Will Democratic outrage finally eat itself? The Washington Post’s Michael Scherer sends up that warning today to the Left, arguing that hysteria over Donald Trump may well start backfiring on them. Last week’s retirement of Anthony Kennedy has created an environment of such high drama within the Beltway and the media bubble that it threatens to fracture the party from just about everyone and everywhere else.
It’s a good warning, but it doesn’t come without a little editorializing:
Growing liberal agitation over a pivotal Supreme Court retirement and a simmering crisis about immigrant child separation have left Democratic leaders scrambling to keep the political outrage they’d counted on to fuel midterm election wins from becoming a liability for the party.
Internal party debates have broken into public view over maintaining civility and the usefulness of liberal slogans like “abolish ICE,” which some Republicans have embraced to argue falsely that Democrats oppose immigration enforcement. At the same time, liberal activists have begun to argue for more radical measures to counter President Trump, who they assert presents an immediate threat to the republic.
Let’s pause here about the “falsely” comment. Just how false is it to take calls for the abolition of the agency responsible for immigration enforcement as a call for ending it altogether? The argument is so incoherent that it’s about the only rational takeaway from it. After all, if the argument is that Democrats want to abolish ICE but still want immigration enforcement, then they’d need to reconstitute ICE with nothing more than a name change.
The problem with hysterical arguments isn’t that they get falsified — it’s that they’re entirely unfalsifiable. The words get disconnected from their literal meaning, as Scherer does here, because it’s all about sheer emotional manipulation rather than rational policy. That’s why Democrats are talking about “street fights” rather than coherent strategies and solutions:
Others like Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), a likely presidential candidate in 2020, called Sunday for more street protests, along the lines of the 750 rallies that were held Saturday to protest the continued separation of immigrant children from their parents.
“It is up to each of us to use our voices and take to the streets to fight for who we are,” she tweeted Sunday.
Maxine Waters famously called for street action too, and so have other darlings of the Left. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s calls for more rational debate have largely been ignored as inauthentic and collaborationist. Former Democratic DCCC chair Steve Israel suggested that it’s self-indulgent and isolating:
“There is a big difference between a strategic message targeted to win an election and an emotional call like ‘Abolish ICE,’ ” said former congressman Steve Israel (N.Y.), who led the Democratic House election effort for two cycles. “One feels good for the person screaming, and one works for the person voting.”
Israel’s concern is less about rational policy, however, and more about the brewing civil war within the Democratic Party. They managed to shoot themselves in the foot with Harry Reid’s 2013 nuclear option, leaving them with no way to slow down Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination without help from Republicans. That impotence has enraged the Left — which cheered Reid at the time in another triumph of emotionalism over rational thought. That’s pitting radical Democrats against the moderates at a time when unity might work out better for them, over blindingly stupid rallying calls like “Abolish ICE!”
That same impulse is about to lead them into another dead end, this time in selling street fights to Americans who would just rather vote. That’s what makes Michael Moore’s comments so ironic:
“What would you give your life for?” Moore asked in a call to action Friday on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” “That moment is now. We are going to lose our democracy, if we haven’t already.”
Ahem. We’re having an election in four months. Rather than focus on actual democracy, Moore, Harris, and Waters are trying to sell street fights and suicide missions in their stead, based on hysteria rather than policy outcomes. How exactly does that rhetoric uphold democracy?
That might work for turnout in the fever swamps, but revolution might not even carry the day in all of the Hillary Clinton districts from 2016, let alone the Donald Trump districts from two years ago. The hysteria and infighting may well disintegrate any chance Democrats have in regaining control of the House, and could set up the Senate for an easy slam dunk if another Supreme Court seat opens up in the final two years of Trump’s term.