Conservative writer cautions GOP: Just because Democrats are moving left doesn’t mean they’ll lose in 2020
A recurring theme in the right-wing media is that the Democratic Party has moved so far to the left that President Donald Trump is practically guaranteed to win a second term. But not everyone on the right believes that a left-of-center presidential candidate like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is unelectable in 2020. And in a new article for the American Conservative, veteran journalist Robert W. Merry (author of the book “President McKinley: Architect of the American Century”) argues that in fact, a “democratic socialist” could be elected president in the United States next year.
A long list of far-right pundits have been insisting that if Sanders and his protégée, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, had their way, the U.S. would turn into Raul Castro’s Cuba. But Merry, although clearly right-wing philosophically, doesn’t engage in such hysteria. Merry describes Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez as proponents of European-style “democratic socialism”—not full-fledged communism—and he doesn’t see Sanders as unelectable.
“There is a strong prospect that 2020 will see the emergence of a new leftist president who represents democratic socialism of the European style—a brand of politics eschewed by America since at least the end of World War II,” Merry writes. And he goes on to list four reasons—or as he describes them, “axioms”—why he feels that way.
First, Merry writes, the 2020 election will be a referendum on the incumbent president. If U.S. voters consider Trump unacceptable, the alternative could prevail—even if that alternative is left-of-center.
Second, according to Merry, the U.S. opts for “experimentation” in “politically unsettled times.” Such “experimentation,” the conservative writer says, has ranged from Trump’s victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 to Republican Abraham Lincoln’s win in 1860 (when the GOP was a new party) to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s electoral landslide over incumbent President Herbert Hoover in 1932.
“During the Great Depression,” Merry recalls, “Franklin Roosevelt captured the presidency for the Democrats after the GOP had maintained a hold on the office for 56 of the previous 72 years. One of FDR’s recurrent campaign themes was the need for governmental experimentation in a time of economic crisis. This represented a case study in referendum politics mixed with a widespread national desire for change.”
Axiom 3, according to Merry: “socialism is on the rise in America.” Many Americans, Merry writes, believe that the middle class has been struggling in the U.S.—and he argues that a widespread disdain for “the country’s elites” worked to Trump’s advantage in 2016 just as it can work to the advantage of Sanders now.
“Much has been written of late about rising ‘inequality’ in the country,” Merry explains. “A lot of it has been tendentious, but there is a growing perception that the country’s elites have fostered policies from which they have massively benefitted while leaving the middle class in a state of economic decline. This perception happens to be correct, and it is the single largest factor driving American politics today. It elevated Trump to the White House.”
Merry’s fourth and final axiom is that a presidential candidate can win with “just enough votes in just the right states.” Trump, Merry notes, demonstrated that in 2016—and so can a “democratic socialist” in 2020.
“A lot could happen over the next two years,” Merry observes. “But the idea that the Democrats are killing their prospects for 2020 by lurching leftward isn’t based on sound analytical thinking.”
Merry concludes his piece by stressing that the U.S. could, in 2020, end up with “socialist governance.”
“It’s possible that the country could get, for the first time in its history, an experiment in socialist governance, mixed with a far-left push on high-voltage social issues such as immigration, political correctness and racial politics,” Merry asserts. “That would be a recipe for failure, leaving the country even more desperate for political leadership to restore stability.”