logo

Op-Ed on U.S. elections: Not my parents’ Democrats

PUBLISHED: Wed, 04 Mar 2020 14:40:10 GMT

Share

By David S. Levin, writer from New York

Maybe it’s me, but U.S. politics, and the Democrats in particular, are starting to remind me of an episode of South Park. With an ensemble of panic-stricken, ageing politicos facing off against young, socialist insurgents with man-buns, it makes for hours of riveting binge-watching. Plus, if you’re out of the house, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, you can even follow your favourite politicians getting brought to their knees while you shop at the mall or hang out at the beach. Technology sure makes hating people easy these days.

Back in my parents day, it wasn’t this bad though. Of course, you still despised all the politicians just like we do today. But you could usually find someone to vote for. Remember, years ago, the Democrats used to have some real star power too. There was FDR and JFK. Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton. And, more recently, even Barack Obama. But those models have been discontinued and man, how times have changed.

Put simply, today’s Democrats are not my parents Democrats. Or mine either. Since they lost the election to Donald Trump in 2016, they’ve been flapping around on the dock like a freshly caught fish, trying to figure out who’s to blame for their near-terminal state. It’s gotten so bad, their leading presidential candidate is actually a socialist which pretty much illustrates everything that’s gone wrong with them. Worse yet, the voters are sharply split by culture, generation, and policy agendas so dissimilar you would never even know they’re members of the same party.

Their current punch-drunk state is the result of getting rocked by Donald Trump every day for three straight years. First, he trampled them in the 2016 election like Godzilla in one of those old Japanese monster movies. Then, two years and $32 million taxpayer dollars later, the Mueller investigation ended with barely a whimper. And just a few months ago, they actually managed to impeach him but still couldn’t get him out of office despite all the pomp and circumstance. Now, with the election only eight months away, the Democrats face an enormous uphill battle against a newly invigorated, and oh so very pissed off, candidate Trump. And his 72 million juiced-up Twitter followers are just chomping at the bit.

Still, the Democrats fight on. As they should. I walked by a “post-impeachment” rally a few weeks ago near Central Park where a hundred or so rabid Never-Trumpers were jumping up and down screaming “Resist!!! Resist !!!” Come on already. Don’t you think it’s time for a new message after three years of this? Maybe some different language or another angle altogether? I don’t think a platform of “resist everything” is really working anymore. It’s a little broad. Plus, it requires way too much time and energy to resist everything. A few things? Maybe. Everything? Doubtful.

So, I’m thinking that the Democrats could use a makeover. Maybe even a full renovation. Because the problem is no one is quite sure what they’re actually selling anymore. There’s no real platform that I can see other than “get Trump.” Everything else is just window dressing. The standard prefab, party-line talking points we’ve all heard time and again. Sorry, but I need a little bit more than that if you want my vote. What I want to know is exactly what I’m buying if I pull the lever for either party? What do I get? Am I only getting “resist everything” if I vote for a Democrat? Is that the entire pitch? Nothing more?

And then, when you factor in the candidates lining up to run against Trump in November, it gets really scary. Because there’s really not much to choose from. At one end, there’s  Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg, both of which look like they were just uncovered at an archaeological dig out in the desert somewhere. And at the other end, in a parallel universe kind of way, younger Millennial voters have found true oneness and karma with socialist Bernie Sanders, mostly because he told them everything would be free and that he’s going to stick it to the man. As an old Scottish friend of mine would say, I’m just a wee bit nervous here.

Some polls actually show Sanders defeating Trump in November in a head to head match up. But you’ve just got to love the irony. The Democrats would have a better chance of beating Trump if they ran a socialist against him. That little tidbit should be screaming volumes to them that the wheels have come off the wagon.

But America’s two-party system has proven to be pretty durable up until recently. Both political parties worked well over the generations. They performed as intended. If you were a Democrat, you believed in certain core values. Big government programmes, higher taxes on the rich, the environment, civil rights and so on. And if you were a Republican, you were all about smaller government, a strong military, freedom of religion, and fiscal conservatism among other things. It used to be that most people fit neatly into one of those two boxes. But not so much anymore. There’s a reason that registered Independent voters now comprise 41% of the electorate while the Democrats and Republicans each have 29% respectively.

So here we sit at the edge of our incredibly expensive theatre seats with another election just around the corner waiting for the show to begin. The Democrats can only watch in horror as their traditional core voters continue to erode and the angry fringe groups that make up a growing percentage of the party assume the helm and take the national stage.

And in the event you’re one of the remaining centrists in the Democratic Party, you’ve got to be feeling a little antsy these days. Because the party is changing, and it doesn’t appear you’re in their plans going forward. It’s getting younger and philosophically less centrist. And most importantly, less tolerant of the party that they believe has failed them in the past. Put somewhat differently, you’re the enemy.

But one thing is clear. These are definitely not my parents Democrats anymore. The party has changed, and today’s Democrats represent a radically different set of ideas and allegiances. Just ask the Bernie posse. They’ll be happy to tell you.

We’ve all heard the old retail phrase, “buyer beware.” So, if you’re a moderate Democrat, remember this. As you shop for your candidate to face off against Donald Trump in November, read the ingredients and warning labels on the back of the box carefully. And don’t assume it’s the same product that you’ve always been buying just because the name is the same.

All those traditional, centrist Democrats that many of us grew up with like Kennedy and LBJ, and even Bill Clinton have been phased out. And now, in their place, you’ll find people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the party creeps further and further left toward socialism. And while they still may be called Democrats, the ingredients have changed, and the heart and soul of the party has too.


Get the best of CNBC Africa sent straight to your inbox with breaking business news, insights and updates from experts across the continent. Sign up here.