*Updated polling has been added post-publication to reflect more recent data – 12/6/2019
As your correspondent, I have openly argued that the best way to deal with media bias is not to pursue objectivity, but to acknowledge that every writer, pundit, journalist, and media figure has a perspective, and they should be transparent about that. I am a member of the left from a conservative area of Texas. And as such, I see many conservatives who come to me in the context of the ongoing Democratic primary and lament: “I can’t believe the Democrats are screwing this up.” “They’re being so crazy and socialist.” “They’re gonna give the election away to Trump unless they pick someone more reasonable.” The gist of the argument is that they find the current candidates and political attitude in the Democratic Party to be unappealing. Yes. Because you agree with Trump.
Republicans who find themselves in the uncomfortable position of seeing Trump’s immorality and lack of intellect as revolting but are not taken with any of the Democrats in the current primary are struggling with one inescapable fact: they agree with Trump’s policies but don’t want to openly support an outright demagogue. Tax cuts, particularly for the rich? Check. Deregulation of corporate interests and the environment — because climate change either isn’t important or somehow is a hoax played by all scientists? Bingo. Harsh, if somewhat ‘ugly’ action against migration at the border? Finally! Aiding Mitch McConnell in packing the Supreme Court with extremely conservative judges? Oh yes, give me more! But just don’t tweet so much, and stop saying the quiet parts out loud.
My principal problem with my Republican friends coming to me and expecting me to agree that this Democratic primary is leading to disaster is that they are expecting — since they believe themselves to hate Trump — they will tune into a Democratic debate and hear some things they agree with. And that just isn’t going to happen. This primary is designed to be a forum wherein America’s left decides what platform and candidate appeals to them. Conservatives should not feel entitled to the opposition party submitting policies that appeal to the conservative right, just because they want to disown The Donald. The conservative right already have a candidate, as exemplified by the fact that Donald Trump currently has a 90% approval rating with Republicans, according to Gallup polling.
When Trump was running in 2016 he said all kinds of horrible and destructive things. Whether it was claiming, “We have to take out [terrorists’] families,” or responding to a few of his alleged supporters beating a Latino homeless man with a metal pipe, saying “I will say, the people that are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate,” Trump flaunted his comments as anti-politically-correct. When these kinds of divisive and hateful statements were covered in the media, they would argue that Trump is ‘appealing to his base.’
There’s definitely a logic to this. In a country where upwards of 30% of eligible citizens don’t vote, touting a populist message to motivate participation amongst people who agree with you is a valid electoral strategy that won the presidency for Trump. However, when a candidate like Bernie Sanders unapologetically runs on a platform of single-payer healthcare termed “Medicare for All,” tuition-free public colleges, a living wage, aggressive action to counteract the climate crisis, the same logic doesn’t seem to apply. Morning Consult/Politico polling finds issues like “Medicare for All” receiving upwards of 70% support among Democratic voters — and more than 45-50% with independents, depending on how the issue is framed. If any issue had that definitive level of support in Trump’s camp, media types would be saying that it is ample fuel to “get his base out,” to the polls. However, when Democrats advocate for structural change which has broad support, they are told that it’s ‘too radical’, and they need to run to the center.
The onus is always on Democrats to compromise the views of their base and reach across the aisle. In 2010, Obama compromised his way from an attempted public healthcare option all the way to a Republican plan formulated by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. The default opinion of the corporate media and conservatives is it’s always the job of Democrats to concede ground to Republican priorities — which is why today’s anti-Trump Republicans are so beside themselves. The current Democratic primaries are suddenly a race dominated by the American left, and this makes people on the right uncomfortable. The cozy paradigm for the last 40 years has been Republicans running to the right, to satisfy their increasingly conservative voters, and Democrats moving to the center to ‘meet them in the middle’ for the purposes of bipartisanship. This primary marks the breaking point where America’s left party is actually advocating the positions of the left, which is confusing my Republican friends who are now searching for an alternative to Trump.
If you find yourself disgusted with Trump but agreeing with his policy decisions, maybe you have some demons to work out for yourself. The fact is, Democrats supporting policies the majority of their base and a plurality of all voters support is not a losing strategy. It shouldn’t be controversial to say that advocating popular positions is a solid path to victory in 2020. If you are a Republican who claims not to like Trump, stop waiting for the Democrats to meet you in the middle. You are not the middle. They are forging a platform in favor of economic justice for the working poor, diminishing corporate control over our politics, and social equality in our society. If that sounds palatable to you, please join us on the left. We’d love to have you. If those sound like things you oppose, you need to get right with the fact that you have more in common with Trump than you are willing to admit.