How can Democrats save the country from Trump, if they’re running off to the left?


I read a column with an alarming headline this morning in The Washington Post:

Trump is on track to win reelection

More than half of Americans don’t think Donald Trump is fit to serve as president, yet he has a clear path to winning reelection. If Trump isn’t removed from office and doesn’t lead the country into some form of global catastrophe, he could secure a second term simply by maintaining his current level of support with his political base.

We have entered a new era in American politics. The 2016 election exposed how economic, social and cultural issues have splintered the country and increasingly divided voters by age, race, education and geography. This isn’t going to change….

Regarding that “splintering the country” part…

Just before reading that, I had seen this headline:

Shifting attitudes among Democrats have big implications for 2020

Partisan divisions are not new news in American politics, nor is the assertion that one cause of the deepening polarization has been a demonstrable rightward shift among Republicans. But a more recent leftward movement in attitudes among Democrats also is notable and has obvious implications as the party looks toward 2020.

Here is some context. In 2008, not one of the major candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination advocated legalizing same-sex marriage. By 2016, not one of those who sought the nomination opposed such unions, and not just because of the Supreme Court’s rulings. Changing attitudes among all voters, and especially Democratic voters, made support for same-sex marriage an article of faith for anyone seeking to lead the party.

Trade policy is another case study. Over many years, Democrats have been divided on the merits of multilateral free-trade agreements. In 1992, Bill Clinton strongly supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the face of stiff opposition from labor unions and others. He took his case into union halls, and while he didn’t convert his opponents, he prospered politically in the face of that opposition….

And so forth and so on.

So instead of trying to appeal to all of us people in the middle who are so appalled by Trump, and maybe try to win over some mainstream Republicans who feel the same but don’t have the guts to oppose him, the Democrats are careening off to a place where they will appeal only to the more extreme people in their own party.

What madness. What sheer, utter madness…

32 thoughts on “How can Democrats save the country from Trump, if they’re running off to the left?

  1. Chuckie

    So: same-sex marriage and a more skeptical view of free trade – that’s all you got to go on here? That’s what we’re now gonna start calling “madness”? I know it can’t be single-payer, because you’re on board with that particular “hard left” policy item. So where exactly is this “radicalism” then? Is it in the attitudes toward “the the role of government and the social safety net; the role of race and racial discrimination in society; and immigration and the value of diversity.” That hardly sounds hair-raising to me, either. Actually, they’re part and parcel of the American tradition – and Democrats are just trying to raise a defense against the reactionary push coming from that other party generally and its current leader in particular.

    I’ve recently been reading a book about whites’ reaction to – and backlash against – the civil rights movement and the changes it brought to their lives. So much of it sounds reminiscent of white reaction to change today – right down to the language people use. Whites were upset that they had to get used to sitting at the back of the bus from time to time, both literally and figuratively. Shorn of the privileges they had thought were fixed by nature, they perceived change to be a form of oppression. But it wasn’t. It was accommodation. And the resistance we’re seeing now is much the same — in part because the conflicts then still haven’t been settled.

  2. Lynn Teague

    Are “the Democrats” becoming Democratic Socialists? Are “the Republicans” becoming Libertarians or Trumpists (whatever that might be)? A core problem in the way our politics works is that the energized outliers make more noise than others who might not be as extreme, and they also vote in disproportionate numbers. We’ll see how this plays out for both parties.

    There is a solution to the tendency for parties and governments to be dragged toward the most excited faction. All eligible citizens should vote in all elections: primary and general, dogcatcher to president. To do otherwise is to risk being drowned out by whatever faction is most engaged at that moment.

  3. bud

    Actually you have it backwards. The Dems, if anything, have become somewhat more conservative. I haven’t heard many Democrats advocate for a smaller military, less involvement abroad or stronger support for labor unions. No Democrat supports abolition of the death penalty or gun registration, both common liberal causes in the 70s. Even single payer healthcare only gets tepid support. Same sex marriage is simply a manifestation of the times. And the fact that a majority of American support it doesn’t really signify a strong shift to the left but rather reflects the sentiment of the public. Marijuana is another public shift driven issue.

    1. bud

      Does support for women’s suffrage, abolition of Jim Crow laws and support for clean air and child labor laws also indicate a leftward shift for Democrats? I would maintain that the Democrats have been the party for positive change in the last century and that is a good thing. If the Democrats were merely Republican lite, as seems the case in many respects, then what is the point of the party? I think the reason Democrats have suffered in recent elections is because they lack a clear and convincing message not because they’ve moved to the left.

