- - Sunday, June 23, 2019

Democrats are becoming the party of paralysis. On issue after issue, they are unable to move because of simultaneous external and internal risks. They cannot act on the increasing demands of an increasingly radical left for fear of alienating mainstream America; yet, they cannot admit they are ignoring this left’s agenda for fear of alienating this ascendant constituency.

Three disparate issues demonstrate the Democratic Party’s defining paralysis. The impeachment of President Trump, immigration and infrastructure all show Democrats trapped between America’s moderates and their immoderate base. Unable to move, they seek ways to avoid taking real action.

In the case of impeachment, the Democrats’ approach is open-ended. Consider the conundrum. Despite having had years of investigations and hearings, they claim to need more. Yet, simultaneously, they vociferously argue that President Trump has committed crimes worthy of impeachment. Still, they refuse to move forward on impeachment — despite a House majority comprised of many members who won by calling for impeachment.

The impugning of Mr. Trump is one thing; the impeachment of Mr. Trump another. In the former, Democrats can be judge, jury and executioner. In the latter, they can be none of them.

Should Democrats move to impeach Mr. Trump, they are only the prosecutor. The judge would be the U.S. Supreme Court’s chief justice, and the jury, the Senate, which will never get the two-thirds needed to convict Mr. Trump. Worst for Democrats would be the American public’s role. Instead of being Mr. Trump’s executioner, they would become his exonerator, following a prolonged exercise they opposed in the first place.



Democratic leaders know all this, yet their radicalized base demands they ignore it. They therefore must equivocate. They have turned impeachment from the “Dance of the Seven Veils,” into one of 700 — desperately trying to hold their base’s attention by prolonging the process, while trying to convince America there is nothing to see in what they are doing.

When it comes to illegal immigration, Democrats’ default solution is open borders. They are paralyzed by activists who refuse the admission a crisis even exists — or that laws are broken. Because of their base, they cannot offer solutions, but to the rest of America, they cannot admit doing nothing. As a result, they are stuck with the status quo — i.e., de facto open borders — pursuing it with sanctuary cities and calls to abolish ICE.

The Democrats’ solution to infrastructure is open wallets. Having reached agreement with the president that a need existed to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, they immediately “up-up-and-awayed” the ante. Their base’s fingerprints are again all over their position.

Despite being what traditionally has been the king of congressional spending bills, Democrats still had to expand it by making it more expansive than just the commonly considered transportation infrastructure. Their leaders’ 4/29 letter to Mr. Trump stated: “We should go beyond transportation and into broadband, water, energy, schools, housing and other initiatives.” In other words, every one of their conceivable constituencies had to get a piece, too, if Democrats were to buy internal peace.

In each of these examples, Democrats have resorted to three different “open” routes — open-ended, open borders and open wallets — to avoid being trapped between America’s mainstream and their extreme. Conventional wisdom’s cynical interpretation is that Democrats adroitly kept Mr. Trump from major policy wins ahead of next year’s elections. The real reason is deeper and more internal.

Democrats grind to a halt because proposals that will appease their increasingly assertive left will alienate the rest of America; while the policies that will attract mainstream America will alienate their extreme left. Easier, then, to do nothing.

It is easy to misinterpret Democrats’ stances as simply anti-Trump truculence. Doing so is to lose the bigger story of political paralysis behind the mask of partisan posturing. Instead, the Democratic Party’s real rationale goes much deeper and will assuredly outlast Mr. Trump.

In reality, Mr. Trump has become Democrats’ perfect cover. He allows them to hide their increasing paralysis behind an artificial appearance of unity. When Mr. Trump is gone, so, too, will be Democrats’ unity and their division from mainstream America fully apparent.

America’s donkey resembles Buridan’s ass. The 14th century French philosopher posited an equally hungry and thirsty donkey placed equidistance between a pile of hay and a pale of water. Unable to move to one without turning away from the other, it died of hunger and thirst.

Democrats’ political and Buridan’s philosophical predicaments are the same. Unless Democrats are careful, the results will be as well.

• J.T. Young served in the Office of Management and at the Treasury Department.

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