Ill-considered analogies with 1930s Germany are again intruding on public discourse, almost as if they belong there. And the people who support him – aren’t they the real enemies?
It all sounds like the demented videos produced by the likes of kung-fu doyen and Right-wing film star Chuck Norris during the 2008 election, when he warned that a Barack Obama victory would usher in “a thousand years of darkness”. Oh, how we laughed. Yet today’s warnings by mainstream liberals sound just as unhinged.
The Democrats could have spent the last eight years considering why they are so mistrusted by a large section of the country, why the language they use is such a turn-off to voters whose own lives and experiences present such a puzzle to the policy-makers inside the Beltway. They could have examined their own priorities, they could have listened to and even tried to understand those same people instead of dismissing them as ignorant rednecks.
They might even have listened to Maher’s warning that the Democrats have gone from being a party that protects people to a party that protects feelings. “From ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’ to ‘You owe me an apology.’”
Angrily criticising American citizens for their poor behaviour in 2016 achieved precisely nothing, other than a widening of already damaging cultural and political divides, and the Democrats and their supporters across the world, including in the UK, seem determined to continue along the path that proved so successful in November 2016.
Except this time, the indignation and anger felt towards Trump will be well-rehearsed enough in advance of polling day that, in the event of his second coming, the bleating and whining and cries of foul play, not to mention the predictions of yet another Armageddon, will be even louder, more heartfelt, and even more self-pitying.
But why not? Why not indulge in blaming others for your defeats? It is far easier and satisfying than taking a long, hard look at yourself and asking if your own political messaging and priorities might, after all, have been wrong.