Democrats Want a Prophet, Not a President

They’re increasingly rigid and orthodox, even as Republicans have shown a new flexibility.

By Bobby Jindal    Mr. Jindal served as governor of Louisiana, 2008-16, and was a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.   February 11, 2020

The Democrats have turned religious. Not in the sense that they espouse a belief in an omnipotent and benevolent Creator or eternal and universal moral principles. They are religious in the sense that they hold dogmatic beliefs that are impervious to contradiction by logic, evidence or experience, and cultivate a moral superiority toward unbelievers. The party that loudly prides itself on tolerance and diversity is increasingly intolerant in at least three areas.

First, Democrats have moved beyond traditional environmentalism, with its emphasis on regulation, technological innovation and market incentives to achieve incremental progress, toward a radical vision grounded in an unshakable belief in climate apocalypse. Both parties once cooperated to protect endangered species and clean the air, water and soil. Today’s Democrats demand bans on fracking and new oil and gas leases on federal lands, and endorse the elimination of all fossil fuels and decarbonization of the economy in unrealistic time frames. Rather than aspirational moonshots, intended to inspire the public and private sectors to work together, Democrats use these impossible goals as rationales for completely restructuring how Americans live, work, commute and even eat.

More-radical activists regard eating meat, driving SUVs, having children, flying and using plastic straws as akin to mortal sins. During last week’s primary debate, Tom Steyer went so far as to declare that climate change, not terrorism or a resurgent China, is the “biggest problem that we face internationally in the world.” Democrats are increasingly willing to sacrifice allies—such as union workers in extraction and construction—to scramble after unreachable climate targets. Sen. Bernie Sanders denounced the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, endorsed by the AFL-CIO, because it was silent on climate change.

Green purity trumps all competing goals. Democrats divide the world into progressive fellow travelers and climate-change deniers. The latter are to be mocked and shunned. They’re certainly not to be tolerated in respectable places like newsrooms, classrooms or corporate or government offices. Moderates don’t exist in the Democratic vision of the world.

Zero-emissions nuclear energy, cleaner burning natural gas and energy-efficiency initiatives are suddenly no longer positive interim steps. The left even views celebrating cleaner air and declining CO2 emissions as undermining the urgency necessary to overhaul the U.S. economy through policies like the Green New Deal.

Second, Democrats have moved beyond their support for keeping abortion “safe, legal and rare,” as President Clinton put it in 1992, to denounce anyone who views abortion as regrettable or proposes any limitation on it. The party seems determined to run out its few remaining pro-life members, such as Rep. Dan Lipinski, who scraped through a primary battle against a progressive activist in 2018. “The fact that a deep-blue seat is advocating for many parts of the Republican agenda is extremely problematic,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said of Mr. Lipinski last fall.

Excommunications are the order of the day. Democrats are increasingly willing to sacrifice Catholic social-justice voters and others attracted by the party’s populist attacks on the power of large corporations and economic inequality. On the campaign trail, Mr. Sanders declared Saturday that “being pro-choice is an absolutely essential part of being a Democrat,” while self-styled moderate Pete Buttigieg twice ducked a question in an Iowa town hall last month asking him to affirm a party platform that would include pro-life Democrats. The mayor was willing only to restate his own position “a woman ought to be able to make that decision.”

There was a time when moderates could find common ground on measures like conscience clauses to protect health providers from being forced to violate their religious beliefs, the Hyde Amendment to keep taxpayers from subsidizing abortions, and restrictions on late-term abortion. Now, abortions must be celebrated in all places and times, Planned Parenthood must be funded without restriction or supervision, and dissenters must be treated as heretics.

Third, Democrats have moved beyond demanding legalization of same-sex marriage to insist on rearranging social norms based on the belief in “gender fluidity.” What was once a civil-rights movement focused on marriage has moved on to demands for individualized pronouns, access to opposite-sex bathrooms and violations of parental rights. Sen. Elizabeth Warren declared last month that she would have her pick for secretary of education vetted by a “young trans person.”

Democrats have no patience for former allies left behind by their rapidly leftward-shifting views. Tennis legend Martina Navratilova faced a fierce backlash when she questioned the fairness of transgender athletes competing in female sports. Traditional feminists who spent years fighting for equality of the sexes and against the notion of female inferiority now find some of their former fellow combatants declaring that sex is a social construct with no inherent meaning or value.

While Democrats have become more dogmatic in the Trump era, Republicans have demonstrated a new flexibility. To get the deregulation and judges they value, many have jettisoned orthodoxies on free trade, immigration, small government and entitlement reform. That may frustrate traditional conservatives, but it’s proving popular with voters increasingly disenchanted with both parties. It has been easier for Republicans to attract new voters, such as moderate Midwesterners, by modifying their traditional economic positions than for Democrats to tone down their social views. The left simply can’t compromise.

While Democrats may be able to harness intense anti-Trump sentiment to paper over their differences in the short term, Republicans are better positioned to meet voters where they are. Democrats will find it harder to build a winning coalition as long as they continue to treat disagreement as a moral failure. That may win plaudits in editorial boards and faculty lounges, but it won’t attract many new voters.

Mr. Jindal served as governor of Louisiana, 2008-16, and was a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.





Leave a Reply

Search All Posts