The Political Law of The Mirror

Whatever you think is about to happen in the other party is going to happen to your party first.

Democrats thought they could indulge themselves in a long primary because the Republicans looked sure to head to a contested convention with the unlikeliest of candidates leading the pack, Donald Trump. They thought Republican disunity would hand the White House to the Democrats in 2016. Instead, it is becoming increasingly likely that the opposite will happen and that the Democratic party will split into two de facto sub parties and watch Donald Trump become President, or, in what now seems the maximal scenario, Hillary wins a close election but the Dems don’t make gains in Congress worth much.

In 1992, the Republican party also seemed to be in trouble. The Democrats had a 38-year long winning streak in the House and had just scored the White House. Instead, the Republicans took control of Congress by moving to the right and becoming increasingly more hostile and whose full-court press against President Clinton surely led to the election of President Bush despite the peace and prosperity of the 90s.

This works two ways. It looked like the Republicans were immortal between 2002 and 2005. But the public finally caught up with the craziness of the Bush administration about 5 years too late to really change things and threw Congress and then the White House to the Democrats in 2006-08.

Of course how it looks isn’t necessarily born out by the data we have. Republicans seem far unhappier with things now in their party than Democrats do, and above all, Democrats still love President Obama, who has very high approval for this time in his term. We can look at that and say maybe Hillary is OK after all.

But what we know about how similar scenarios played out in the past under similar facts can’t accurately forecast as bizarre of an election year as this one, can it? Some people will not be able to stomach the idea of Donald Trump with the nuclear codes; for others, they will have had 6 months to get used to the idea.

Anger and amnesia are driving this, along with ADD. I am better off than I was 8 years ago by a mile and better than 6 years ago by a hard to measure amount. What may be hard for some people to put together is that we may not be better off than we were 10 years ago or 20.

Somehow this is generating a world where people’s long histories and records are casually discarded as irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what someone did 20 years ago. It matters what they’re saying now. It doesn’t even matter if there is no chance what is being promised can be brought about, or, if it does, it will result in a calamity that will unleash even worse anger.

It’s very tempting to let Trump try and do what he’s saying and watch him fail miserably, but in the 4 minimum years it will take to remove him, people will suffer. We can’t make gambits with this just to prove a point.

As for the rancor in the Democratic Party, it’s a depressing lesson in facing the fact that, at least at the grassroots level, “both sides do it” is true.

If Trump wins, the Bernie people will say they told us so, that Hillary was a bad candidate. If she loses, that will be almost certainly a correct claim to make, but it won’t have helped that they couldn’t put aside their feelings for her to help out, and it will certainly not prove that Sanders would have done better (the same polls that show him beating Trump, by the way, are the same ones Sanders has to shove aside to convince anyone he has had a chance in the primaries after March 15). Sanders’s label of social democracy is attractive to the left, myself included. The problem is, his implementation of it doesn’t pass even the lightest scrutiny.

But the problem is, there will be no way to prove this and I suspect that the core of Sanders supporters after a Clinton defeat will never accept the blame and will in fact feel vindicated. The other party is prepared for the Trump loss and will simply return the conservatives to power. They caught a break on this one, because usually after 3 presidency losses, a party moderates. Now they can credibly maintain it was a failure to be true conservatives that cost them, if it does.