What Does It Actually Mean To Be A Democrat?

In an op-ed to the Portland Press Herald this week I included the fact I am currently registered as a Democrat in the author’s description box. I did so opportunistically in order to properly orient readers’ interpretation of the article, which viewed in a vacuum could have been viewed as coming from a partisan Republican. (A quick scan of the comments section confirmed as much.) The fact of the matter is that our brains are wired for confirmation bias, so when we read something while thinking or knowing an author’s bias it automatically influences how we interpret the article. (For example, Republicans typically find it impossible to see the “truth” in facts presented by MSNBC, and vice versa for Democrats with Fox.)

This was an opportunistic move on my part because I am a hardcore Independent and have always enrolled as such. I just so happen to currently be registered as a Democrat due to the fact I voted for Adam Cote in the June primary. But here’s the thing: I am actually a Democrat at heart, but in the classical sense of the word. I like big government to be used to maximize economic growth (i.e. the New Deal), and I am socially liberal. I consider myself an Independent because in today’s upside down political world “Democrat” and “Republican” represent nothing more than labels of two political tribes I want nothing to do with. Political affiliation *should* be about policy. Nothing more. (If anything, from a pure policy standpoint the current policy platform of the Republican Party is closer to the ideal platform of a classic Democrat than the current Democrat Party, which explains why Trump – a classic Democrat – chose the party as his political vehicle.)

* * *

I enjoy mixing things up and thinking outside the box. Almost always unforeseen positives and negatives arise – with the positives more often than not outweighing the negatives – affording an otherwise unavailable opportunity to learn. The negative side of opportunistically revealing my current political registration was that it came across as overly manipulative. I put not three seconds of thought into the decision, simply wanting to shake things up and appropriately orient readers’ thinking – I could/should have been more tactful. The overwhelming positive of doing so was my newfound realization as to just how confused so-called Democrats are as to what it means to be a Democrat. This alert came courtesy of the totality of the misguided comments generally, and the nuanced response by “Bruce M” specifically. Bruce’s response was as follows (via the form of a screenshot, since the comment still needs moderation, and could presumably go away):

Bruce M claim #1: The Blue Wave is not driven by hysteria | This is precisely the problem with today’s political climate – if we cannot agree that a blue sky is a blue sky, then we cannot even begin to have a rational debate. By any objective measure the anti-Trump crowd (i.e. Never Trump Republicans, the “Resistance” and the Democrat Party) has been hysterical in their response to Trump’s election. Setting aside the unprecedented circus that Kamala Harris headlined in the Kavanaugh hearings, a September 16 op-ed by Charles Blow highlights well the hysteria:

“Trump had become the president by a complex web of occurrences: white racial anxiety, reaction to the first black president, unease about the possibility of the first female president, voter suppression and voter apathy, and an attack on our elections by the Russians.”

Blow’s claim is twist on the now-infamous “Deplorables” label. Were some Trump voters driven by these occurrences? Of course. Were they anywhere close to representing a majority of his support, let alone the vast majority? Obviously not. It’s an insane, hysterical claim. The vast majority of white people do not run around concerned about their status as a white person. People go about their daily lives, making economically-driven decisions every single day. Voting for Trump was an economic vote, plain and simple.

Charles Blow indirectly admits the fears of a Trump presidency are hysterical:

“The Trump presidency was not the cataclysm that many had feared, but the possibility of damage hovers over us.”

The claim of hysteria is well-grounded in reality, and hardly indicative of someone on the right wing. Anti-Trump folks routinely admit to me in private they have an illogical lack of ability to see past Trump’s personal imperfections. (This is no different than the extreme personal animus toward President Obama held by hardcore Republicans.)

Bruce M Claim #2: It is cynical and offensive to say the Ford allegations should have been ignored | I did not say this. I said:

“While Democrats could have likely survived turning the regular hearings into a circus, their sitting on Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh until after his confirmation hearings wrapped up turned her into a political pawn and took things over the top, opening the door to an impassioned Republican response.”

Bruce M claimed that it was pointless to disclose the allegation while it was anonymous. This makes no sense. If you actually care about the individual making the claim, you would bring the allegation to the Judiciary Committee to have it investigated. Really not that complicated. Bruce M appears to be confused with the fact Feinstein & Co. knew Professor Ford, but that she wanted to remain anonymous. In other words, it’s not like Ford’s claim was sitting on Feinstein’s desk with an unknown author.

I realize I am refuting an anonymous individual in the comment section of a local newspaper. But his response truly is embarrassing.

Bruce M Claim #3: “…it is beyond silly to think independents inclined to vote Democrat are going to stay home or vote for the Republican because they became discouraged by the process.” | This is Bruce M’s best point. I said:

“The Democrats’ attempt to take down Brett Kavanaugh was a strategic error of potentially devastating consequence. By stooping to, if not below, Trump’s level of win-at-any-cost chaos, they removed the impetus for independents to vote Democratic primarily as a check on Trump’s disruption of democratic and constitutional norms. The midterm choice for independents is now primarily one of policy.”

While I was intentionally neutral on the potential impact of turning the hearings into a circus by saying “potentially,” it is true that, according The Hill, 47 percent of Independents agreed with how Republicans handled the hearings versus 50% for Democrats. It is only one poll, but this is likely the weakest part of my write-up.

Bruce M Claim #4: The Democrat Party policy platform is just fine | Single-payer healthcare is objective nonsense given the cost, as well as the entrenched nature of our employer-based healthcare insurance system. Tax cuts, combined with deregulation, have turbocharged economic activity (though I have sympathy for those who are not ensconced in financial and economic data on a daily basis, as it would be difficult to assess the impact of policy outside of partisan headlines). A “living wage” is a highly debated use of government force, but I’ll give this point to him.

It is hardly a right wing conclusion that the current form of the Democrat Party does not have a coherent economic policy platform. Anti-Trump is the platform. Again, Democrats admit privately to me the party has nothing in the way of an economic message, hence the push toward identity politics, “resistance” and a lack of civility.

As I said in an April op-ed to the PPH, if Democrats want to beat Trump, they need to “out-Trump Trump.” That means forming a policy platform that is maniacally focused on maximizing economic growth, upon which a well-structured entitlement state can rest. Unrealistic policies such as single-payer healthcare, and fringe policies such as minimum wage ain’t gunna cut it.

Bruce M Claim #5: Trump’s “plans” to ban all Muslims and make Mexico pay for the wall were not exaggerations | A nonsense statement, given the fact not a single policy proposal has been made to either effect.

* * *

Democrats have nothing to complain about from a policy standpoint. The federal government is running big deficits, with robust spending on social security, Medicare and Medicaid. The tax code is progressive. Abortion is legal almost across the board. Civil rights are strongly promoted and protected. And same-sex marriage is legal across the board. To be successful politically, all Democrats have to do is manage the economy with a pro-growth mindset. The United States is a mature economy, not in need of transformation, but rational management with tweaks around the edges (i.e. reforming trade deals where necessary).

The Republican Party has largely accepted all of the above. It no longer screams about deficits. And the vast majority would not dare roll back Medicare and Medicaid in any serious way. In theory, this should be one of the most bipartisan times in American political history. Rather, because Democrats cannot be satisfied with longstanding goals being met, they must run further left.

Single-payer healthcare is a bridge too far. It’s never going to happen in a country with this complex of an economy.

Guilty until proven innocent is a bridge too far.

Open borders is a bridge too far.

But all in an attempt to oppose one of their own – i.e. Donald Trump, a classic Democrat – the Democrat Party has decided to sprint to the left. As a result, they are staring down years of political irrelevance.

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