Eight years ago, the Democratic Party gambled that a young, inexperienced but charismatic senator could deliver the presidency and with it, sustained national electoral success. They were half-right: They got the presidency but lost the country.
It turns out that President Obama’s promised “fundamental transformation of the nation” was not what it was cracked up to be — and it instead cracked up his party.
Now, the party appears to be committing further suicide in real time by considering far-left radicals such as Keith Ellison to head the Democratic National Committee and keeping crusty old-guard liberals such as Nancy Pelosi in other leadership positions.
They have learned nothing from the Republican sweeps of 2010, 2014 and 2016 — because committed leftist ideologues can’t — won’t — adapt.
In 2008, a majority of Americans fell for the “hope and change” message and its messenger. Four years later, he had disappointed them, but they didn’t want to disappoint him, so he was re-elected.
This year, however, without Mr. Obama on the ticket, Americans finally felt free to reject another four years of high unemployment, anemic economic growth, unsustainable spending and record-breaking deficits and debt, unpopular and bankrupting socialized medicine, record numbers of people on food stamps and living in poverty, and the escalating threats of nuclear and other proliferation and Islamic fundamentalism.
The left’s multidecade grand plan — to change the very nature of the country by moving it toward European-style socialism — reached its pinnacle with Mr. Obama. And yet, those statist policies are — paradoxically — greatly responsible for Donald Trump’s win.
Mr. Obama had three main goals: to expand government as fast and as widely as possible; the ultimate objective of that was to expand the number of people dependent of government as fast and as widely as possible; and the ultimate objective of that was to leverage it into a permanent Democratic voting majority.
To achieve those goals, he chose to pit Americans against each other in order to make it easier to slide in his radical redistributionist agenda. He divided us by class, gender, race and age. He turned the American motto “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of Many, One”) upside down and into “Out of One, Many.” The American experiment could not go on as it once did if it were driven by divisions and envy rather than uniting values and common goals.
The other thing Mr. Obama believed was that if you expand government and dependency on it as quickly as possible, you take the sting out of a bad economy. The more government aid and programs to “take care” of you during an economic crisis, the less likely you are to throw the bums out who caused — or who are prolonging — the economic crisis.
Until Nov. 8, the left’s approach seemed to be working. Mr. Obama survived a weak economy while previous presidents — Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush — had not.
Take the big pain out of a bad economy by getting people dependent, win elections. Get that coveted permanent Democratic voting majority.
Or so they thought.
The American people put up with Mr. Obama and his leftist agenda because they wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. But once he was term-limited out, they term-limited out his policies and the bleak future they represented.
There are a few voices in the Democratic wilderness awake to this fact. Former congressman and outspoken liberal Barney Frank recently told The New Yorker that his party needs some serious self-examination, particularly with regard to losing the white working class. “If [Trump] delivers somehow and increases employment among the white working class, and increases prosperity, then we have a political problem,” he said.
He went on to suggest that Democrats be more flexible on issues such as environmental policy: “I saw in my district how much anger these issues generate. Our current position is bad politics and bad public policy.”
In Mr. Obama’s party, such words are heretical. But as Mr. Frank knows, his party is on life support, thanks to leftist overreach, abuse of power and a country left weaker than it was before Mr. Obama’s presidency.
Democrats are conflicted about how to proceed. But there is one thing they must do if they want to be relevant: leave Mr. Obama and his doctrinaire leftism behind, and move back to the center. If they do that, they may once again enjoy Bill Clintonesque electoral success. If they do not, they may well be consigned to the trash heap of history for a long time to come.
Mr. Obama’s presidency was a joyride for the ruthless, well-funded left. But it’s now come to a screeching halt, thanks to the American people, who aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel on this grand experiment in human liberty.
• Monica Crowley is editor of online opinion at The Washington Times.