When asked what organized political party he belonged to, Will Rogers famously responded, “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” Mr. Rogers should be around in 2020. He’d really see something.
The Republican Party, craven as they can be, decided in the 1980’s to develop a strategy that would become their political Bible and they haven’t wavered from it since. The result is six Presidential victories, scores of governorships and state houses, and hundreds of judicial appointments. The GOP is the ruthless, Belichickian attention-to-detail M.O. writ large. And like the Patriots, they just keep on winning.
The GOP decided to build its brand from the ground up, beginning with school board elections. The branding could not have been more jingoistic. They chose to become the party of God, family, guns, the flag, and the military. (Remember the Super Bowl pre-game production? From the field-covering flag, to the exploitation of wheelchair-bound, centenarian WWII vets, to the inevitable flyover of billion-dollar fighter planes, it reeked of GOP co-opted symbolism aimed directly at the South and Heartland. That’s how to win the minds and hearts of the American people.) Despite all the evidence to the contrary (GOP House members seem to have a disproportionate fancy for coaching young men how to wrestle), Republicans came to represent all that was God-fearing, patriotic, and chaste about America.
The Democrats countered with no discernably unified message and candidates like Michael Dukakis and Hillary Clinton. The former thought it was a good idea to be filmed uncomfortably riding in a tank wearing an ill-fitting helmet. Later, in an attempt to demonstrate his agrarian props, he suggested that Iowa farmers might be more successful planting arugula (at the time a very (start italics) de rigeur (end italics) choice among Brookline foodies.) The latter, after surreptitiously taking control of the DNC, sabotaged the widely popular Bernie Sanders and his followers (who promptly took the 2016 election off), and concluded that it wouldn’t be necessary to campaign in the Upper Midwest since it had been a Democratic stronghold since the days of the New Deal. We’re currently living with the result of that shrewd strategy.
Currently, after hiring Shadow Inc (!) to tabulate the Iowa caucus results, the Dems are offering two candidates who propose free healthcare and college for everyone. Considering America’s century-old obsessive fear of socialism and the very real possibility that our treasury has limits, this might be a tall task. (Can anyone imagine in their wildest fantasies a U.S. House and Senate that would pass Medicare-for-all legislation? And yet Democratic primary voters are willing to risk four more years to nominate a candidate who believes it can happen. In what America have they been living?)
Additionally, the leading Dems are embroiled in yet another irrelevant intramural dispute about the sources of each other’s campaign budgets. Buttigieg is not presidential material because he raised money in a Marin County wine cave. Bloomberg is a threat to democracy because, in addition to being a player and making coarse, misogynistic jokes, he is paying for his own campaign. What could be better than a candidate who won’t glom off anyone else? Warren and Sanders don’t want the Democratic president beholden to fat-cat capitalists who want favors in return. Who will Bloomberg be beholden to, himself?
The GOP organizes from top to bottom to address and exploit voters’ deepest fears and insecurities while Democrats get themselves entangled in internecine squabbles over who is more woke than whom and what male should be permanently cancelled from public life for hitting on the hostess at a Georgetown cocktail party in 1979. The party of Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson now requires carnal integrity and courtly behavior toward women. You can’t make this stuff up. I want to have a beer with Will Rogers.