    2. JesseS

      What about immigration? That was virtually a non-issue for Dems for most of my life. Today it’s a basic human rights issue.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Well, yes and no. Used to be, old-school Democrats (New Deal, organized-labor types), were the main people complaining about illegals.

        The idea was that illegals undercut wages and working conditions.

        Then things shifted…

  4. Bart Rogers

    Romney – 47% comment – defeated
    Obama – nothing in particular – won
    Clinton – deplorables comment – defeated
    Sanders – Welfare for all (paraphrase) – defeated
    Trump – MAGA – won

    2020 – read the WaPo opinion piece about Trump. It is in the same publication. Trump has enough support to win again unless he is forced from office or as the article said, doesn’t lead the country into some form of a global catastrophe and the very distinct possibility of a viable third party candidate, maybe Sanders and Warren.

    Another consideration. I sense another undercurrent that the average citizen is growing very tired and weary with the 24/7/365 negative coverage from all the networks about Trump and if my sense is still accurate as it was in 2016, he will be re-elected. The shark feeding frenzy over anything Trump, his wife, and his children do is turning people off in droves. I have made it very clear about how I feel about Trump and Clinton but the constant barrage coming from every media outlet except for a couple and every late night talk show host is an irritant and a major turn-off. If I feel that way, consider how others may feel who are ambivalent about Trump.

    The First Lady was criticized for wearing sunglasses after dark. Now, who the hell cares about when she wears sunglasses? I know I don’t. She was attacked because she wore designer shoes boarding the helicopter for the visit to NO after the hurricane but when she arrived, she was wearing sneakers/tennis shoes/athletic shoe – take your pick. Yet, some continued to go after her and the non-event wore on for several days.

    Many of you may not agree with me but get back to me if we have Trump II in 2020. Yes Virginia, his solid core base is really that strong and dedicated. I know, some are related to me.

    1. bud

      Trumps hardcore supporters really don’t care what he or the press says. He’s spewed racist, sexist, crude, vile comments for decades and they are unmoved. He’s grope women and probably raped at least one. He’s committed fraud (Trump University), violated fair housing laws, failed to pay people and has in every way shown himself as a thoroughly disgusting person. And yes he is a moron. Given all that I really doubt the silly stuff from the press much matters to his core supporters. But they are not nearly enough to win. He will never win a plurality of the voters as his approval rating has been consistently below 40%. But voter suppression can still steal wins in just enough states but only if the majority doesn’t vote.

      In any event it’s a long way until 2020. Events that we don’t currently anticipate will ultimately determine the outcome. Trump is very scary and he could do something that will get millions killed. Isn’t that more important than a minor observation about Melania’s shoes? As for Trumps oldest children they are part of his campaign and administration so they’re fair game for scrutiny.

      1. Claus2

        “He’s spewed racist, sexist, crude, vile comments for decades and they are unmoved. He’s grope women and probably raped at least one. He’s committed fraud (Trump University), violated fair housing laws, failed to pay people and has in every way shown himself as a thoroughly disgusting person. And yes he is a moron. ”

        bud, don’t be alarmed if you get a visit from the SS.

  5. Harry Harris

    I believe Brad has tripped hard over the labels “left,” “right,” and “middle” without bothering to go very deep into the details. As much as he claims to be label-averse, I think he sometimes leans pretty hard on them, when making pronouncements about those he considers on the left. I was a little surprised during the Democratic primary season of 2016 how little he seemed to know about the positions of Bernie Sanders who conveniently provided him with a label and a couple of marquee positions.
    On same-sex marriage, not only have Democrats fallen in line with the Supreme Court ruling, so have many other non-Democrats in the so-called middle. They actually have joined many libertarian-minded people who think the government shouldn’t dictate those matters without compelling societal interests.
    As far as free trade agreements go, Democrats have long been the skeptics concerning agreements that allowed foreign interests and multi-national companies to unfairly compete in US markets, but have consistently been divided on those issues.
    The difficulties have often centered around wedge issues that Republicans have used to exploit voters, quite successfully that do, indeed center on “God guns, and gays.” At present, the most unpatriotic (in my view) President in recent centuries is wrapping himself in the flag while scheming to exploit armed conflict, civil protest, fears about safety, and any other angle he can use to get some support for his agenda.
    We need attention to detail, not labels, to work our way out of this boondoggle.

