If you thought 2016 brought us a divisive election, just wait until next year. While American politics has always had a caustic element to it and debates can sometimes lead to shouting matches, it’s growing increasingly difficult to imagine that this is just business as usual with a bit rougher edge to it. What we’re witnessing is something new, as if the citizenry itself has been infected by something that crawled out of a test tube at the Centers for Disease Control or the script of a found-film horror movie.
Because the majority of the action is centered on the Democrats for 2020 (assuming no viable primary challenge to President Trump emerges), it’s particularly easy to point at the growing tone of lunacy among liberals and the equal and opposite reaction of conservatives to this performance. The ideas being put forth in the early stages of the primary battle aren’t “center-left” in any sense of the term. There’s a serious dose of crazy running around and it’s causing conservatives to react in an equally manic fashion.
Matthew Continetti has a great essay at National Review that deserves a read, and he touches on some of the “crazy” strains infecting the Democrats today. Two high-profile Democratic figures provide excellent examples but in seemingly opposite ways. The first is Howard Schultz. He’s a lifelong Democrat and liberal, but he dared to suggest that his party was swinging so far to the left this year that they risk undermining all of the aspects of American society that made his great success and fortune possible. For speaking these words, his face now appears on wanted posters in Democratic homes across the land.
The polar opposite can be found in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, as she’s frequently called. Continetti sums her role on the stage nicely.
The other week, in conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates, AOC said, “I do think that a system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people are still getting ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong.” Don’t worry, “It’s not to say someone like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet are immoral people.” AOC’s complaint is with the “system” that “allows” Gates and Buffet—and Schultz and Bezos and George Lucas and Mark Zuckerberg and the rest—”to exist.” Presumably, then, Gates and Buffet are safe, existentially speaking. But the “system” of relatively free enterprise that allowed them to grow rich—and finance or innovate remarkable advances in technology and productivity that have benefited the world—should be altered drastically. Hence AOC’s call for a 70-percent marginal tax rate—backed by the same genius from Berkley who designed Warren’s expropriation of wealth—to help pay for the “Green New Deal” that will give us “a 100% greenhouse gas neutral power generation system, decarbonizing industry and agriculture and more.”
Let’s not pretend that AOC is the only example or that she invented this trend. She’s only one of many symptoms of something deeper. The Democrats are in a race to see how far to the left they can go. Suggesting that maybe some of the 2017 tax cuts be rolled back is milquetoast. Now it’s massive estate taxes and a 70% income tax on “the rich.” Efforts to normalize transgenderism and promote acceptance give way to demands for new science books that deny the existence of gender and jail time for anyone who “mispronouns” someone else. Cautious support for a woman’s ability to get an abortion is yesterday’s stale bread when you have new laws being passed to literally permit infanticide.
Is it any wonder we have people screaming in each other’s faces in the streets, during parades or at public hearings? Thankfully, incidents of serious physical violence remain relatively rare, though they are clearly happening. It’s not a debate anymore. It’s a war. But how do you shut such a war down? As far as I can tell, you don’t. You have to wait for the entire system to crumble so badly that the combatants find themselves sitting on figurative piles of rubble and wondering how it all went so pear-shaped.
Perhaps that’s what we’re going through now. Donald Trump charged into Washington like a bull in a china shop and has arguably “broken” the existing political structure in Washington. Maybe the next step is for the Democrats to send their own special brand of crazy to the White House, tax the nation to death and shove so much culture warrior claptrap into our legal system that everyone throws up their hands in disgust. Then we can hopefully pick up the pieces and try again.