Back when Bill Clinton was merely an Arkansas governor who wanted to be president, he wanted the country to know that the smart lawyer he married was part of a package deal. Electing Clinton was, Americans were told, a “two-for-one” deal because Hillary Clinton would be an important part of his administration. The line was designed to appeal to female voters eager to embrace a new model of a First Lady as policy maven rather than hostess. In the end, Hillary’s stint as the Clinton administration’s health care czar ended in disaster as her proposal was sunk by critics on substance as well as the secretive nature of the way she operated. But 24 years later the two-for-one deal is back although the roles are reversed. Now it is candidate Hillary who is touting her spouse as a bonus for voters. As the New York Times reported from a Clinton campaign stop in Kentucky:
Hillary Clinton already has an assignment for her husband, Bill Clinton, if they return to the White House next year. The former president, Mrs. Clinton told voters on Sunday, will be “in charge of revitalizing the economy.”
“Because, you know, he knows how to do it,” she said. “Especially in places like coal country and inner-cities and other parts of our country that have really been left out.”
Does this make any sense? In its favor, Bill Clinton is still a very popular figure. Moreover, the 90s interlude between the Cold War and 9/11, during which he governed, is now seen by a lot of Americans as a lost golden age when compared to the subsequent years of war and economic travail. But the Clinton camp’s belief that merely invoking the name of the 42nd president will work to bolster Hillary’s credentials is an assumption that fails to take into account a number of factors. Though Hillary might be well advised to listen to her more politically talented spouse, the talk of Bill as her economic czar brings with it as many problems as it does solutions. Far from energizing Democrats, the prospect of two-for-one, part two will discourage her party’s liberal base and other voters who aren’t interested in recycled ideas in this year of political revolt while also opening her up to more personal criticism by Donald Trump.
Let’s concede that nostalgia for the economy of the 1990s is somewhat understandable. It was the product of the end of the Cold War and the unique juxtaposition of a centrist Democrat in the White House and a new Republican Congressional majority determined to rein in liberal excesses. Bill Clinton’s willingness to work with the GOP produced landmark legislation on welfare reform and crime as well as a balanced budget. Not all of the credit belongs to Clinton, but he does deserve kudos for being willing to work with Republicans as he admitted that the “era of big government is over.” That doesn’t make Clinton an economic genius but, when compared to the woes of the George W. Bush administration that had to deal with the 2008 economic downturn and an Obama administration that has presided over the most anemic recovery in modern American history, it’s no surprise that his stock has gone up in recent years.
What the Clinton camp is forgetting is that other than her own lack of retail talent as a presidential candidate, Hillary’s main liability is the perception that she is a recycled candidate from an earlier era. There’s little that is fresh or new about a woman who has been a leading figure in American politics since that first two-for-one campaign. Promising a Bill Clinton comeback as a policymaker only highlights that problem.
But there are two other far more serious factors that render this announcement a political liability.
The first is that she forgets just how unpopular Bill Clinton’s policies are among the liberal base of the Democratic Party. If the 1990s was an era of prosperity, it is due entirely to the free market and free trade principles Hillary’s husband pursued in cooperation with congressional Republicans. But it is opposition to those ideas that have fueled an unexpectedly potent insurgency against her candidacy from an otherwise unlikely 74-year-old socialist challenger. Clinton has had to tack hard to her left in order to fend off Bernie Sanders in a way that caused her to not only disavow her husband’s policies but also her own record of support for free trade.
This contradiction is no mere detail. Clinton’s only path to victory involves an Election Day turnout of liberals, minorities and young voters that have cheered Sanders’ message. Pundits assume that revulsion against the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency will generate the kind of massive voter turnout that elected and re-elected Barack Obama. But that factor can only be undermined by Hillary’s embrace of a man that embodies a lot of what the political left hates about this country.
But there is one more problem with Hillary essentially promoting the prospect of a two-person presidency: the Trump factor.
Trump is deep under water with female voters who perceive his insults and treatment of women as proof of his chauvinism. Not all of these charges are going to stick as the New York Times less than successful takedown of Trump’s record with women showed yesterday. But it remains an important talking point for the Clintons. Trump’s only answer is the same he uses under any and all other circumstances: he attacks. Those attacks will be centered on Bill Clinton’s odious conduct toward women. The Clinton camp has replied, with some justice, that Hillary Clinton should be judged on her own merits and not as an appendage of her brilliant but wayward husband. But by positioning Bill as a co-president who will run the economy while Hillary presumably goes back to mismanaging foreign policy, she is making it easier for Trump’s no-holds-barred approach to undermine that defense. If Bill really will run the economy, then his record is fair game.