  6. bud

    Harry, to that point I think it’s interesting how Brad arrived at his self-professed “middle” label. Someone on this blog, Doug maybe, observed a while back that Brad is pretty much an extremist on most issues. Those extremist positions average out to be an “in-the-middle” voter overall even without holding any moderate positions on individual issues. Take war for example. Brad resides in the most hawkish, and therefore extreme, <5% of all voters. Very, very few people hewed to the position that we should have invaded Iraq EVEN IF we knew they did not possess WMD. On the other side of the spectrum Brad has long advocated for single payer healthcare. That is becoming somewhat more of an acceptable position for some Democrats but until recently that would have been regarded as extremist socialism.

    I found the Wapo article an extremely crude way of citing a few statistics on a couple of issues to do what many in the media frequently do and that's to argue a false equivalency model. And this constant nattering false equivalency narrative is dangerous in that it gives genuine extremists like Trump (and Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan) seem acceptable.

  7. Harry Harris

    I can tell you that I’m all over the map on numerous issues, but that doesn’t make me a centrist or one of “those in the middle.” I think it does mean that, like Brad, I attempt to see different issues individually. and I consider labeling to be often too convenient and blinding to important details.
    I favor single-payer healthcare coverage, but believe a much slower than the Sanders bill transition. I favor an increased federal minimum wage, but with a 6-8 year phase in accompanied by a wage-support (ala earned income tax credit) that will phase down as it ramps up. I’m an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy on child-rearing issues and personal sexual conduct (I’m talking hetero as much as homo here). I’m strongly and actively religious, but I don’t want state-sponsored or promoted religion – bad for the state, worse for religion. I, like I think Brad, want the gray areas to be worked out cooperatively and collaboratively rather than by power struggle and polarized quick fixes. All of that doesn’t make me a centrist, but I surely like them.

    1. bud

      I’m an unapologetic liberal on most issues. But on a few things the old school conservative thinking has merit. Pretty much everything in the current conservative philosophy is way to radical to even consider. It’s pretty much unthinkable for me to vote for a Republican today.

        1. bud

          Affirmative action. That would apply to eliminating legacies as a factor in college admissions and not just race. Family income should not be a barrier.

          Long term fiscal responsibility, IE, budget deficits or surpluses as warranted but not annual balanced budgets

          Extreme rent control.

          Free trade agreements but with a bit of healthy skepticism on an agreement by agreement basis.

          Excessive regulation of food products, giant soft drinks for example. Excessive being the key word.

          Excessive minimum wage but certainly not a complete repeal of minimum wage laws.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Just so I understand, you’re saying you agree with the conservative position on, say, affirmative action?

            How do you define that position? I think most conservatives would define it as “no quotas.” Is that what you mean?

            If so, that’s fairly close to my own position. I believe in taking affirmative action (using the words literally) to make sure minorities have a shot at a job. In other words, if your usual efforts to put out the word on a vacancy gets you just white guys, make a special effort to broaden the pool — reach out more, interview more people.

            But usually I would not be in favor of guaranteed outcomes…

            1. bud

              In it’s simplest terms if a candidate for college admission has no control over his/her circumstances then that should not be considered. The Obama daughters do not control the percentage of their DNA that is African American therefore that should not be a factor. A Kennedy grand child cannot control whether their father or grandfather attended a certain school therefore that should not be considered. But a student can control things like grades, extra-curricular activities, charitable work, criminal activity, attendance and other things. Those things are fair game to consider.

          2. Claus2

            When applying for college, I don’t recall ever checking the box about being a legacy.

            This sounds a little like excessive/extreme Communism. Do we address the President as “Dear Leader” and have school aged children sign songs about him (because we couldn’t ever have a her)?

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Harry, we say “centrist” because our political vocabulary lacks a term for those of us who think about each issue, and refuse to join a tribe and accept its values as a package. It’s not so much that our views are exactly midpoint between the extremes, but that we stand between them willing to pull the extremes together to try to work out something for the good of all.

