- - Wednesday, January 30, 2019


With dozens of potential candidates, the Democratic presidential primary race promises to be a hot mess. Given the last Republican presidential primary cycle with its endless parade of candidates, it will be refreshing to see the hot mess happening on the other side for once.

Democrats have lived in the anti-Trump #Resistance bubble for so long that they believe they’ve got golden electoral odds in 2020. This has led a crowd of them, at various national, state and even local levels, to think they can successfully take on the president.

They also believe that if President Trump falls to impeachment or electoral defeat, the pendulum will swing far in the opposite direction, toward a fierce leftist progressivism. Each one of them wants desperately to ride that expected backlash and lead the new statist revolt.

Their gamble could pay off. The economy could falter, the special counsel and congressional investigations could result in Mr. Trump’s removal from office, an external event could throw everything into turmoil. And even if none of these events materializes, they still think the deplorable Mr. Trump will be easy pickings. Hence the stampede.

The one thing they’re overlooking, however, is Mr. Trump. With the exception of Hillary Clinton, none of them knows what it is to run against him. Love him or loathe him, he is the best instinctual politician in modern U.S. history.

In 2016, the political neophyte defeated 16 professional Republicans, some of whom had more than $100 million. He went on to crush the formidable Clinton machine, the even more formidable Obama machine, the mainstream media, the Deep State and the permanent federal bureaucracy as well as the international “community,” all of which were deeply opposed to him. That took extraordinary natural political gifts.

His unorthodox style has come under heavy criticism. But he has demonstrated an organic command of mass communications, particularly television and Twitter. And during the 2016 campaign, he was the master of the fatal insult: With one Trumpian backhand, his opponents were flat on their backs, their candidacies over. The more they tried to match him — Sen. Marco Rubio turning the insult tables on him, Gov. Jeb Bush whining about him, Mrs. Clinton belittling him with a haughty superiority — the more they fell behind.

The same held true for his press coverage: The more the media savaged him, the more his poll numbers climbed. His rallies drew tens of thousands of supporters, excited by the arrival, at long last, of a true fighter — for them.

No professional politician — on either side — can replicate what comes naturally to Mr. Trump.

This is not to say that whomever the Democrats nominate can’t beat him.

But today’s Democratic Party is rooted in the ascendant far-left, of centralized control, redistributionism and social justice. It’s a party at war with the U.S. Constitution (specifically the First and Second Amendments), free-market capitalism, the rule of law, enforced borders, American sovereignty and individual liberty. It is, in many ways, a revolutionary party, which is why there is the open embrace of socialism by new and old Democrats alike, from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Sen. Bernie Sanders and many in between.

The progressive base is where the energy and activism reside, hence the headlong rush by the potential Democratic candidates to the far left on as many issues as possible. That may be enough in leftist districts like the Bronx, which sent Miss Ocasio-Cortez to Congress. But in a nation that is still center-right, the Democrats’ ideological lurch will be problematic in a general election.

And they’ll face an additional complication. This time, Mr. Trump will have an astonishing record of success on which to run, from a stronger economy (assuming it holds) to a rebuilding military and more robust international U.S. position. And he’s accomplished all of this while under the cloud of a never-ending special counsel investigation and relentless assault by the media and assorted other domestic opponents. Imagine what he’d be able to accomplish without the brutally unfair, dishonest and politically motivated attacks.

As the large field of Democrats basks in their anti-Trump virtue-signaling, they tell themselves that he will be a weak and vulnerable incumbent. Even if that’s true, however, they clearly haven’t learned the lesson of 2016: Never underestimate him. Those who do usually meet a grisly political end.

It is possible that the backlash wave against Mr. Trump is so intense that it overwhelms the political flow he has masterfully directed since June 2015. If that happens, no amount of Trumpian political brilliance will be able to stop it. But if it doesn’t develop, every Democrat who believes they can unseat him will need all the luck they can get. That is if their ideological extremism, political blindness and hubris don’t do them in first.

• Monica Crowley is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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