The Clinton camp is clearly uncertain as to what the best strategy for countering Trump might be. Letting him sink himself while Clinton presents a reasonable and responsible alternative to a cult of personality might be the smartest approach. But a new two-for-one deal is not likely to help her with Democrats or Republicans and has the added problem of making it easier for Trump to talk about Monica Lewinsky. If that’s Hillary’s idea of winning the news cycle, she is mistaken.
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Does Hillary’s Two-for-One Help?
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Quid pro quo?
Until now, the notion that Donald Trump was providing Russia and Vladimir Putin with concessions at the expense of U.S. interests was poorly supported. That all changed on Wednesday afternoon when the Washington Post revealed that Donald Trump ordered his national security advisor and CIA director to scrap a program that provided covert aid to anti-Assad rebels in Syria.
The president made that decision on July 7, within 24 hours of his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The sources who spoke to the Washington Post accurately characterize it as a reflection of “Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia.” That is a fool’s errand but, more important, this move demonstrates that the United States is willing to cede ground to adversaries and bad actors as long as they are persistent enough.
I endeavored to demonstrate as thoroughly as I could why American interests in Syria and those of Russia not only do not align but often conflict violently. The president appears convinced, like his predecessor, that his personal political interests are better served by allowing Moscow to be the power broker in Syria—even if that makes America and its allies less safe.
Moscow has made it a priority to execute airstrikes on American and British covert facilities in Syria, and Donald Trump has just rewarded those air strikes on U.S. targets. Trump has sacrificed the goodwill he garnered from Sunni-dominated Middle Eastern governments when he executed strikes on Assad’s assets and, as recently as June, the U.S. downed a Syrian warplane for attacking anti-ISIS rebels laying siege to the Islamic State capital of Raqqa.
America will continue to provide support to indigenous anti-ISIS rebels, despite the fact that those forces are often under assault from both Russian and Syrian forces. It should be noted, however, that the CIA suspended aid to Free Syrian Army elements when it came under attack from Islamist in February. The agency said it didn’t want cash and weapons falling into Islamist hands, but this move exposes that claim as a mere pretext.
This concession to Russia is significant not just because it removes some pressure on Moscow’s vassal in Damascus. It sends a series of signals to the world’s bad actors, who will inevitably react.
The phasing out of aid for anti-Assad rebels (presumably the indigenous Sunni-dominated factions) gives Russia and Syria the only thing they’ve ever wanted: the ability to frame the conflict in Syria as one between the regime and a handful of radicals and pariahs. A cessation of aid will squeeze the remaining moderate, secular rebel factions in Syria and compel them to seek whatever assistance they can—even at the risk of augmenting the ranks of Islamist insurgents. How that advances America’s interests is entirely unclear.
This move will only further embolden not just Russia and Syria but their mutual ally, the Islamic Republic of Iran. It will convince the region’s Sunni actors that the United States is not on their side—a matter of increasing urgency in Iraq. The insurgency in Syria is unlikely to end so long as regional fighters have a means of getting into the country. America will simply sacrifice its leverage over those groups.
This move will confirm, finally, that the use of weapons of mass destruction in the battlefield is survivable. A truly resolute American administration might fire off a handful of Tomahawk missiles at an abandoned airfield, but regime change is not in the offing. That will only beget other bad actors who will test the parameters of America’s willingness to defend the international norms prohibiting the use of WMDs. Because American servicemen and women are stationed around the world in unstable theaters, the likelihood that they will one day be fighting on chemical battlefields just became a lot more likely.
American covert involvement in Syria also filled a vacuum that the Obama administration allowed to expand in 2011 and 2012. “One big potential risk of shutting down the CIA program is that the United States may lose its ability to block other countries, such as Turkey and Persian Gulf allies, from funneling more sophisticated weapons—including man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS—to anti-Assad rebels, including more radical groups,” the Washington Post speculated. Ironically, American withdrawal from the anti-Assad effort could actually fuel the fire, but in a way that we can neither control nor effectively influence. We’ve seen that movie before. We know how it ends.
And all of this is for what? To garner goodwill with the bloody regime in Damascus? To court Moscow or Tehran? There is nothing to gain from cozying up to these regimes that is not offset by the sacrifice of American national interests and moral authority associated with rapprochement. For all of the Trump administration’s criticisms of Barack Obama’s policy with regard to those regimes, this decision suggests he’s willing to double down on Obama’s mistakes.