      To compare your views to mine:

      • “I favor single-payer healthcare coverage, but believe a much slower than the Sanders bill transition.” Personally, I think we should have had it five decades ago, maybe earlier. (And maybe LBJ could have done it, had he not been dragged down by Vietnam.) I think it’s absurd that we still haven’t even come close to doing it. But I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about going slow.
      • “I favor an increased federal minimum wage, but with a 6-8 year phase in accompanied by a wage-support (ala earned income tax credit) that will phase down as it ramps up.” I am unconvinced on the minimum-wage thing. I find the conservative argument that it would eliminate a lot of entry-level jobs somewhat persuasive.
      • “I’m an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy on child-rearing issues and personal sexual conduct (I’m talking hetero as much as homo here).” Same here. I mean, who’s the idiot who thought co-ed dorms were a good idea, to name but one point?
      • “I’m strongly and actively religious, but I don’t want state-sponsored or promoted religion – bad for the state, worse for religion.” Yep, and I emphasize the last part — it’s bad for religion.
      • “I, like I think Brad, want the gray areas to be worked out cooperatively and collaboratively rather than by power struggle and polarized quick fixes.” Amen, amen. If it happens on a party-line vote, we have a problem. Which is what McCain keeps trying to tell his brethren on healthcare.
      1. bud

        The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution passed with just 2 no votes. TWO! That is as bipartisan as it gets and it proved to be the worst vote of the 20th century. Except perhaps for prohibition. By comparison there were 140 no votes for the spectacularly successful Medicare program in 1965. So I’m not really a big believer in the bipartisan-is-better mantra.

    3. Bart Rogers


      I agree with you and Brad on being “all over the map on numerous issues”. However, lacking a clear definition of what I am, I am willing to settle on being classified as a centrist or moderate because I am a conservative on some issues and a liberal on other issues but mostly I am a moderate/centrist. There is a place at the table for every side unless they are too radical one way or the other.

      I will admit that a few of your positions are exactly the same as mine and considering the direction healthcare access and affordability is headed, I agree with your position on single-payer. At some point, the hard core right will have to start to concede the point and accept the inevitable, single-payer is coming. The how is the issue for me, not the single-payer concept. The guidelines must be fair or as fair as possible and with the understanding that not everyone will be happy with the final resolution. The radicals on both sides will still complain that it went too far or not far enough.

      Not sure about the minimum wage but considering that over the past 20 years or more, the economy has been changed to more of a service industry and as such, pay scales must be considered in light of the change. The factory/industrial employees are no longer the predominant members of the work force and the factory/industrial jobs that remain will command a higher wage but at some point, the scales must be balanced to accommodate the “new normal”. The 1 – 2% will always be with us, that is the history of humanity since recorded history began. Even in the old communist Russia and China, they had their 1 – 2 percenters.

      I agree that state sponsored religion is bad for the state. We are not a theocracy and when I worked in the ME and the Muslim religion was the official state religion, unless one knew the Quran well, it was easy to break the religious laws and be imprisoned, whipped in public, or stoned. Yes, it is still a practice in many ME countries. However, I do disagree that the state has the right to force someone to go against their religious beliefs when it comes to personal decisions and privately owned businesses. If one doesn’t agree with the owner’s religious beliefs, they have a clear choice to either patronize them or not.

      We can work out our differences if we are willing to sit down together, listen, debate in a civil manner, and not engage in rabid partisan politics or ideologies. Gun control is the wrong description when it comes to common sense laws, rules, and regulations relating to gun ownership. The word “control” is the dog whistle that sets teeth on edge for 2nd Amendment supporters. It is telling that the NRA and Republicans are willing to “discuss” legislation about bump stocks but no commitment to making them illegal. The original concept that they were intended for use by handicapped individuals simply doesn’t work for me unless the legislation included restrictions and proof from the purchaser that he or she was indeed restricted when using a gun and needed the bump stock for self defense. Otherwise, they should not be on the market.

      My 2 cents for consideration.

  8. Harry Harris

    “I find the conservative argument that it would eliminate a lot of entry-level jobs somewhat persuasive.”
    Don’t be persuaded. Raising the minimum will elevate the cost of what those workers do somewhat, but it won’t eliminate the demand for the work. Few employers hire workers just to keep them employed. They have work to be done, and often make money from what those workers produce. Automation is eliminating a lot of mid-level paying jobs, but you don’t hear “conservative” arguments against that – it’s profitable. The keys to making higher pay for “entry-level” jobs work well is to invest in improving their productivity (training and technology) and bringing the cost of their product into reality. There might be a need to boost the lowest-priced hamburger by 15 cents or the lowest-priced hotel room by two dollars. A particular kind of employment might be certified for a sub-minimum. Privately-hired medically necessary caregivers and sitters, perhaps, but many of them are already paid under the table. Sub-minimums for teenagers would likely be heavily abused, but a 3 month training wage could work if monitored.

