Enemies lists are back -- in both parties. According to The Post, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that Democrats cooperating with Republicans would find themselves “on a list.” Ocasio-Cortez’s message was clear: If Democrats do not fall in line with the new liberal order, there will be retribution. Nobody is using the “Big Tent” metaphor to describe the Democrats in the lead up to 2020.
Meanwhile, at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, President Trump made dark comments about political opponents in Congress who he said “hate our country … and we can name every one of them.” Not exactly reminiscent of the “Morning Again in America” imagery that propelled President Ronald Reagan to reelection.
Campaign season usually starts on a relatively higher plane and then descends into the gutter, but the 2020 race is off to a bleak start. Emboldened House Democrats announced on Monday a sweeping investigation of all things Trump, requesting documents from a list of 81 individuals and entities associated with the president. The list of targets is all about the 2020 campaign. There is no way that a net this wide is meant to do anything other than hobble Trump as he starts his run for reelection. No doubt, liberal activists and their media allies will fall in line, offering a supportive chorus for the forthcoming stream of unflattering disclosures as they work their way down the list. There is not really much point in wondering whether going after these individuals and entities is smart or if it will even help the Democrats with their partisan goals. The rage is too deep. Cool heads will not prevail.
The Democrats are determined to not let 2020 be a simple up or down referendum on Trump. They cannot help themselves. And that might be Trump’s political salvation. From a marketing standpoint, presidential campaigns are unusual. It used to be said that to win reelection you needed 50 percent market-share on one day in November against a single alternative. That is still largely true, but third-party candidates have made it possible to win with a plurality. Anyway, all you have to do is make your opponent less popular and less appealing than you are once the voting starts. Democrats appear to be determined, at least in the early stages, to put their worst foot forward. And the media will not be doing them any favors by failing to cover their more tempered, knowledgeable and even-keeled leaders and candidates.
So far, no one in the Democratic Party has been able to set the left’s edge. Everyone is trying to get to the ideological left of everyone else and it is not a pretty sight. Gallup data shows that nearly half of Democrats described their views as moderate in 1994 while only 25 percent identified as liberal. In 2018, however, 51 percent identified as liberal. The Democrats’ lurch to the left is real and only getting more extreme. With it comes an ever more radical call for attacking members who dare to reach across the aisle and achieve bipartisan compromise.
At the outset of the 2020 campaign, the Democrats are not claiming to be an inclusive party. And Trump is the furthest thing from a grandfatherly figure reassuring us that happy days are here again. Where we are at this moment, when our politicians are more interested in making lists targeting their opponents and calling for retribution than they are in legislating, does not bode well for the country. But here we are. For the sake of Republican chances in 2020, I hope Ocasio-Cortez’s list is long and that she keeps talking about it and I hope Trump’s list is very short and that he never mentions it again.