You might think that the left would have learned its lesson after blundering into the election Donald Trump in 2016, but it seems two years to reflect on their defeat has not been enough time for Progressives to rethink the strategy that handed them the biggest electoral disaster in their history. The political drama surrounding the Kavanaugh appointment has been an orchestrated production by the left, and the result of this impassioned, well-planned campaign has only been a reprise of that disaster. In 2018, like 2016, the left has deployed a campaign of moral superiority and shame, and, like in 2016, it has only succeeded in ingratiating its target to the rest of the country. Failing to overcome Trump or Kavanaugh themselves, the progressives have settled for destroying all non-progressive opposition to Trump, and to and Kavanaugh.
Let’s look back to some arguments from Democrats in 2016, hoping to keep Trump out of the whitehouse:
“Real quotes from Donald Trump about women.”
The famous Our Principles PAC ad video should have been a red flag that the progressive attack on Trump was going in a dangerously self-gratifying direction. Perhaps the script was ruined in sanitizing it for publication, leaving only playground insults, but the message it sends to non-puritan America could not be more perfectly aligned with Trump’s own pitch. It should have been easy to make a New York billionaire appear alien to regular Americans, but instead, Our Principles PAC chose to attack Trump for vices common outside white liberal enclaves. Exchanges of profanity between men and women, or between races, or inhabitants of rival cities or followers of rival teams are a fixture of normal America; if the argument at a fender bender was as clean as Trump’s language you’d be surprised. So what we have in the anti-Trump video is a series of upper-class women holding up as diabolical immorality behaviors common in the rest of the country; the puritan moral standard is getting aggressive again, and prohibition is popping into people’s minds. It was a threatening move to shame Trump for merely calling a woman “fat pig,” in front of millions of people who know some women they would call far worse. It wrecks the truce between the puritan aristocracy and the rougher side of America when a non-gentleman is attacked for being ungentlemanly; it’s one thing to keep the F-bombs off television, it’s another to censor the plumber.
And this absurd phenomenon gained traction and a life of its own; every attempt to scandalize Trump the way you would do to a traditional politician instead made his outsider status more credible, and appeared as a broad attack on Americans outside the puritan upper class. He could have been effectively challenged (perhaps) by a genuine working-class hero, but once the left committed itself to attacking Trump for what he shared with blue-collar America, they became like foreigners themselves. In attempting to ostracize Trump, they threw most of the country out of their clique with him.
The phenomenon of the dog-whistle comes into its own in this situation: The popularity of Trump is already being driven by the attacks aimed at him, which inadvertently hit the general public (blowback) when Trump begins displaying “dog-whistled” or hidden racism. His opponents on the left perceive this as a secret signal intended to enlist racists to Trump’s side without alerting the masses who would condemn him for overt racism. In truth, intentionally or not, Trump gained an enormous number of votes by signaling racism not to the racists, but to the left. What can a few racists joining up with Trump do, compared to the way a hysterical leftist media can galvanize millions of Americans outside the progressive fold? Rachel Maddow’s condemnation is worth a thousand times more votes than is David Duke’s endorsement; Trump secured both without convicting himself of racism in the eyes of normal Americans. And the way he did it was by dog-whistling; he behaved in ways that sophisticated leftist intellectuals would perceive as racist, but would seem innocuous to people outside this avant-garde. The very elitism of the progressives turned sharply against them, as their ability to find the privilege and racism hidden in every facet of American life turned into a paranoid witch-hunt in the eyes of their fellows. They were correct to blame dog-whistling for contributing to their defeat; they are having a harder time realizing who the dog is.
The left could have drawn all kinds of lessons from this experience. Most obviously, they could realize from the electoral map that their actual clique is smaller than they had thought, and mere non-conformity with progressive morals is not a huge offense in the eyes of most Americans. It had been believed that the majority of the country was progressive, when it turns out that much of the country was simply willing to go along with progressivism in politics as long as it stayed in its lane. Perhaps a moderation of the agenda was in order, to give the voters time to adapt and catch up with a leftist elite that had run too far ahead. Certainly a more inclusive leftist vision would be attractive; leftism as a vehicle for normal Americans to shed the evils it condemned, rather than be judged for them. We could reflect back to the election of Barack Obama, which gave normal voters a chance to satisfyingly distance themselves from racism. Contrast this with the continuous self-flagellation over racism and misogyny demanded in 2016; the purity standard has been raised so severely that the unsophisticated have no chance of escaping charges of racism or sexism. The left won the presidency when they made it easy to be anti-racist, they lost it when they made it impossible.
