The Squad's own-goals led Dems down primrose path

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

So says Axios’ Mike Allen today, a belated conclusion to an entirely predictable outcome. After all, what happens when the most extreme elements of a major political party start controlling its policies and tactics? They lose voters in the center and sometimes within the party’s coalition, and wind up defining their colleagues by their spectacular failures rather than accomplishments.

I wish I could say that this is the first example of this in my lifetime, but alas …

The hard-left politics of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and the so-called “Squad,” once a dominant theme for vast numbers of elected Democrats, is backfiring big-time on the party in power, top Democrats tell us.

Why it matters: The push to defund the police, rename schools and tear down statues has created a significant obstacle to Democrats keeping control of the House, the Senate and the party’s overall image. …

This is a seismic shift from just a year ago. The signs have built steadily throughout President Biden’s 13 months in office that Squad politics are problematic when you control everything:

30 House Democrats — the most in decades — have announced they’ll retire instead of running in November’s midterms. They see little hope of keeping the majority in this environment.

Democrats lose poll after poll of generic House matchups, which ask voters if they’d prefer an R or a D if the election were held today.

Republicans’ decisive sweep of statewide offices in Virginia was powered in part by Democrats’ failure to appreciate parents’ skepticism about public schools’ mask mandates, policies on transgender rights and approach to teaching about race.

There’s nothing terribly mystifying about this. Democrats didn’t even have the blinding spectacle of a landslide election to excuse their fantasy-politics adoption. In 2020, they barely won the presidency, actually lost seats in the House, only gained control of the Senate when Donald Trump and his allies ruined GOP efforts in Georgia’s runoff election, and made no significant gains in state legislatures. From that mess, progressives somehow convinced themselves that they had their collective finger on the political pulse of America.

Even worse, they convinced the utterly incompetent Joe Biden of the same thing — even though he had campaigned explicitly as a centrist. Instead of focusing on meat-and-potatoes issues that matter daily to voters such as the economy, crime, and in this case the pandemic, Democrats went all-in on climate change, federalizing elections, and wild spending that predictably touched off a massive inflationary wave that hadn’t been seen in 40 years.

Democrats had a narrow opportunity to demonstrate responsible governance and put the GOP on the spot for cooperation. Instead, they chose a maximalist-progressive agenda that forced Democrats to fight themselves, and then to fight their own voter base in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. The Washington Post points out that the Squad politics adopted by Joe Biden has resulted not in fights between suburban and rural Republicans, but urban-core Democrats who are looking for some law and order, among other basic deliverables:

In multiple states, Democrats running in competitive areas are scrambling to push back against the “defund the police” movement embraced by far-left activists, with some forced to try explaining past associations with the controversial slogan. President Biden has maintained his distance by touting federal funding that can be used to put more officers on the beat amid a rise in violent crime, as opposed to cutting their numbers.

In the left-leaning cities of Minneapolis and Austin, voters last year have embraced more conservative policies on policing and homelessness, as have candidates for mayor this year in the nation’s second-largest Democratic city, Los Angeles.

In San Francisco, the latest battle among Democrats over how far left the party should move came to a resounding conclusion as voters this week fired three school board members who veered too close to the edge even in a city that is a bastion of liberal activism.

Among their actions: the officials had moved to rename schools honoring figures such as Abraham Lincoln, whom they deemed flawed; sought to diversify an elite high school with an overwhelmingly Asian American and White student body by ending merit-based admissions; and imposed a lengthy pandemic absence from in-person learning. Even the city’s Democratic mayor backed their recall.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a progressive — until now, recently, when I’m looking at this situation,” said Siva Raj, 49, who launched the San Francisco recall effort with his partner, Autumn Looijen. “I’m shocked — like, how can progressives be for something like this? This is not me. These are not the values that I buy anymore.”

The Post tries to frame this as a “Republicans pounce!®” story, but polls and results show that the problem goes far beyond campaign sniping for Democrats:

While slogans like “Abolish ICE” and calls to renounce Lincoln were never representative of the broader Democratic Party, Republicans have deftly weaponized them, tagging all of their opponents with attacks that have resonated in part because Democrats have often been reluctant to respond directly lest they highlight their own divisions, party strategists said. The combination of Biden’s poor approval ratings and the history of first midterms being tough for the president’s party has added more urgency to Democrats’ desire to find an effective counterpunch.

But many in the left reject the notion that their ideas on education, policing, racial equity and other issues are a liability for the party.

Well, then the problem isn’t really that Republicans are pouncing, is it? It’s that they’re telling the truth about the radical direction of the Democratic Party in recent years. And voters even in liberal places like San Francisco are waking up to their new radical nature and rejecting it.

That ain’t a messaging problem. That’s a leadership problem, created by party leadership that has allowed its radical faction to let them by the nose, a situation created by the vacuous vacuum at the very top. Unless Biden decides to turn it around by firing his closest advisers and bringing in replacements who can actually do math, it’s not going to get solved, either.