Conservative commentator (of the Never-Trump sort) Jonah Goldberg has been repeating this line lately: “Donald Trump can’t win in 2020, but the Democrats can lose.”
Like in 2016, the Democrats are against an immensely unlikable and repellent figure who has little appeal beyond a loyal but demographically shrinking base (which is literally dying off due to age or deaths of despair). Like in 2016, the election should be a cakewalk: pick a winsome liberal candidate ostensibly willing to throw a few bones to center-right concerns and watch as the electoral college votes roll in. The candidate doesn’t even have to fulfill any promises to the conservatives they lured! Politics is built on a foundation of dashed hopes and crushed dreams. Instead, however, Democrats scour the nation for the weirdest, oldest, most radical and combative scolds, finger waggers, and conspiracy theorists they can find to offer the most ludicrous and destructive proposals possible. (Seriously. Elizabeth Warren may as well have said, “We’re going to pass Medicare for All, and we’re going to make Mexico pay for it.”)
On top of that, the progressive wing’s Jacobin attitude means the party’s most vociferous voters, activists, and commentators are continuously watching the Democratic candidates with gleaming, inquisitorial eyes to catch them saying or doing anything that can be twisted into an offense against their Puritanical and protean moral sensibilities. Take this article about Mayor Pete. Several years ago, he makes the innocuous comment that, essentially, relationships matter in people’s lives. Someone digs it up, and progressive writers take out their Pottery Barn knives and move in for the kill. I don’t care for Buttigieg’s policies, his record is forgettable, and I find his theology mostly modernist silliness nearly on par with that of the charlatan David Barton, who nonsensically claims Jesus would have been against the minimum wage among other very stupid things—but this is crazy. Buttigieg, for all his glaring faults as a politician and a public religious figure, is undeniably a very sincere man who goes to great lengths to think through social justice issues from multiple angles, particularly progressive orthodoxies. He is that thoughtful, woke white guy progressives clamor for. He’s even gay! And yet the knives come out for him.
I have no idea what will happen next November. It’d be foolish to predict; I saved a screenshot of a New York Times graphic giving Hilary Clinton a 92% chance of victory (which remained on their website waaaay into election night) to keep as a reminder that no really knows until it’s over. Donald Trump is godawful, but the Democrats often seem far more interested in proposals to destroy the domestic economy and hauling one another off to the Revolutionary Tribunal than producing any sort of plausible alternative. Trump can’t win. However, Democrats can lose, and man, they just might.