David Brooks: Why on Earth is Pelosi supporting the crazy Trumpists?

Democrats think far-right candidates will be easier to beat in November. But what it they aren’t?

(Jabin Botsford | Pool) President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., look on.

The Democratic Party is behaving recklessly and unpatriotically. So far, Democrats have spent tens of millions to help Trumpist candidates in Republican primaries.

In Illinois alone, the Democratic Governors Association and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker spent at least $30 million to attack a Trumpist’s moderate gubernatorial opponent. In Pennsylvania, a Democratic campaign spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads intended to help a Trumpist candidate win the GOP gubernatorial primary. A political action committee affiliated with Nancy Pelosi worked to boost far-right Republican House candidates in California and Colorado.

They are doing it because they think far-right Trumpist candidates will be easier to beat in the general elections than more moderate candidates.

What the Democrats are doing is sleazy in the best of circumstances. If you love your country more than your party, you should want the best candidates to advance in either party. And in these circumstances, what they are doing is insane: The far-right candidates whom Democrats are supporting could easily wind up winning.

Many Democrats, living in their own information bubble and apparently having learned nothing from 2016, do not seem to understand the horrific electoral landscape they are facing. They do not seem to understand how much their business-as-usual approach could lead to a full Republican takeover in 2025 — which, as this week’s Jan. 6 insurrection hearing reminded us yet again, would be a disaster for our democracy.

Many Democrats hope that the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision will mobilize their voters for the coming midterms, and that seems to have happened, at least in the short term. But I’m convinced this election will primarily be about the economy and the existential state of the country. Things look extremely grim for the ruling party.

A staggering 83% of Americans believe the economy is poor or not so good, according to a May Wall Street Journal-NORC poll. And an equally staggering 83% of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country, according to a Gallup poll.

Parties get punished when they make mistakes. Recently, Democrats have made the kind of mistakes that make voters furious.

Liberal economists underestimated the inflation threat, and Democratic fiscal policy, ignoring that threat, seems to have escalated it. The Democratic Party as a whole became associated with progressives who saw policing simply through a racial injustice lens. That’s an important lens, but progressives ignored the public safety lens and were unprepared for the widespread public anger over the increase in crime.

Similarly, many progressives argued that cancel culture wasn’t a thing or was being severely exaggerated. Americans who are afraid to think out loud think the left has become too censorious, and the Democratic Party once again is held guilty by association. Progressives have also largely failed to address the shortcomings of their governing model. The rampant inequality, homelessness and other social ills plaguing San Francisco and other cities are there for all to see.

We are living in an age of menace, an age when people feel unsafe on a variety of fronts. These are ages when voters tend to flock to conservative parties, which they associate with law and order.

And then there is the underlying problem, which has gone unaddressed since Donald Trump surged to his unexpected victory in 2016, which is that while Democrats support many popular policies, progressives are associated with a series of social and cultural values that are unpopular with most Americans. According to a new More in Common survey, 69% of Americans believe that America is a country where if you get a good education, develop your talents and are open to innovation, you can do anything. Only 36% of progressive activists agree with this.

That’s just a basic difference in how people see the country, and time and time again Democratic politicians have been punished for the messages that come out of progressive educational and cultural institutions.

The Republican Party has grown pretty extreme over the past few years. But it’s important to remember Americans believe that the Democratic Party has grown extreme, too. According to a CNN survey, 46% of Americans believe the GOP is “too extreme” and 48% believe the Democratic Party is “too extreme.” My guess is that this is not about Democratic domestic policies, many of which are popular, but about progressive cultural and social stances. It’s about people feeling alienated from metropolitan elites.

I’ve had a recurring mystification over the past six years: How is it possible that Democrats are not crushing these guys? The GOP has worked full time to disgrace itself over these years. And yet experts expect the Republicans to easily retake the House and perhaps the Senate. That’s kind of amazing when you stop to think about it.

And this is all going to get catastrophically worse for Democrats if the economy further deteriorates and if a recession comes.

In 2020, Biden was the candidate who didn’t seem to be pinioned to the coastal elites. But Democrats are still being battered because of that association. And what are they doing to fix the problem? Spending money to support Trumpists.

Those crazies could be running the country in a few years.

(Nam Y. Huh | AP photo) New York Times columnist David Brooks at the University of Chicago, Jan. 19, 2012.

David Brooks is a columnist for The New York Times.