Make Democrats American Again!

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Henry Olsen—one of the few analysts who correctly gauged the 2016 election results before they were in—predicts ongoing electoral disaster for the Democrats. Olsen is spot on when he argues that Democrats, whether they mean to regain lost electoral ground or to lay claim to new ground, will have to back away from their untenable positions on immigration.

Given the nature of the 2016 Democratic loss—that is, noting where Democrats either lost ground or failed to claim new stakes—their prospects in coming national contests appear likely to follow this losing trend unless there is a fundamental change in their approach to the electorate. This was a systemic failure, in other words. It was not a one off.

Olsen explains that most of this failure is tied to the zealous attachment Democrats have to an uncompromising open borders ideology. This position will do nothing to persuade former Democrats from the working class (Obama-Trump voters) or loosely Republican/cosmopolitan voters (Romney-non-Trump voters) to come around and take them seriously again as an alternative to Trump. Democrats cannot win a national election without appealing to one or the other of these groups. But in the eyes of these two voting blocs, the Democrats’ stridency on the immigration question demonstrates for the first, a lack of compassion for the plight of the American working class and, for the second, a callous disregard for the security of their country.

Olsen hints at, but does not quite say why Democrats have arrived here when he asks,

Can [Democrats] admit that one can have concerns about either type of migrant [foreign born workers and Muslims] without being prejudiced or racist — that there might just be some rational reason for Americans to be wary of a lax or overly trusting approach to immigration?

In other words, sufficient numbers of voters are offended, even repulsed by the Democrat insinuation that their concerns about the economic well-being and security of the country is rooted in racism or some other of the pet phobias Democrats like to trot out for the purpose of denouncing their fellow citizens. The real problem for Democrats is that their immigration policy exposes a malignant, frightening, and frankly un-American sort of identity politics. And this identity politics is now so inexorably tied to their thinking on a whole host of other issues that it probably will be impossible to untangle this Gordian knot.

On the surface this is good news for Republicans because the Democrats are extremely unlikely to take Olsen’s counsel and stop insulting Americans who happen to disagree with them about immigration. They cannot. They are wed—till death they do part, now and forever—to identity politics. Their immigration position is no mere political calculation or prudential consideration. For them it is as fundamental as religion. It is who they are (or, at least, it is who they have become). Further, it is what they consider to be their political raison d’etre.  

In reality, however, this is not good news either for Republicans or for the country. Why? Because it means Democrats will go on being terrible little Leftists and Republicans, in many respects already fairly unimpressive and incoherent, won’t have much of an incentive to improve themselves or work at uniting the country behind a coherent understanding of what it means to be an American. And, being Republicans, too many of them will fail to come to terms with the stark reality that the Democrats, if ever they were, are no longer a loyal opposition party.

Democrats today are nothing more than the party of identity politics and the naked will to power. But well-meaning and bumbling Republicans will fall, again and again, as predictably as Pavlov’s dogs, for the little traps that Democrats spring as they speak of “bipartisanship” and shared goals.

Olsen (who, although prescient about political matters, personally declined to support Trump in either the primaries or the general election) shared with me that although his article made no mention at all of race and merely suggested that Democrats might want to consider making arguments that didn’t insult the voters they were trying to persuade, he was roundly attacked as “prejudiced and racist” just for bringing up the question of immigration. The very idea that there could be a more nuanced or multi-faceted approach to immigration than the one Democrats currently advance is so foreign (heh) to these correspondents, that it was greeted with insult and disbelief. Trump or no Trump, if you don’t toe the Democrat line on immigration, you’re a horrible racist. Although Olsen made no argument at all about what immigration policy ought to be and, instead, only suggested that Democrats might want to dial down the insults if they wanted to persuade voters about their position, these correspondents were outraged. Other views are not just wrong, by their lights. They are illegitimate.

So, look: We have no “shared goals” with this Democratic Party. They made that plain when they supported Obama’s talk of a “fundamental transformation” of the country. In order to “Make America Great Again” Republicans will need an effective but, above all, American opposition party. Someone needs to “Make Democrats Great Again”— but that won’t happen unless or until someone can make Democrats become American in their principles again. So long as they argue that the views of their fellow Americans on political questions are not just wrong but illegitimate, they are illegitimate.

