Daniel Henninger: The New Stupid Party

In his latest article for the Wall Street Journal, Danieal Henninger discusses how “Democrats call Republicans the stupid party. But now, there’s dumb, and dumber.”

A constant of political life has been that there is only one “stupid party” in America—the Republican Party. Then one day you get out of bed, look out the window and what do you see? Democrats. The Democrats are turning themselves into the new stupid party of American politics.

In the liberal pundits’ telling, Republicans are the party of the yahoo heartland, the anti-abortion religious right and the anti-government tea party. The stupid party.

Of course this is a caricature. Besides, none of this bad-mouthing matters unless too many average voters conclude that a weird political fringe now represents the party’s core.

Which brings us to the Draft Elizabeth Warren movement.

Last week more than 300 former Obama staffers signed an open letter urging the famous Harvard Law School professor to run in 2016. Days earlier, two big progressive groups, MoveOn.org and Democracy for America, also pressed the first-term Massachusetts senator to seek the party’s presidential nomination.

The implicit logic of the Draft Warren movement is that after eight years of the Obama presidency, the American people want to move . . . further left.

However intriguing that proposition, the real problem for the political pros behind Draft Warren or even the Ready for Hillary super PAC is that the Democratic left’s high-publicity wing insists on doing stupid things in public that turn off more voters than they turn on.

The most publicized media story of recent times is the discredited Rolling Stone article about an alleged fraternity gang rape at the University of Virginia. For the media itself, the big story here was the magazine’s poor journalistic practices. But most people don’t care about that. What they saw until the story began to unravel was due process turned upside down—the fraternity judged guilty until proven innocent.

As designed by the U.S. Justice Department, campus investigations of sexual-abuse accusations under Title IX are subject to a weaker standard of due process. The left argues that justice for victims requires this exception to legal norms. But Democrats can’t claim to be surprised if their disruptions of American notions of guilt and innocence before the law cause some people to distance themselves from the party.

In October, 28 members of the Harvard Law School faculty—their politics ranging from left to right—signed an open letter to Harvard’s administration asserting that what the school calls its Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution “lacks the most basic elements of fairness and due process.”

Amid the recent, violent anti-police protests (whose political consequences will be real but unmeasurable), Smith College President Kathleen McCartney sent the student body an email titled, “All Lives Matter.” The phrase horrified Smith students. Her words, they said, diminished black lives. They demanded that Ms. McCartney issue a public apology. Which she did. This is a scene straight out of the public shamings of officials in China under Mao Zedong.

Last summer’s biggest campus story was the startling, serial banishments of commencement speakers for various political offenses as imagined by small factions of left-wing students.

In the midterm elections, support for Democrats among young voters, millennials, dropped six points.

Another sign of public fatigue for Democrats was the spectacle of Colorado Senate candidate Mark Udall’s “war on women” strategy becoming an object of mockery, not from the right, but everyone else. A party turns stupid when it keeps pushing obsessions that push people away.

The Obama administration’s resolute opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has cost the party the support of the Laborers International Union’s 500,000 members, plus their families and relatives. Would a smart party do that?

It won’t stop. One of Elizabeth Warren’s key constituencies—the Occupy Everything movement on campuses and in the streets—is wholly alienated from the private sector, like much of this new generation’s Democrats. A lot of men and women who go to work daily in the private sector surely have decided that they are the object of these attacks.

Sen. Warren’s fiery “middle-class” speeches are normal politics. But the activist left’s political compulsions are producing a lot of stuff that isn’t close to normal. It is craziness at the political margins, and like weeds, it is occupying the party’s public personality.

The left often says its ideas should move people out of their “comfort zone.” Whatever the ancient attractions of radical populism, discomfited people abandon the party of discomfort. In November’s election, 64% of white males voted Republican.

The GOP showed in the midterms that it had rescued itself with voters from terminal stupidity. The Democrats? I’d rate the chances of the party reining in its extremes at below zero.

Many traditional liberals still consider themselves JFK or Clinton Democrats. But that party is gone. The party’s presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, is going to be transformed into a Warren Democrat, the party’s future.

Some Democrats may console themselves in thinking the Republicans will always be stupid. Now, though, there’s dumb, and dumber.

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