To answer the rhetorical question above, I doubt it. A party that loses to complete idiots like George W. Bush and Donald Trump is so seriously out of touch as to suggest that Barack Obama’s election was a recession-induced fluke. I’d like to see a truly progressive alternative rise from Democratic ashes. But let’s assume that resuscitation is possible. How could Democrats respond to their latest thumping? A few ideas:
1. Send old warhorses to the glue factory.
Some of the people listed below were ones I admired—back when both of us were younger, that adjective being the key word. A new Democratic Party needs to look like tomorrow, not yesterday. Under no circumstances should any of the following play so much as an advisory role in a Demo remake:
Hillary Clinton: Second-wave feminism in a third-wave world. Her time came and went.
Bill Clinton: It baffles me why anyone admires this sleaze ball Republican in Democratic clothing.
Nancy Pelosi: Like Hillary minus the pants suit.
Russ Feingold: Admirable man, but his ship sailed decades ago.
Jerry Brown: Governor Moonbeam is now Governor Sunset.
Debbie Waserman-Schultz: Perhaps the person most culpable for Trump’s presidency. You’re fired, Debbie!
John Kerry: “I used to be a contender! Instead of a hack, which is what I am.”
Anthony Weiner: Like a sheet whose stain can’t be removed and eventually you just toss it.
Charlie Crist: Was never really a Democrat, but gets to play one on TV every other election.
Evan Bayh: How many elections can one man lose, before he sleeps in the sand?
Jim Webb: Loose cannons should be left to rust.
Assorted Kennedys: "I knew Jack Kennedy… and you're no Jack Kennedy."
Democratic National Committee:. Like a used Cadillac in a hybrid world. No one is buying.
AFL-CIO: These moribund bureaucrats are a bigger threat to the future of unions more than an offshore rig-full of corporate raiders.
2. Admit that conservatives might be right about (some parts of) immigration policy.
Democrats shouldn't surrender to xenophobia, but a blind man can see that current immigration laws are absurd. If you want open borders, make the case, but if the USA is going to have any immigration laws, they need to be rational and enforceable. What might a middle path look like?
a. Declare a reset date. Trump’s promise to deport all illegals can't be kept. Hammer out a sensible reset date and offer a path to citizenship for those on the correct side of it. Write off the rest. It's elemental: No one else gets to ignore laws they don't like.
b. Substantially raise the number for annual legal immigration. Give priority to those from the Western hemisphere. America needs more laborers and, frankly, it’s cruel to cherry pick intellectuals and professionals from developing nations. Many nations have policies that won’t allow the hiring of foreign professionals unless no current national can do the job.
c. Dramatically expand the number of refugee entries, but….
d. Implement much better screening of all entering the USA. No one should enter until a thorough background check has been completed: fingerprint and photo database searches, Interpol checks, extensive interviewing, etc.)
e. Issue unalterable identity cards for all Americans and legal aliens. This would also take the wind from the sails of the voter ID crowd. And, yes, the states have to pay for these and have to make card centers accessible to all.
f. Punish employers who hire undocumented workers.
No documentation? The employer is jailed, fined severely, and pays the costs of prosecution and deportation of illegally hired workers. Let’s see how many undocumented workers are mowing Phoenix golf courses when CEOs are cooling their heels in jail.
3. This will rankle Kumbaya liberals, but admit that conservatives are right: There really is a clash of civilizations.
Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations argues that cultural and religious ideologies have supplanted political views as the chief source of global conflict in the post-Cold War era. It's a very short walk from Huntington to an Islamophobic revival of the Crusades, but denial of all legitimacy is an equally short stroll to surrendering to Islamofascism/Islamomisogny.
Democrats need a coherent middle path. It would entail a degree of profiling, which could be massaged by enacting extra layers of screening for anyone seeking entry into the U.S. from volatile regions. Still, it's facile to ignore the fact that this falls disproportionately upon Muslims. Democrats are correct that very few of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are terrorists, but there is a war against the West. Attacks on Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Paris, and New York simply cannot be ignored.
Part of the screening process should be cultural. Americans should stop apologizing for secular values, cultural diversity, materialism, support for Israel, and pluralism. The message should be unambiguous: a precondition for coming to the United States is acceptance of these values in word and deed.
4. Abandon the Obama Doctrine for the Carter Doctrine, as tempered by George F. Kennan.
Barack Obama put forth a vision of how the world ought to operate: adversaries speaking to each other in search of common ground. There's no need to close that door, but it's too utopian to be the cornerstone of foreign policy. In practice, the Obama Doctrine gives tyrants, theocrats, and authoritarians too much leeway.
Jimmy Carter had a better idea: peg U.S. foreign aid and trade to human rights. Ronald Reagan gave priority to trade as if human rights didn't matter and was a damned fool for doing so. It's idiotic to send massive aid to wealthy Saudi Arabia, one of the least democratic nations in the world; to the failed state of Pakistan, a major den of terrorism; to the authoritarian monsters of Honduras and Haiti; to Turkey, an oppressor of Kurds and an Islamic state supporter; or to scores of other nations low on the human rights scale. Stop shedding crocodile tears for Palestine (#110 of 167 on that list), and stop blaming Israel (#34) for its woes. Carter's economic hammer was a better idea.
George Kennan advised dividing the globe into nations core and peripheral to American interests. The Obama Doctrine is more moral, but Kennan's is more pragmatic. Trump may be onto something in his critique of NATO, which consistently asks North Americans to bear the troop and financial burdens that Europeans should assume. Kennan would have said the Iraq War should have never been fought; it's not in U.S. core interests. He'd have said the same of Syria. Various global nightmares break our hearts but, as we've tragically seen in Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and elsewhere, U.S. intervention that goes beyond humanitarian aid causes more problems than it alleviates. Democrats could argue with history on their side that the only justifiable U.S. military intervention since World War Two was toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan after 9/11. That didn't go very well either. It's time to put the kibosh on GOP reversion of the Department of Defense into the Department of War.
Next up (in order): A Democratic Economic and Social Agenda; a non-Democratic Party progressive platform.