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Is it Trump's posture, or is it simpler than that?
Though it enjoys a level of political dominance unseen since the 1920s, the Republican Party’s agenda is stalled. Yet, despite their failure to repeal and replace ObamaCare, Republicans are damned like Sisyphus to keep trying. Republican office holders must now administer health care’s taxes and subsidies, and the rest of the GOP agenda cannot advance without freeing up the revenue dedicated to the administration of ObamaCare. A dysfunctional, one-party Congress led by an unpopular neophyte in the Oval Office should precipitate a backlash among voters. But that outcome is far from certain. Ubiquitous surveys and studies dedicated to uncovering the mystery that is the curious and contradictory Trump voter suggests that this may indeed be a new political epoch.
Nationally, Trump’s job-approval rating hovers around 40 percent. By contrast, a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey of adults in “Trump country” (e.g. the counties that voted for Donald Trump) found the president enjoying a 50 percent job approval rating. Reflecting on these numbers, WSJ columnist Jason Riley observed that the political world may still be operating on a set of assumptions that do not apply to Trump; critically, that voters are transactional and that their support for politicians is contingent upon delivery.
“I think there’s a lot of evidence to support the idea that Trump’s main appeal was validating the fears and concerns of a certain segment of Americans who felt they were being ignored by elites in the media, elites in politics, elite Republicans,” Cato Institute scholar and pollster Emily Ekins told Riley. That assertion is supported by the findings of another survey. A Washington Post/ABC News poll taking the temperature of the potential midterm electorate found that registered voters prefer a Democrat-led Congress over Republicans by a staggering 14 points. Democrats shouldn’t celebrate too soon, however. The survey also showed that those who “strongly support” Trump are more motivated to vote in 2018 than are those who strongly disapprove of the president, and by a whopping 11-point margin.
This should not be. Voters should be discouraged by legislative failure, internecine feuding, and sprawling legal investigations into a nascent presidency. Voters should be repulsed by a party that sends to Congress members who physically assault journalists. They should be disgusted by a president who describes people on television he dislikes as “psycho” and “bleeding badly from a facelift.” They should be unnerved by the fact that this president spent months spinning an erroneous exculpatory tale about his campaign’s links to Russian-affiliated operatives only to pivot to defending those links when the lie was exposed for what it was. But they’re not.
This is politics in the age of affect. As Riley observed, the voters who have received disproportionate scrutiny from the press demonstrate time and again that their support for the president is not contingent upon his achievements but his posture. He speaks to their concerns, even if he is ineffectual in his attempts to address them. His speech is not overburdened with pompous language. He does not moralize; he does not lecture; he clings to his character flaws like a security blanket. He eats poorly and his physique reflects it. Trump is no Olympian figure; he gets down into the mud even when he shouldn’t.
Republican political professionals are starting to build an identity for their party around Trump’s effective affectation. If Republican voters no longer care about the policies that allegedly so vexed them in the Obama years, then they will have to run on the cultural anxiety that Donald Trump so effectively marshals. There may be no better way to accomplish that than to use the political press as a foil.
A striking McClatchy report in June indicated that Republican strategists are preparing to rely heavily on media-bashing to retain control of Congress in 2018. “The press is held with disgust and contempt,” said Tobe Berkovitz, an advertising expert who advises state-and district-level campaigns. “Battling the press isn’t a bad strategy.”
It is, however, possible that political reporters and analysts are reading more into this moment than it deserves. Perhaps Trump’s voters are as transactional as anyone, but we’re reading the receipts wrong. Maybe Trump’s prickly demeanor and bull-headedness is part of his appeal, but not all of it.
The polling suggests that something simpler may be at work here. Only 40 percent approved of Donald Trump’s job performance in the latest Bloomberg survey released on Monday, but it also found that 58 percent of respondents reported feeling closer to realizing their career and financial goals (a record high since the question was introduced in early 2013). On the economy and “creating jobs,” Donald Trump dramatically outperforms his overall job-approval numbers (46 and 47 percent approval, respectively). The Washington Post/ABC News poll confirmed Bloomberg’s findings. Despite his abysmal 36 percent job approval rating in that survey, 43 to 41 percent reported approving of Trump’s handling of the economy.
