I’m old enough to remember when political candidates tended to take positions that were popular with the people who, they hope, will vote for them. That’s not what the Democratic candidates for president are doing this year as shown at last week’s debates. Consider what Bret Stephens, no Trump supporter by a long shot, wrote last week:
*What conclusions should ordinary people draw about what Democrats stand for . . . Here’s what: a party that makes too many Americans feel like strangers in their own country. A party that puts more of its faith, and invests most of its efforts, in them instead of us.
Busing students to achieve integration began in 1972 and was a total failure. Indeed, between 1972 and 1980, the percentage of black students attending mostly black schools dropped only from 63.6 percent to 63.3 percent. And the parents hated it. In 1973, most Americans favored integration but only 5 percent approved of busing, 4 percent of whites and 9 percent of blacks. With their kids being bused as much as an hour away, the parents could not participate in the education of their children. As the very liberal Tanner Colby explained in Slate:
With Jim Crow, black America lived under an onerous, top-down system that told them where their children could and could not go to school. Now, with busing, black America lived under . . . an onerous, top-down system that told them where their children could and could not go to school.
But Kamala Harris attacked Joe Biden during last Thursday’s debate for having opposed busing in the 1970’s. She also attacked him for working with two segregationist senators at that time—both Democrats, please note—on matters that had nothing to do with segregation.
In today’s Democratic Party, one can only work with the ideologically pure. All others must be anathematized. As Hillary Clinton found out, damning everyone who doesn’t agree with you 100 percent as “deplorable” is no way to appeal to anyone other than the inner circle of the Democratic base.
What is popular with parents of all races is school choice, which has a record of actually working to improve educational outcomes. But all the candidates except Cory Booker are adamantly opposed to school choice. Why? Well, a lot of it has a to do with the opposition of teachers’ unions to any threat to their monopoly of primary and secondary education that has produced so much educational mediocracy and downright failure. Teachers’ unions are very big contributors to Democratic campaigns.
Given a choice between favoring the interests of the kids and favoring the interests of donation-making teachers, the Democratic candidates are going with the teachers. The trouble with that, of course, is that there are a lot more parents than there are teachers.
Bret Stevens again:
None of this means that Democrats can’t win in 2020. The economy could take a bad turn. Or Trump could outdo himself in loathsomeness. But the Democratic Party we saw this week did even less to appeal beyond its base than the president. And at least his message is that he’s on their—make that our—side.