I’ve been critical in the past of how easily Trump-era Democrats and its media allies have welcomed Bush-era neoconservatives into the camp with open arms. But the handling of COVID-19 and how messaging has developed in this period has changed my perspectives pretty dramatically.
Neoconservative critiques of Trump continue to be spot-on and go directly to the heart of his ineptitude while the Democratic establishment looks like they may be politicizing a pandemic. Even when the two sides say similar things, the neoconservative attacks are delivered in much more digestible fashion.
I’d argue since the Democratic establishment has even taken what neoconservative pundits who have little political influence say far more seriously than any values-based movement from the left, maybe they will take my suggestion here to heart.
This is largely because the establishment of the Democratic Party tends to deemphasize values and stress personality – many are Democrats due to geography or racial identity and could slide easily into the Republican Party if they resided somewhere else or had a different ethnic origin.
MSNBC, the Democratic Party’s go-to cable news channel has numerous neoconservatives on its airwaves. CNN, the anti-Trump channel doesn’t have quite the number of neoconservatives that MSNBC does but one, Fareed Zakaria (whose drift leftward the last decade resembles that of the rest of the movement) has his own weekly show and the movements godfather Bill Kristol does come on air from time-to-time at CNN.
Being pinned down with a specific ideological position on the scale has become increasingly tough for a party whose fundraising has become more dependent on large corporations and billionaires and whose alliances have grown with the likes of hedge fund managers and tech barons over the last decade.
The Democratic Party has become a non-ideological blight – a repository for bitter angry factions to gravitate and whine loudly. A coalition of disparate interests only united by its cunning ability to want to achieve power at any expense or whine loudly about Trump. Woke liberalism has been used as the single unifying principle of this drift-less party which has tried to make racial and ethnic identity or radicalized secularism the sole consideration for electoral choice.
I would argue the current GOP’s culture of personality-driven conformity is precisely why the Founding Fathers of this country detested the idea of political parties. In spite of many readings of American History focusing on Jefferson v Hamilton as the creation of parties, it was really Andrew Jackson, a Trump-like figure that created the American political party regime. Jefferson v Hamilton was about policies and vision, Jackson vs anti-Jacksonian was about personality and that’s unfortunately where we are again today. This argument among other historical ones, can actually be made much more precisely by a neoconservative than by a Democrat in this day and age.
The current Democratic Party is one dominated by sheepish thinking and the non-ideological and anti-intellectual a growing “vote blue no matter whom,” mantra. More often than not, I have seen recently Democratic elected officials have a lack of global perspective or basic understanding of issues related to the world around them. Even when they do the right thing the process by which they arrive at that decision tends to be flawed or based on the preferences of agenda-driven people around them. They also have an unhealthy dependence on lobbyists.
This is a direct reflection of dumbed down nature of ambitious pols in the party substituting reading books and listening to NPR for watching MSNBC or CNN and tweeting or residing on Facebook much of the day. The level of intellectual curiosity has gone down the drain the Democratic Party in the post-Obama years. In fact, President Obama could stand out quite possibly as the final intellectually-inclined national Democrat of our lifetimes unless something changes.
One thing I have always conceded about the Neoconservatives is that it is a intellectually based movement. Neoconservative leaders tend to be well-read and well-studied. David Frum in particular is one of the most brilliantly erudite political writers of the last quarter century. Bill Kristol isn’t far behind him. It may stun readers to hear this but President George W. Bush was an obsessive reader and while his in ability to deliver speech lines (often crafted Frum) properly, he did have some sort of intellectual-bent to his madness.
Independent thought and balanced-reading intellectualism among rank-in-file Democrats hardly exists. It does exist in a big way on the progressive left but as we’ve seen that movement has been pushed to the margins culminating this week with Bernie Sanders exit from the Presidential race and many of his more vocal followers claiming they were no longer Democrats.
I include myself in the column of someone who now sees himself beyond supporting Joe Biden as a free agent – I like many Sanders supporters (I did not vote for Sanders in the Florida Primary, nor did I vote for Biden) see the party as unprincipled and find most Democratic elected officials I encounter sub-par and not worthy of my support. However, upon reflection I do think the party can be possibly salvaged as a hybrid coalition, for this one cycle only which is why I write this piece.