It is possible for people to have different opinions about what is the the most prudent or effective immigration policy for the country at any given moment. But just as it is extreme to say that there are never good reasons to admit immigrants, it is likewise extreme to suggest that there are never good arguments for limiting or, even, stopping the flow. One can disagree with the extent of those limits or their timing or even about the merits of the reasons people advocating them cite to support any given limit. But when these debates are elevated to the level of fundamental principle, it becomes an argument about whether or not it is legitimate to argue for limits. At that point, whatever one may think of the call for limits, those arguing against them are the ones who have lost legitimacy.

A country is a country. And in this country, whether Democrats like it or not, the people are their own sovereigns. They get to determine who will be their potential friends and fellow citizens.

About Julie Ponzi

Julie Ponzi is Senior Editor of American Greatness. She holds an M.A. in political philosophy and American politics from the Claremont Graduate University. She was an Earhart Fellow and a Bradley Foundation Fellow while studying at Claremont and also earned a Publius Fellowship from The Claremont Institute. Formerly the Director of Academic Programs at the Claremont Institute, she also taught American politics at Azusa Pacific University. Her writing has appeared in the Claremont Review of Books, The Online Library of Law and Liberty, The Columbus Dispatch, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Washington Times. She was also a regular and long-time contributor to the Ashbrook Center's blog, No Left Turns. She lives in California. You can follow her on Twitter at @JuliePonzi

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17 responses to “Make Democrats American Again!”

  1. One of two
    Brendan Eich being purged from Mozilla, Memories pizza being threatened with arson. Sweet cakes and a WA Florist shut down with a 6 figure fine.
    The culture wars aren’t dead.

    It was hell in a handbasket. Immigration was only one of those things which wished to destroy the reds. LGBTQ rights (let ugly bearded men into little girl’s restrooms) is another. They dont’ tolerate Christians and the Christians noticed.
    That you can import immigrant Democrat drones is not irrelevant – add muslim refugees that have not paid a dime of tax but get “free” housing, medical, food, etc.
    There are two variants of opposition, one that continuously opposes in proportion to the tyranny, but the other that tolerates much then goes full destruction.

    • You’re right about the two variants of opposition, and the second one scares the heck out of me as it is the one that I expect. My children are in their 20s and 30s and they expect violence of some form. Additionally, the one still in college provides an instructive perspective.

      For myself, I fear for my country.

      In my thoughts, I go back over the years. Back to the time of my youth and Eisenhower’s presidency. And try to reconstruct the timeline of how we got from there to here. I see no one event thats is like a light switch thrown that changed our trajectory as a country and puts us on a path to where we are now. Just how did this happen?

      How did we go from a country that was fairly homogenous to a country that is so divided?

      I remember when the movement towards “diversity” began. I remember the push towards accepting immigrant’s culture as being the same as ours and deserving of the same deference. I remember the push towards multilingual education. And I remember thinking of how Yugoslavia broke apart because of the 6 separate distinct cultures present in the country that was held together only by the barbarity of Tito. And that once that impediment was removed with his death, how fast it split apart.

      I remember thinking that once a country starts encouraging distinct subgroups instead of working for their assimilation was on a road similar to what was seen in Yugoslavia.

      Going back to Eisenhower and coming forward, I think of every President, both parties, that followed and how they added to the power of the federal government at the expense of local control. How each one took another piece, some small and some large, out of state or local control, i.e. closer to the people and hence closer to their direct control, and transferred it to Washington D.C.

      It’s been a slow trip, much too slow to subscribe to some crazy conspiracy theory as the cause of it. Maybe Bannon is right, that we’re due for another crises as its been roughly one full 80 year generation since the last one (more or less). I hope he’s wrong.

      • It was the divorce between the Democrats and Dixiecrats, mainly LBJ, but continuing until there was no room left for even the blue dog democrats toward the end of Reagan.

        There was supposed to be NO diversity. Integration was supposed to cause assimilation, hence forced busing, blacks being around whites would magically acquire the intellect and virtues?

        What was sold, sotto voce, as a better, faster way to assimilate was flipped around into a “we have to accommodate alien cultures”. Add the parallel with feminism and going from women and minorities ascending to equality, to affirmative action so even now with 60% of college students as women – but not enough.

        Men, whites, Christians opted out or moved.

        There will be a collapse. You can only build a facade on a lie, and the structure built on truth has crumbled behind. When it does we will return to what worked. God will not be mocked, at least not forever, and the polarization is happening, but most fail to see it as the Lot’s leaving Sodom, and others remaining; Noah going into the ark. etc.