Surely some of this is perceptional; the Trump administration’s handling of the economy is six months old and characterized not by substantive reforms but by aesthetics and gestures. It is also aspirational. After eight years of recession and a sluggish recovery, Trump-country voters are exhausted by insecurity. The benefits of the Trump years are tangible for Trump voters, even if political journalists see them as illusory. Maybe political analysts are poring over the Trump voter to their own detriment. Maybe it’s still the economy, stupid.
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On July 16, 2017, Iranian Judiciary spokesman Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejehi announced that Iran had sentenced an American to ten years in prison for alleged espionage. An Iranian judiciary website subsequently identified the American as 37-year-old, China-born Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University Ph.D. student in history.
Hostage-taking is nothing new for the Islamic Republic. Indeed, since revolutionary students acting on behalf of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini first seized the U.S. Embassy on November 4, 1979, hostage-taking has become a central pillar of Iranian policy. For authorities in Tehran, the reason for hostage-taking is simple: It’s a strategy which has repeatedly paid off. The Carter administration rewarded Iran with millions of dollars and diplomatic concessions. Ronald Reagan, for all his tough rhetoric as a campaigner, did likewise with the arms-for-hostages policy, a scheme that backfired when Iran seized even more hostages once it had received the last delivery of weaponry and spare parts.
President Obama likewise rewarded Iranian hostage-taking by paying Iran over $1 billion for the release of imprisoned Americans, although he inexplicably left Robert Levinson, the longest-held American hostage, behind. No sooner had the U.S. government transferred the ransom in cash to a waiting Iranian plane (controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), then Iranian security forces seized several more Iranian Americans and permanent residents, most prominently Iranian American businessman and political activist Siamak Namazi and his father, Baquer.
What makes Wang’s arrest and imprisonment different is that Wang presumably had an Iranian visa. Americans must get a visa in advance and, on the off-chance Wang was traveling on a Chinese passport, he would likely also have required a visa, although there is some wiggle-room for Chinese citizens with confirmed bookings in five-star hotels.
Other Americans who were arrested in Iran in the years since the Embassy seizure were traveling on Iranian passports: Iran does not recognize dual citizenship for Iranians and requires Iranian-Americans to travel on Iranian documents. Renouncing Iranian citizenship takes an act of Iran’s parliament, and so it is beyond the means for pretty much every Iranian-American. The Iranian government has no desire to ease that restriction for both ideological reasons—it’s hard to demonize “the Great Satan” when so many Iranian citizens want to live in the United States—and because the requirement for Iranian-Americans to register births and keep passports current is a cash cow for the Iranian foreign ministry. When Iran has seized Americans, there, it has operated under the legal fiction that those arrested were simply Iranian citizens. Often, Iranian diplomats tell State Department and the Swiss diplomats who look out for American citizen interests in Iran to buzz off.
Levinson was a slightly different case: He traveled without a visa to Kish Island, an Iranian free trade zone which is visa-free (but which is dominated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ business interests). Regardless, the fact remains: previous Americans seized in Iran were not traveling on U.S. passports with Iranian visas.
Wang’s arrest hits home for me as I went to Iran—with proper Iranian visas in my passport—for a total of seven months while I was working on my history Ph.D. Since I received my doctorate and since I won’t self-censor what I think or write about the Iranian regime in order to gain access, I have since been unable to get the Iranian visa, even when I have been invited for academic conferences in my field. There’s never an outright rejection—just an endless series of “maybe tomorrow”—until the conference has come and gone. For academics and other Americans, however, there was always an understanding, that if the Iranian foreign ministry (and behind-the-scenes, the Iranian intelligence ministry) issued a visa and the visa-holder behaved him or herself, there would be no serious problems.
So what does Wang’s arrest mean? First, he represents the human cost of the Obama administration’s willingness to pay ransom. Second, that the security forces and judiciary targeted him suggests both that they have augmented and consolidated control despite all the Western self-deception about Iranian moderation and also that they wish to humiliate the United States. Wang’s arrest is also a signal by those who control Iran that Americans should think twice about traveling to the country. The New York Times may profit handsomely from its Iran tours, but Iran may profit more if they refuse to allow one or more of those tourists to depart.
No hostage-taking is acceptable, and the fact that any Western diplomat would trust, let alone tolerate, their Iranian counterparts absent an Iranian renunciation of the practice past and present reflects poorly on both the United States and Europe. The fact that Iran targeted an Iranian visa holder rather than an “Iranian citizen” suggests the Islamic Republic is crossing lines even they have long avoided.
