The politics of identity and attack have supplanted the old liberal tradition, which favored national unity.
The next big change came in 1992 with the nomination and election of Bill Clinton. His moderate platform was similar to his peers’, but his political style was a departure. The concept of a permanent campaign came to the White House. Every move was measured against its short-term political value to the president. The Clinton team launched personal attacks against policy dissenters and against women who brought charges of sexual misconduct against the president. In 1996, Mr. Clinton accused Republican nominee Bob Dole of “trying to destroy Social Security and Medicare” through his support of a bipartisan entitlement-reform effort Mr. Clinton himself had previously praised. By 2001, when Mr. Clinton left the scene, say-anything attack politics had become the normal order of the day in the Democratic Party.
President Obama brought hope of a more tolerant, less deeply partisan politics. But he was surrounded by Clinton alumni who, for the most part, kept on as before. His signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, was introduced and passed only by Democrats—a sharp contrast to the bipartisan approaches taken by Johnson with his Medicare and Medicaid proposals, and by Ted Kennedy with his Medicare prescription-drug legislation. To pass ObamaCare, the White House and its allies launched a full-court press against all House Democrats, including moderates with doubts about its cost and coverage. The legislation passed narrowly, but 63 House Democrats lost their seats in the 2010 midterm elections. That left the body sharply divided between Republican and Democratic partisans, stalling the administration’s legislative agenda for the remaining six years of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
To Beat Trump, Get a Grip
Democrats won’t win in 2020 by calling him a ‘traitor’ and doubling down on identity politics.
If precedent holds, he can be unseated in 2020 by a candidate perceived as his opposite: experienced, serious, knowledgeable about policy. If Democrats attempt to rush the process, amid current charges that Mr. Trump is a “traitor” and Russian agent and that his Supreme Court nominee is an extremist, they will further energize their take-it-to-the-streets wing but alienate all but partisan Northeast and Pacific Coast voters.
.. Mr. Trump stumbled in Helsinki, but stumbles do not amount to treason.
.. Democrats and some media are now calling for Mr. Trump’s impeachment, presuming that a post-November Democratic House majority would bring such a vote. But it is a risky strategy that would polarize Americans deeply. The case against him would have to be airtight and based on indisputable fact. Otherwise Mr. Trump would be strengthened rather than harmed... Most voters knew before the election that Mr. Trump was a crude, freewheeling, womanizing egotist, a man who very well might finance his ventures with money from sketchy sources. They discounted all those negative factors because he was so obviously different from the establishment candidates in whom they had lost trust. Think about it: In one campaign, Mr. Trump polished off the Bushes, the Clintons, and even Ted Cruz. Voters did not love Mr. Trump; they rejected the other guys... Ranked first, not surprisingly, was Mr. Sanders, given his strong 2016 showing. Also near the top was former Vice President Joe Biden, who relates well to middle-American voters. But most of the rest of the contenders take an angry, accusatory line toward Mr. Trump. Leading the pack were Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, from Massachusetts and California, respectively, where bashing the president earns cheers from the party faithful... Shrill attacks and identity politics got a strong start during Bill Clinton’s two presidential terms. Under fire on multiple fronts, the Clinton White House took an aggressive posture toward critics, asserting that it was just “fighting back.” Democrats repeated that pattern in President Obama’s 2012 campaign. They labeled Mitt Romney, a temperate former governor of Massachusetts, as antiwoman, antigay, antiblack, anti-Latino, anti-immigrant and a tool of big finance... Most voters see abortion and gay rights as accepted issues and wonder why Democrats present them as threatened. They do not see racism as on the rise or the country as moving back toward Jim Crow. On the contrary, they see several decades in which the barriers to equal opportunity, legal or otherwise, have been steadily dismantled. They do worry about the problems of big-city neighborhoods: violence, drug use, broken families, unemployment, daunting dropout and incarceration rates. But they see little evidence that “white privilege” is the cause.They like immigrants and refugees but generally believe everyone should take a legal path to citizenship.