Howard Dean: This election might be the younger generation's Kent State

Deep thoughts via CNN from the former — and future? — head of the DNC. And very much of a piece with leftist thought lately:

Look at it this way. At least they’ve moved on from 9/11 analogies.

Well, some of them, anyway. Dean:

“This young generation, which I think is absolutely great, is used to doing everything on the Internet,” Dean said Wednesday on the SiriusXM radio channel Urban View with host Joe Madison. “They don’t really like institutions, they don’t need institutions. If they want change, they go on the Internet, find a half million people who agree with them, and insist on the change and they usually get it.”…

“So I really think this election, they’re so disheartened, so down and so tired and discouraged, this may be their Kent State or their Edmund Pettus Bridge,” he said. “Where you finally realize that you’ve got to do something, that you can’t — the path as Martin Luther King said, ‘the arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ Well it only bends toward justice if you make it bend toward justice.”

As I read him, the point he’s making has less to do with drawing strict moral equivalence between those events than with the fact that each galvanized durable mass protest movements. Even if Trump’s win isn’t as bad as civil-rights marchers being attacked by cops, Dean might say, it’s something that’ll shake young liberals out of their complacency. Maybe, but Trump has the potential to be the most accommodating Republican president Democrats have experienced since Gerald Ford. Obama described him a few days ago as a “pragmatist,” which is true and ironic insofar as O’s been begging for less ideological, more pragmatic Republicans to deal with for eight years. Boehner could never make a deal with him, especially on immigration, for fear that the GOP base would revolt over a betrayal of conservatism. Now here’s Trump to show the world that most grassroots righties don’t give a wet fart about conservatism in principle so long as they have a guy in charge who’s proved he’s not afraid to “stand up to the left.” Trump proved it, and won by doing so, and now he’s free to deal with Schumer and Pelosi on all sorts of things. Young liberals probably won’t like his Supreme Court picks or his ObamaCare replacement, but they may like his infrastructure bill just fine and should be pleasantly surprised to find how comfortable he is with gay Americans and LGBT rights. There’ll be no entitlement cuts under President Trump; there may be no new wars either, although that depends on how aggressively America’s enemies test his more “modest” foreign policy. Even immigration could conceivably come with some form of legalization for certain classes of illegals while the border’s being built up. A Democrat who’s willing to give him a fair shake may find more to like under President Trump than he would have under Presidents Rubio or Cruz.

From the perspective of a Democratic leader like Dean, that’s a big problem. The liberal freakout over Trump right now, with mass protests when the guy’s still two months away from wielding any power, has both an instinctive explanation and a strategic explanation. The instinct is obvious: They’re wounded and terrified that the “emerging Democratic majority” they’ve been promised as minorities grow as a share of the population might be less certain than they thought. They can tolerate being walloped by the white working class in one election, as that can be remedied with better outreach next time and occasional reminders that many older downscale whites will be replaced by younger nonwhites in the electorate in 2020. What they can’t tolerate is the idea that Trump’s class appeals might be effective long-term in loosening their hold on black and Latino voters. Remember, despite all of the immigration rhetoric this time, despite all of the media buzz about his alt-right support, he did a bit better with those groups than Romney did in 2012. The “blue wall” in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania can be repaired but a breach in their wall of support among nonwhites, especially Latinos, would be dangerous given how heavily Dems depend on monolithic numbers within those groups. And a “pragmatic” Trump presidency could do that. The mass rejectionism on the left right now is, I think, a way to simply cope with that anxiety. There’s strength in numbers, and right now they feel weak and frightened so they’re reminding themselves that they still have numbers. That’s why Dean-o’s so focused on mass protest movements here.

The strategic impulse in all of this whining is related: The more Democrats lay down a baseline now that Trump is to be resisted vigorously, before he’s even had a chance to set policy, the more pressure there’ll be on nonwhites and centrist Dems not to let themselves admit there are things they like in what’s to come. Set an ethic of resistance now and harden opposition as much as you can. Make it a litmus test for liberalism. It may come in handy in 2020 when Dem-leaning swing voters are weighing whether to vote for reelection or not. Note the polarization in these Gallup numbers about voters feeling more confidence in the president-elect shortly after the elections in 1992, 2000, and 2016:


A lot of Hillary voters feel less confident in Trump now than they did before even though he’s hit most of the right notes post-election. That’s the “resistance” cement already beginning to set, I think. And, probably, it’s a function of how much further apart the two parties’ bases are culturally in 2016 than they were years before. If you voted for Clinton, you don’t need to wait to see what Trump does as president. He and his fans are a cultural affront. Why wouldn’t you feel less confident now that they’re in power?

Listen to Dean below and then, as a special treat, enjoy a new offering from a guy who hasn’t had much to say publicly in the last few years but who’s re-emerged just in time to capitalize on “resistance” fever on the left. I think you’ll find his haughty indignation is haughtier than evah.