  2. It all – everything always – comes back to the problem of the People’s inertia, doesn’t it?

    What has been needed all along is for the People to organize and fiercely inform their Republican Party representatives in the Congress ‘Either you start becoming radical, active, dynamic’ (thus, for instance, impeaching the two judges who have overruled the Constitution and the Law in ‘invalidating’ President Trump’s travel-orders; repealing Obamacare, replacing it for 90% of Americans with simply a free market in health insurance across state lines and making fraud-proof provision for the remaining 10%; OR we shall now deselect you as our candidates for Senate and House. Represent US and our needs, not the Chamber of Commerce which owns you; or you are currently in your last term in politics.’

    Inasmuch as the nation is spiritually lazy (I do NOT say physically), and the above does not happen, then nothing really changes and improves.

    In the book of the prophet Ezekiel in the Holy Bible, we read (chapter 16, verse 49), ‘Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and her daughters….’

    Worldwide, electorates want everything provided for them by somebody else; including, fatally, their politics – rather than getting involved and doing the transformative effort themselves.

    • In the main I agree with you. I think the problem is finding candidates to run against the incumbent. Part of the problem is finding people willing to expose themselves to ‘politics’, but the other part is money. ‘The People’ have been dissatisfied with government policies/competency for some time, but it was not until DJT ran for office using money outside that provided by the donor class that we got a candidate that *finally* articulated policies and positions supported by The Many.

      • Thank you for this helpful response.

        I take your point about people not being willing to expose themselves to ‘politics’ – their spouses (even their children) demonised by antagonists, their whole life-story picked over for anything that can be used against them; (and if that story be squeaky-clean from birth, then the antagonists may have no ethical difficulty in simply telling horrible lies about them).

        All the same there seems to be something sadly speaking in the fact that crowds can attend rallies many miles from home; they can launch class actions in law against a body which they believe has done them great wrong; they can organise marches (for instance against Mass Abortion); they can do all manner of things collectively; but – hitherto – they have not

        (a) coagulated/coalesced to oust the RINOs from the Congress, replacing them with true patriots, sturdy human beings of courageous sanity; and

        (b) fought, these past 50 years, the cultural war – which is the one that matters. Had every American adult with common sense contributed (*on average*) fifty-two dollars a year to the establishment and maintenance of an alternative, genuinely conservative, movie and TV industry – i.e. not owned by moguls looking to defend Mass Immigration, Crony Corporatism, Unaccountable Government &c – would things be just where they are now?

        If the totalitarian left can be so organised that it hamstrings very much 24/7, cannot the right-thinkers do a BIT of getting together in such wise as to make a difference every day, not only on very rare early-November days?

      • I don’t wish to seem contrary, but many of the things you describe have been done, but rarely receive the coverage from the MSM that similar actions by the progressive/liberal/left/Democrats. The Tea Party had large numbers of large rallies, all covered a mere spectacle by the MSM. The March for Life has been going on for decades and *never* receives the coverage given to similar pro-abortion rallies. Having said that, I think that conservative/right/populist should be better organized. However, it’s worth noting that the progressive/liberal/left often also lament their level of organization. So there may be a ‘grass-is-greener’ aspect to our shared concern.

  3. Liberalism is caring more about what illegals want especially non US muslims (esp radicalized ones or any
    sharia follower) then what the US citizens want.

  4. Ms. Ponzi: You are (painfully) correct. But, why should we want the Democrats to be ‘great again’? Even if the Democrats began to profess a ‘change of heart’ on immigration (or anything else for that matter), why would anyone trust them? It’s not as if people have not been trying to communicate their displeasure in their policies. They have sustained decades of losses at the local and national level and still have not budged the slightest. In fact, they have only ‘doubled-down’. Only now, with the possibility of ceasing to exist are a small number of Democrats (and fellow travelers), even considering that they might be a teensy-weensy bit wrong? I think there are alot of Americans who would simply see any change as purely rhetorical designed to access the reins of power for to persist in their reign of disenfranchisement. Let the Democrats sweep themselves into the dustbin of history and make room for another, better ‘opposition’.

    • If they cannot make themselves a truly American party, then that is what we would have to wish for. But this is not good news Republicans or for Americans because it will not improve our politics to have the GOP either unchallenged or, challenged only, by an anti-American party they will continue (except in rare cases) to be incapable of seeing for what it is.