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The hen house is secured.
Eric Edelman–a former undersecretary of defense in the Bush administration, an aide to Vice President Cheney, and one of the most respected foreign policy hands in Washington–wrote that the July 7 meeting in Hamburg between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin was the most disastrous superpower summit since John F. Kennedy met Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. That Cold War-era summit emboldened the Soviets to put up the Berlin Wall and send missiles to Cuba, thus bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. It’s a harsh judgment, but its essential accuracy is being confirmed by what we have learned since July 7.
Trump appears proud of the fact that he actually raised with Putin the issue of Russian meddling in the U.S. election. But the way he did so engenders no confidence. According to Edelman, “Tillerson is reported to have told associates privately that he was stunned that the president opened the discussion by saying ‘I’m going to get this out of the way,’ in effect signaling his lack of seriousness about the issue.”
Trump’s own account is hardly more reassuring. On July 12, on his way back to Europe, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One: “I said to [Putin], were you involved with the meddling in the election? He said, absolutely not. I was not involved. He was very strong on it. I then said to him again, in a totally different way, were you involved with the meddling. He said, I was not–absolutely not.” Having failed to extract a confession from Putin, Trump then moved on to talking about Syria. What else can you do, he told reporters—“end up in a fist fight”?
What Trump should have done—what any other president would have done—was not ask Putin whether he did something that the U.S. intelligence community knows he did. The president should have said, “We know you did this—and here are the consequences.” Only Trump himself won’t publicly accept that Russia was the sole hacker, and he’s not interested in meting out any consequences. Indeed, his administration is lobbying to water down in the House a Russia-sanctions bill approved by the Senate.
One of the summit achievements that Trump trumpeted initially was an agreement to form with Russia an “impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, [and] many other negative things, will be guarded and safe.” This fox-guarding-the-hen-house proposal was met with such universal derision that within hours Trump disowned the idea, shortly after his Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin had loyally praised it on TV.
But Trump is still standing by the other summit take away, which was the announcement of a limited ceasefire in southwestern Syria. “We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives,” Trump tweeted. “Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”
In point of fact, the agreement between the U.S. and Russia did nothing more than ratify a unilateral truce announced the previous week by the Syrian government in this area so that Bashar Assad could focus his hard-pressed forces on other parts of the country. The truce is unlikely to hold for long, but it is already being met with considerable concern in Israel, since the territory in question borders the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights and the land of Israel’s ally, Jordan.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out in stark terms against the ceasefire on Sunday, breaking with Trump to do so, because the Israeli security establishment is worried that the ceasefire will allow Iran and its Hezbollah proxies to consolidate their control of this strategically important land.
This development highlights the tension between Trump’s anti-Iran policy (his national security adviser at the time, Mike Flynn, put Iran “on notice” in February) and his more accommodating stance toward Iran’s ally, Russia. Contrary to what Rex Tillerson naively says, Russia does not have the same interests in Syria as the U.S. does. Russia is in Syria to consolidate Bashar Assad’s rule—not to fight ISIS or other Sunni terrorist groups, except insofar as they pose a danger to Assad’s rule.
To achieve its aims in Syria, Russia is working hand-in-glove with Iran, which remains Assad’s most important sponsor. Iran’s goal is to create a new Iranian sphere of influence stretching from Tehran to Beirut, and it is well on its way toward achieving that objective. The expansion of Iranian power is a mortal threat to Israel and a serious danger for other U.S. allies in the region.
Given the way that Moscow is collaborating with Tehran, Trump cannot be anti-Iran and pro-Russia. It’s a package deal—choose one or the other. The worry is that at Hamburg Trump may have chosen Russia.
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No more Sister Souljah moments.
Republicans didn’t always scoff dismissively at the self-destructive, reactionary, fractious collection of malcontents who call themselves The Resistance. The hundreds of thousands who marched in the streets following Donald Trump’s election once honestly unnerved the GOP. This grassroots energy culminated in January’s Women’s March, a multi-day event in which nearly two million people mobilized peacefully and, most importantly, sympathetically in opposition to the president. It was the perfect antidote to the violent anti-Trump demonstrations that typified Inauguration Day, and it might have formed the nucleus of a politically potent movement. The fall of the Women’s March exposes the blight weakening the left and crippling the Democratic Party.
