Trump did not unearth a hidden majority–only a large and neglected minority. The Dems could have found a way to reach out to him over common issues but instead adopted a scorched earth policy.
There were solid political reasons for this. Trump was toxic on culture, identity politics, and PC; and many Dems had become elitist without knowing it. So it would have been hard for the Dems immediately post-campaign to look for common ground, or even to articulate Trump-like positions on manufacturing, middle America, immigration and trade– reliable Dem go-to issues in the past.
So then came the Resistance. But it perhaps was not completely a move of desperation. It could have been in part a calculated risk.
The policy of Resistance left Trump with nowhere to go but to the Rs, who have in the manner of the scorpion crossing the river bitten the host frog on the journey–a murder-suicide because the scorpion could not help being a scorpion (Republicans own the name The Stupid Party for a reason).
Trump might have cured the Rs and if he had the party might have emerged as a real threat. Maybe the wiser Dems decided that the Republicans could not help but be stupid, reasoning that the Republicans would eventually stab Trump in the back and weaken themselves in the process. They can then pick up the pieces–gingerly, hypocritically but probably successfully.
Ah, but what of the Great Populist Moment?
The US was maybe fortunate to have avoided the occasion for socialism. Europe seems so nice to us in retrospect but it had a terrible history. Could be that where populism is concerned Europe will once again catch a deathly flu, owing to the EU’s stranglehold and the near inevitability of more mass migration from the Middle East and Africa? And that America will catch a nasty cold but, owing to its different political conditions and its geographic remove, it will get over it?
Many were surprised at the strength of the anti-elite mood in this country in 2016 but the surprise of it makes it easy to overstate the phenomenon. The fact is that while the most fortunate globalists are the 1% they have an awful lot of cooperative handmaidens. They got too big for their britches and will likely try to adjust them.
The parties have usually found a way to adjust policies and constituencies to arrive a near parity. Maybe this time they won’t make those adjustments on the traditional big government small government divide but on the new elite versus populism divide. The Dems don’t have to move that far to appeal to Trump voters (witness the midterms), especially if the Rs are determined to stay stupid. So this could be one more finesse, larger then usual but still a finesse, followed by a new normal.
Ah, but can the Dems pivot, or are they too much hostage to their constituencies to even embrace parts of Trumpism without Trump?
Could be they are captive of identity politics. But seems to me that identity politics in the first instance is for the most part eye candy. Sure there are real things stuck in there but for the most part it is symbolic in nature.
Do the Dems do much for African-Americans? Does BLM? Blacks may not be able to look forward to full employment and stable communities but they can look forward to pride, attitude and the celebration of their culture.
That comes cheap in many ways to political and business elites. Indeed in a post-industrial future it seems a reasonable though craven path to take. Why bother integrating blacks into the workforce when they can be sidelined with bread and circus follies, with any blue collar jobs remaining after the impact of technology going to another wave of immigrants willing to work for even less, and not complain, and vote Democratic to boot?
The Left has always had a problem squaring the white deplorables with minorities. But while that is a difficult problem it is not impossible. I am not sure the Dems have to publicly wean themselves of identity politics. Clinton had his Sister Souljah moment and everyone kind of got along after that for a while. Why can’t the Dems do a modified Sister Souljah on the one side and a modified Trump middle America on the other? Politics is mostly about messaging in our era and has stopped being mostly about real things. Couldn’t a master messenger figure out how to capture a good deal of populist energy without losing the identitarians completely?
In any event if the Rs self-destruct and Trump implodes the table will be set and we will see what happens. It is quite possible that the twin collapse of mainstream Republicanism and the Trumpist challenge –if that occurs–will leave the so-called Trump coalition with few alternatives, and they can be had for cheap. Buy low, sell high.