Democrats seem to have everything going for them. They are winning special elections, have a massive lead in the generic ballot, are witnessing the GOP imploding under Trump and have a base excited to deliver a message to Trump next year. But, they seem willing to jeopardize it due to the monster they worship; identity politics.
Democrats should have the upper hand due to recent events. A white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Robert Lee, turned into violence and Donald Trump’s response was anything but Presidential. In turn, Republicans have run away from the President and some, like Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, have questioned his fitness to serve as President. Democrats delighted as their base was revved up even more.
But, revving up a party base, the most ideologically strident, has consequences. Virtually every group in the Democratic base has an ax to grind and they are grinding it. For example, in NYC, black and Native American protesters are demanding the removal of a Christopher Columbus statue (that racist). New York Mayor Bill de Blasio seems likely to accede to their demands.
From Austin to Annapolis to Helena, Confederate or “offensive” statues are being threatened or removed. On the campus of University of Texas-Austin, for example, several statues of Confederate leaders were taken down. At night. How transparent of them. in Durham, North Carolina, protesters destroyed a statue of a Confederate statue-a statue protected by law. On Duke University’s campus, university officials removed a statue of Robert Lee. In Annapolis, a statue of Robert Taney was removed from the front of the State House.
While Americans oppose racism and violence and have a dim view of Trump they seem to agree with him on Confederate monuments and the politically correct nature of our culture. According to a Marist poll only 62 percent of all Americans do not support the removal of these statues. Another poll said 48 percent of Americans disapproved of the removal of the Lee statue in Charlottesville while 30 percent approved. Not surprisingly, college educated Americans support removal more, as do Millennials and blacks. But among Independents, low and high income Americans and the middle class, few support statue removal.
And in this is the trap Democrats are falling into. By focusing so much on a marginal cultural issue the party is ignoring the economic problems of everyday Americans. While Republicans pivot to tax reform and the Trump team mulls putting economic initiatives on state ballots, Democrats and progressives incessantly focus on a losing cultural issue.
On the surface it sure does not look that way. But, that is because the mainstream media and popular culture tend not to reflect the actual views of the majority of Americans.
Take the case of ESPN reporter Robert Lee. Lee, an Asian-American sportscaster, was removed by ESPN from officiating a UVA game in Charlottesville because the network did not want to upset people. Because, we all know football fans are so stupid they would care a sportscaster’s name is Robert Lee. Additionally, the media’s incessant focus on Trump’s rhetoric drowns out the opinions of actual voters.
Not to be outdone, Nancy Pelosi called for the removal of Confederate statues from the Capitol. Not more than a month after Democratic leaders promised to promote an economic agenda to benefit all Americans, their House Leader was basically ditching it in favor of wedge politics.
If anything, Democrats are saving the GOP from themselves and creating the recipe for a GOP resurgence in 2018 not because people like the party but because they are sick and tired of being proselytized to. Basically, Democrats are making Trump’s and many Republicans cases that the media and cultural elites are trying to sweep non-politically correct history and culture under the rug and remake it in their image.
It’s unlikely Republicans or Trump deliberately set out to see this happen deliberately. But they would be foolish to not exploit it. It is an issue that galvanizes the GOP base, gets moderates and Independents on their side and once again leaves Democrats wondering why they lost. Polls don’t show it but already it is having an effect.
Any Democratic effort to address the economic needs and concerns of average Americans are being drowned out. The party cannot shift to address the needs of the voters it needs to win. Smart Democrats know they have issues with the white working class. But this just makes them worse.
At a time when Democrats and progressives should be pivoting to an economic message that appeals to all kinds of voters they are turning back to the failed cultural battles of yesteryear. And Trump and Republicans benefit.