Most Democratic critiques of the Trump Administration appear to be bitter, whiny and spiteful. They also tend to be inconsistent and lacking in a larger perspectives. They often focus on race, identity or other themes of woke liberalism. They generally miss the mark and have little if any persuasive quality. They tend to be overly emotional or a mixed bag of completely different ideas.
As we saw in the rolling out the Mueller Report and the Impeachment process, the Democrats remain completely incapable of moving anyone to their position who wasn’t already there. I know the average Democrat who watches MSNBC or reads Twitter has a legion of poor excuses for why this is, but the point remains – they have bungled any attempt at meaningful persuasion or coalition building for THREE PLUS YEARS.
Now contrast that with the laser beam styled attacks of the most prominent neoconservatives, the brilliant Frum, the competent Krisol and the like of Charlie Sykes and David Brooks with their bookish approach to politics. The neoconservative critiques of Trump are often laser-focused on governing competence, the loss of American leadership around the world and obvious corruption without muddying the waters with other woke liberal themes and other spiteful, whiny bitterness. Frum in particular seems to hit the target almost daily.
Now in the COVID-19 era we’ve seen Democrats stumble and bumble, looking like they are politicizing a pandemic even when they make valid critiques. The scatter-gun approach of the establishment Democrats seems to be based on taking about 10 different types of criticisms about Trump, packaging them together inorganically and shooting them together or in rapid succession. The Democrats may cite polling that favors them today, but it is April, the campaign really hasn’t begun and as we’ve seen in recent history big leads this far out tend to evaporate over time, with the exception of 1996.
This directly contrasts with the very precise hits Sykes and Kristol have landed with their publication The Bulwark and the continued general impact Frum makes in clearly defining Trump’s incompetence and corruption either on the pages of The Atlantic, on radio, or on Twitter.
The reality is outside the self-contained “vote blue no matter whom” bubble the VAST MAJORITY of Democratic attacks on Trump have MISERABLY FAILED. On Impeachment, they couldn’t even convince me legally of the second charge against Trump (the first charge was a tap-in and they delivered on that, but second article was more complicated to explain and they did it incredibly poorly) – so political and hackish were the House Managers in their presentations in what was essentially a legal proceeding.
Certainly, the House Managers were constrained by the way Senate Majority Mitch McConnell worked to shut down the trial and limit its scope, but by the end of the arguments on the second article of impeachment I was thinking, hadn’t Obama, Bush II, Clinton and Reagan all done the same thing? That’s how poorly presented it was compared to the defense from Trump’s attorneys.
With this in mind, amplifying the intellectually-based criticisms coming from the neoconservatives instead of the poorly packaged, wide mark of critiques coming from the Democratic establishment is advisable.
Woke liberalism has prevented the Democratic establishment from properly articulating a policy-driven ideology, an intellectually-based platform and a consistent message. In fact, the Democrats now resemble the party that was so weak in the 1920’s, today’s party being a mixture of social liberals who view almost everything through the prism of race or identity and economic conservatives who have a strong distaste for national healthcare or enforcing antitrust laws.
In the 1920’s the mixture was roughly the opposite and ranged from violent racists including Ku Klux Klan members to prohibition-busting liberal urban Catholics. But the point remains, the Democrats lost badly in that decade because they didn’t collectively stand for anything, and were just a collection of “out” factions rolled into a single political party. The same can be said of today.
Neoconservatism is not an ideology I subscribe to (particularly on foreign policy), but the movement has drifted left for a decade or more now (Frum for example by 2010, hardly resembled a Republican of any sort, and as the Obama years dragged on Kristol became more noticeably uncomfortable with the GOP) and with Trump needing to be defeated in November, I put far more faith in them than the hackish class of Democratic operatives whose incompetence, cunning and political correctness has put this country and in fact the global order in great peril. For Joe Biden to win, he probably will need a big dose of neoconservative-formulated zingers and thinking against Trump.