The fever sapping Trump’s opposition was evident in microcosm on Monday in the meltdown of the Women’s March’s social-media presence on Twitter. “Happy birthday to the revolutionary #AssataShakur,” the organization wrote, dedicating the day’s resistance-related activities in her “honor.” Shakur is perhaps better known as Joanne Chesimard, the name that appeared on the court documents in connection with her being tried and convicted of eight felonies, including the execution-style murder of a New Jersey State Trooper. She currently resides in communist Cuba, a fugitive from American justice.
The outrage that followed the Women’s March’s endorsement of a cop-killer, exile, and unrepentant black nationalist was such that the organization was compelled to explain itself. “[T]his is not to say that #AssataShakur has never committed a crime, and not to endorse all of her actions,” the group flailed. “We say this to demonstrate the ongoing history of government [and] right-wing attempts to criminalize and discredit political activists.” This fanatical display of befuddlement perfectly encapsulates the logic of “intersectionality.” It demonstrates why this vogue ideology shackles its devotees to doomed causes and sinking ships.
“Intersectionality,” the beast born in liberal hothouses on college campuses, slouches now toward the halls of power. It is a Marxist notion that all discrimination is linked because it is rooted in the unjust power structures that facilitate inequality. Therefore, there are no distinct struggles against prejudice. Class, race, gender, sexual identity; these and other signifiers are bound together by the fact that oppression is institutional and systemic. The problem with this ideology is it compels its adherents to abandon discretion. To sacrifice anyone with a claim to oppression is to forsake every victim of prejudice. So, sure, Assata Shakur robbed, assaulted, incited violence, and killed a cop. But she also hates capitalism and white supremacy. Therefore, she’s one of us.
It is this logic that has rendered the “Sister Souljah moment” a relic of the past, and The Resistance is drowning in Sister Souljahs.
One of the March organizers, Linda Sarsour, has enjoyed newfound popularity and legitimacy in the age of Trump. She is a self-styled organizer for civil rights and the Muslim-American community of which she is a part, and she’s been acclaimed by organizations like the ACLU and Demos. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand described Sarsour and her colleagues as “the suffragists of our time.” In return for this lavish praise, Sarsour has only forced her defenders into awkward positions.
Sarsour has praised Saudi Arabia’s social welfare state as appropriate compensation for stripping women of privileges such as driving a car. “I wish I could take their vaginas away,” she wrote of women like the Somali-born Dutch-American activist and genital-mutilation victim Ayaan Hirsi Ali. “You’ll know when you’re living under Sharia Law if suddenly all your loans [and] credit cards become interest-free. Sound nice, doesn’t it?” she asked. While delivering the keynote address to a Muslim-American conference, Sarsour advocated “jihad” against Donald Trump, defining the term to mean only speaking truth to power. Rather than admonish their political ally for this obvious indiscretion, the American left went to the mattresses to explain that only they understand the true meaning of the word “jihad.”
For some on the left, advocating violence is not only justified but fashionable. Misanthropic so-called “anti-Fascist” activists like Shanta Driver and Yvette Felarca have become a ubiquitous presence in pro-Resistance mythology. People like Driver advocate for “militant actions” while Felarca appears at the head of armed mobs “resisting” the white supremacist alt-right “by any means necessary” (which happens to be the name of the organization to which she belongs). For this “activism,” these and other “anti-fa” organizers are feted by left-wing magazines like Mother Jones and The Huffington Post.
Amid the celebration of left-wing political violence, a man who had been radicalized by liberal politics attempted the mass assassination of Republican members of Congress. Far from dwelling on this potentially generation-defining attack, the event passed through the national consciousness like an apparition. We don’t talk about that now. Perhaps we don’t want to think about what it might portend.
None of these individuals have roots in Democratic politics so deep that they cannot be deracinated relatively painlessly. Indeed, their counterproductive behavior would compel any competent political operation to make an example or two—particularly an operation struggling to demonstrate that it can be trusted again to govern seriously and effectively. Yet the Democratic Party and the liberals who animate it have come under the spell of a philosophy that explicitly forbids the exorcism of its demons.
Republicans have their devils, too. The excision of which may not seem a terribly urgent project today, given the GOP’s political dominance. They will confront that crisis soon enough. In the interim, Democrats should be remaking themselves to appeal to the existing electorate; the one that delivered to the GOP near total control of state and federal government over just six years. Instead, Democrats are voluntarily yoking themselves to their most radical elements even as the number of Americans who describe the party as “too extreme” continues to climb.
Republicans may have their troubles, but a competent opposition is not among them.