What have they learned instead? To judge by the Kavanaugh controversy, nothing. More than two years after their chastening in the presidential race, the politicians, intellectuals, and twitter warriors take up their stations again, and march in the same formation into the same massacre. What’s most interesting is that this repeated self-destruction is initiated by the left; the right is not deploying some brilliant defensive strategy or really any sort of strategy, they are at least as disorganized and divided as are their opponents. The left, if anything, is more capable of concerted action than is the rough coalition of establishment Republicans, Trump admirers, surviving neocons, and all the traditional fragments of the American right, who were no more prepared for a Trump presidency than were the confident leftists of 2015. But in the confrontation between left and right in 2018, it seems a bad plan is even worse than no plan, and the better-organized leftists have managed to pull themselves together once again and successfully alienate the public, unite their enemies, and silence all their potential allies across the aisle.
The two prongs of the attack on Kavanaugh are allegations of sexual misconduct and the expectation that he will undo Roe v. Wade. Again, notice the tight focus on leftist pet issues; Kavanaugh’s record on presidential authority, privacy, and his connection to the Bush dynasty are all overlooked in favor of feminist talking points. Notice also that the overlooked offenses are against the whole country, while the emphasized offenses are of the same kind as many of Trump’s: Only progressives will buy them. In bringing in a decades-old allegation with no witnesses and no evidence, the Democrats must have known that Kavanaugh’s supporters would simply disbelieve the lone accuser, just as his opponents would simply disbelieve Kavanaugh. The divisiveness of this move is transparent, the question is why Dianne Feinstein and the rest would attempt it after suffering a humiliating electoral defeat in the same arena? Had they believed that a majority of Americans would side with them, such a divisive play might well isolate and humiliate the opposing minority, but why inflict this fate on yourself? Why choose accusations you knew many would dismiss, rather than the well-documented rulings sure to draw attacks from civil-liberties leftists, small-government conservatives, and libertarians?
In the case of Roe v. Wade the situation is even worse: The protesters warning of the end of legalized abortion in the United States are positively selling Kavanaugh to the right; for them, Roe v. Wade is probably the single most hated federal law. The rank and file conservatives understand that in this matter, the progressives are their direct enemies, and anything Planned Parenthood hates, they love. The Dr. Ford allegations are a conviction of crime in the eyes of the left, and an acquittal in the eyes of the right. But threatening Roe v. Wade is a crime to the left and heroism to the right; it is as if Kavanaugh’s enemies could not bear to associate with any but their own kind, their progressivism is too pure to touch anything but progressive causes. And as a consequence they are his strongest practical defenders, putting the spotlight on his most attractive quality to their enemies, and obscuring everything else behind the promise of an end to legalized abortion.
The left, particularly the senate Democrats, have worked hard to define the terms of the debate in this way, that is, in a way that has led directly to the confirmation of Kavanaugh to the supreme court. By leading the Republicans and the broader right into a divisive contest over feminist issues, they have led them away from their own reasons to oppose Kavanaugh as a judge. And for its part, the right has reflexively followed the left’s cues and said, “This is our man.” It is possible that no other force could so successfully coordinate so diverse and confused a coalition as the American right in 2018 than have the opposing crowds of shouting protesters and scolding media outlets. The left is the right’s most effective leadership, it practically dictates the right’s every move when the only thing the right agrees on is opposing the progressive agenda. In the wake of the Kavanaugh protests it is plain that the white supremacists were wrong to call their asinine rallies “Unite the Right,” that title clearly belongs to the pink hats and feminist slogans marching through the major cities to give us first Donald Trump, then Brett Kavanaugh.