    1. Claus2

      Minimum wage = minimum skill

      Fast food is a highly minimum wage industry, with the cry for $15.00/hr. wages to flip burgers and get orders wrong many fast food restaurants are now going to kiosk ordering and automated burger manufacturing. Store staff just went from 15 to 5 employees… thanks to $15.00/hr. minimum wage.

      It’s “minimum” it doesn’t mean it has to be “lifetime”. Anyone who is working at minimum wage for more than six months probably isn’t worth more than minimum wage.

      1. Lynn Teague

        How much someone is “worth” is a concept that I find troublesome. The notion that someone who works hard but has limited abilities isn’t “worth” enough income to live with minimal decency bothers me a great deal. Would paying another few cents for a burger be worth insuring that they could pay rent on a habitable space and feed themselves in return for honest labor be “worth” the cost. I think so. Should we trust the market to take care of bringing their labor into a livable range? Not as long as companies can dump employees at will.

        This problem is especially vexing when you consider the folks whose pay suggests that they are “worth” a lot. Take, for example, the SCANA executives who have left their company in a very vulnerable legal and financial position while failing to accomplish corporate goals, harming ratepayers, and (according to public statements by Commerce Secretary Hitt, not just my opinion) inhibiting economic development throughout their service area. And yet their board thinks they are “worth” a lot.

        What something is worth depends on what you value.

        1. Richard

          Are you against the market working itself out? The whole supply vs. demand thing. If you’re making $8/hr. working hard, productive and an all around asset to the company would your employer let you go to a competitor for $10/hr. or pay you $10/hr. to stay? In regards to minimum wage, I try to stay away from fast food outside of the occasional Chick-fil-A or Arby’s visit, but have been in a few McDonalds and similar lower tier fast food restaurants where I wouldn’t pay the employees I dealt with a dime to work for me. Disrespectful, poor customer service, incorrect order, sloppy, more interested in their phone than the customer, etc…

          “Not as long as companies can dump employees at will.”
          So you’re a union supporter? SC is an “at will” state, an employee can be let go for any reason. My business, my rules. Will an smart employer let a good employee go only to work for a competitor?

          Would I keep an employee who is a burden to my business? No. Will I keep an employee who is a cancer to other employees? No. Will I pay an employee who is a hard worker enough to be happy and stay working for me? Yes. Will I help an employee who wants to succeed and move up in the company? Yes. That is where a person’s workplace value is calculated. It’s a supervisor’s responsibility to see that they’re getting the most out of an employee, that said employee can only advance if successful. Advancing typically comes with an increase in wage. No lifetime of minimum wage. Minimum wage is a starting wage. If you can’t get above that then you should look into another line of work.

  9. Chuckie

    Like John Prine says in a song, ”Some humans ain’t human, some people ain’t kind.“ They elevate their own interests above everyone else’s. I have a neighbor who opposes raising the minimum wage simply because, as he says, “it will make everything more expensive for the rest of us.” Increasing his own salary is fine – just not the wages of those at the bottom of the scale. Many think this way.

  10. Doug Ross

    “Many think this way.”

    Because many of us see the fallacy of raising the minimum wage. Check out what has happened in cities that have tried it. Businesses close because of it or jobs get cut… or companies find ways to use automation as an alternative. People are paid what they are worth. What’s better – no job or a job paying $8-10?

    The best way to raise wages is to increase skills. You can get an associates degree in SC for basically nothing if you are low income. But that requires initiative and effort. Unfortunately, there are more people who think that raising wages artificially is the easiest solution. All you end up with is a much wider lower tier of workers — does the baker who makes $15 an hour get a raise as well when the cashier jumps from $8 to $15?

      1. Richard

        Please explain. In my experience, wages are set as to what the employee brings to the company. No skills bring lower wages than skilled. As the old saying goes, “the world needs ditch diggers too.” I have dug my fair share of ditches, but I didn’t enjoy it, improved my marketability and now hire ditch diggers when I need one.

    1. bud

      Most studies suggest that increasing the minimum wage helps the job market by putting more disposable income into the hands of people who actually spend money.

      1. Richard

        As Doug asked above, If the cashier goes from $8.00 to $15.00 does the supervisor also get a $7.00 raise? How does the business owner pay for these salary increases? Raise prices, employee fewer employees, reduce employee hours… pick one.

        Do you wonder why some countries have a $10,000,000,000 bill and you need a pocket full of them to buy a loaf of bread?

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