For some time now, commentators have been talking about the Republican Party’s tendency to self-destruct. Every time Donald J. Trump said something stupid or outrageous, he won more support. Every time polls showed him as the weakest possible Republican candidate, his support within the party grew. Some pundits have spoken about the Republican Party committing suicide.
But in the last few days, we’ve seen the Democrats begin to do something similar. In a sense, it looks a bit like a suicide pact.
Sitting here in Philadelphia, waiting for the Democratic National Convention to open on Monday, I have witnessed two extraordinary events that seem to show the Democrats with a clear death wish.
The first of these is the WikiLeaks revelations. Sanders supporters always suspected that behind the scenes, the leadership of the Democratic National Committee was plotting and scheming, and detested the left wing of the party. Now we know that our suspicions were well-founded.
But it’s not only that US Representative and chair of the DNC Debbie Wasserman-Schultz considered Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver an asshole. We suspected things like that. It’s that she and her colleagues wrote this stuff down, in emails, which have now been published. So they’re not only manipulative, anti-democratic bureaucrats. They’re also incompetent at their jobs. Did they really believe that none of this would ever come out?
Second was Hillary Clinton’s decision to choose Senator Tim Kaine as her vice presidential candidate. She could have chosen Senator Elizabeth Warren, which would have electrified voters, especially young ones, and unified a deeply divided Democratic Party. She did not do so. She could have chosen Bernie Sanders as well, which would have been an extraordinarily bold move. Either choice would have ensured a sweeping Democratic victory in November.
Instead, she chose the nebbish.
Compare this to what Donald J. Trump did. Trump was faced with the danger of losing conservative support. Tea Party activists don’t trust him. His relationship with Fox News is not an easy one. So he picked a completely reliable, if boring, vice president. The right wing of his party is now happy. The party is slightly more united as a result (though the Bushes and others still hate him.)
This is not what Clinton has done. Instead of trying to balance the ticket with someone to her left, to represent the millions of voters who backed Sanders, she’s chosen someone to her right. Someone who supports free trade agreements. Who’s opposed to abortion. Who’s seen as a “moderate” (which is American for “right wing”).
Who exactly does she think this will please? Who will be won over to the Democrats because Kaine is on the ticket? In an election year when “free trade” has become toxic and even Clinton has distanced herself from Obama on the issue, she has chosen a “free trader” as her running mate.
Moderate Republicans who detest Trump are going to vote for Clinton anyway. They do not need to be pandered to.
Clinton’s problem is that she suffers from an “enthusiasm gap” compared to people like Sanders and Warren.
To defeat Trump, and defeating Trump is the most important thing in American politics, and possibly global politics, in 2016, you cannot do stuff like what Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has been doing at the DNC. And you cannot appoint a dull “centrist” as your running mate.
And most of all, you cannot continue to treat the left wing of your party, and an entire generation of new voters, with contempt.
I’m watching the Democratic Party, which is the only thing standing in the way of Donald Trump becoming President, slowly commit suicide.