      • I understand your concern, but, what I’ve noticed is that the Republican Party has it’s own diversity. Even if, for a time, the US was to enter a period of de facto single-party rule under the Republican Party, it would, I think, be less monolithic in it’s perspectives. The current debate over Obamacare *within* the Republican Party is an example of what I’m describing. BTW: I;m not a Republican Party partisan. I cannot imagine what extraordinary actions would have to be taken for the Democratic Party to *actually* (versus ‘apparently’) change into a American party. Even after this most recent massive defeat, the Democrats re-elected leadership with exactly the same attitudes as that which have given them decades of decline. It would take more than a change of ideology. They need new blood and, at this point, who will want to join a (potentially) failing organization? First the votes dry up. Then the donors dry up. Then the Party dries up.

      • I think a splintering of the Republican party into two strong coalitions between which former Democrats of one stripe or another will have to choose would be the healthiest thing for the country. But I don’t see that happening unless or until the unAmerican Leftism I describe above is utterly destroyed.

      • I’m not sure if I understand your argument here. In my view, the Democratic Party can continue to advocate for ‘unAmerican Leftism’ for a very long time, likely decreasing in national relevance but still being a viable party in its current strongholds. (See the Green Party for an example.) Now, imagine the Democratic Party were to *actually* excise all of the ‘unAmerican Leftism’ elements of their Party advocacy, what policies of national import might remain for the Democratic Party to ‘hang their hat on’ that a populist Republican Party would not also be doing? I’m not saying an ‘about face’ between the Democratic Party and ‘unAmerican Leftism’ couldn’t happen, I’m just saying that, at this point, unless the Davos wing of the Republican Party were to completely stop the populist trajectory of the GOP under Trump, there isn’t much political landscape left for a (wildly) ‘reformed’ Democratic Party to occupy. Having made such a claim, I will suggest how I could be wrong: Political parties exist not only to stake out new areas of electoral interest but also to take advantage of oversights or missteps by their opposition. The GOP is not perfect, and if history is any indication, a dominant party is *more* likely to not seek out new electoral terrain and to make *bigger* missteps of which their opponents (either new or old) can take advantage. I may have convinced myself of your position. ;-]

  5. Well-meaning Republicans? No. As a party the Republicans’ interests differ from the Democrats’ not one jot. The entire goal, the only goal, is to retain majority status so that the GOP has the committee chairmanships and can dole out the federal slush to its own donors. The GOP has done nothing and will do nothing to bring this country back to its intended constitutional order. Occasionally some GOP Senator (Mike Lee, e.g.) grandstands and speechifies about something along those lines, but then nothing happens and no one cares. The GOP has the exact same interest in preserving the size of the federal government that the Democrats do, and will do nothing to shrink it. Oh, maybe they will vote for a measure that results in a hundred EPA bureaucrats losing their jobs and then crow about it as though they were a reprise of the Founders. Even in places where GOP voters are a majority, the GOP, being a party, heeds the media only, and the media is solidly anti-GOP, and so the GOP refrains from doing anything the media will critique. Paid protesters show up at GOP town halls and bully the politicians and now the GOP has turtled. They are political and moral cowards. But nothing will change. They will wait Trump out. There just isn’t enough will on the part of enough voters to effect any meaningful change. As many GOP voters as Democrat voters insist on entitlements and all of the regulatory apparatus that necessarily accompanies it. The day that GOP voters 60 and over demand that Congress means-test Social Security and Medicare is the day things will start to change, and that day isn’t coming. Sorry folks. You’d better try and stay on the good side of your Democrat neighbors because when the Dems regain control of the federal government, and they will, they are going to exact retribution like no one has ever seen.

  6. Here’s another one for ya: Make Republicans Christian again!

  7. No worries. The Democrat Party will harpy it’s way into Green-party-land and the GOP will fissure into the new Trumpian Republican coalition and the GOPe/Jeb!/McCain/McConnell coalition. As Trump gains experience and produces results ( IF ) then increasingly , we will see the GOP folks pick a side and burrow in. That will give non-harpy Donks room to join Trump’s team and the #nevertrumpers of NRO and Jeb!/Mailmans’son, can try to cuck themselves to the right of Trump. Interesting times ahead. 1st act in summer of 18 as some folks get primaried.

    • You describe (quite colorfully) a very possible scenario. Let the tectonic shifts begin!