The Democrats know they are in trouble, but they probably don’t know just how deep the trouble is. At the national level the party is now further out of power than it’s been since 1928. This lack of power and control is a problem in and of itself, but it is an even larger problem for what it portends for the party’s future. The party’s problems are deep and systemic and there are no clear remedies.
For the first time in over three generations the Republican Party controls the U.S. Senate, the Congress, and the White House. In all probability, there will soon be a conservative, not liberal, Supreme Court. Not only is there a vacancy on the Supreme Court that Donald Trump can fill, there are 104 vacant federal judgeships waiting for his nominations when he takes office. The judiciary has been the left’s go-to option when they fail to achieve their objectives legislatively. This change in the nature of the judiciary could last for decades.
Lack of power has profound implications for Democrats. Power is the Party’s raison d’être and sine qua non. Without power the party is broke and broken.
Consider, for example, one crucial element of their reliance on “identity politics,” specifically, organized labor. Organized labor is perhaps the single most important and dependable factor in the Democratic Party’s long-term success. In fact, Britain’s equivalent of the Democrat Party is called the Labour Party.
Democrats rely on a perverse variation of voluntary exchange. In exchange for votes, campaign contributions, and election workers, Democrats deliver legislation and regulations favorable to unions. The system works well for both entities, but it only works so long as Democrats have the power to keep their part of the bargain.
On the other side of the quid pro quo, there has to be a sufficient population of union members in order to generate an adequate amount of campaign funds. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the percentage of the U.S. labor force in unions has declined from 20 percent in 1983 to 11 percent now. Less than seven percent of the private workforce is unionized. Thirty-five percent of government employees are union members, but that too is in jeopardy. When President Trump fills the current Supreme Court vacancy, mandatory union dues could well be ruled unconstitutional. That could be a double whammy — reduced union membership and a reduced supply of campaign funds. Trump has said that he wants to reduce the federal workforce by 20 percent. What a glorious accomplishment that would be.
Another major contributor to the Democratic Party’s past success has been the mainstream media, i.e. the major television networks and big city newspapers. The media could not have tried any harder than it did to get Hillary Clinton elected President. They did everything in their power to convince voters that Donald Trump was a despicable racist and sexist, someone who was absolutely “unfit” to be President. It didn’t work. They can’t simply double down on their efforts in the next election because they’ve already exhausted that option.
The media tried so hard to elect Hillary their intentions became blatant and their efforts became counterproductive. They may well have increased rather than decreased Donald Trump’s popularity. Not only did their efforts backfire, the media also paid a high price in terms of credibility.
The media’s influence and power depend on credibility and trust, both of which it used to possess. Credibility and trust are fragile and fleeting commodities. Once they’re lost, it’s almost impossible to get them back.
In the years leading up to the election Hillary Clinton was able to command fees of $200,000 or more for her boring and vacuous twenty-minute speeches. Why was anyone willing to pay her so much for so little? There was a not-too-subtle assumption that once she had the power of the presidency their generosity would be rewarded. The exorbitant fees were little more than prepaid bribes.
A small but nevertheless telling detail of the recent election was the outcome in Washington, D.C. There Hillary Clinton trounced Donald Trump 94 percent to four percent. Residents of D.C. obviously know which party has their best interests at heart, and it’s not the Republicans. The Democrat Party is unquestionably the party of big government and concentrated power, but that party lost, and it lost big. Smaller government means fewer government employees and fewer public-sector union members. Maybe Bill Clinton (Hillary’s pretend husband) was only premature when he famously proclaimed, “The era of big government is over.”
This new and novel (for Democrats) distance from power will not only hurt them in the future, it will even hurt them retrospectively. Because the Democrats used their recent power so arrogantly and incompetently, much of what they’ve accomplished will soon be erased. Not only is Obamacare on the verge of annihilation, so are most of Obama’s executive orders. Obama’s legacy will be the thinnest and most transitory in presidential history.
Democrats have held power for so long they are lost without it. Their anger and frustration is almost palpable. The party is lost in the wilderness without a compass. Let’s hope they stay there for a long time. Maybe they can break the Old Testament record.