On Sunday, Vox’s Laken Jaberg explored exactly what life would be like in a future America if Democrats win the 2020 presidential election, the GOP shifted left and parts of the middle class retreated into communities that have moved even further to the right. I disagree with that political prediction. There’s plenty we could agree on here. In the world of economics, for example, we could agree to disagree that the average American, or anybody around the world, would be better off if the global economy descended into cataclysm. We could agree to disagree about wage stagnation and, most importantly, those who are struggling right now could agree with Douthat that inequality is worse than anything that occurred before the 2008 crash. The same goes for education, health care and, more generally, the incredibly difficult issue of American economic policy.
But in politics, nothing is as simple as it seems. In the end, there’s simply no way to make Douthat’s vision of America as he imagines it really go away. The TPP, the so-called One China policy, the flight to the right aren’t going anywhere, no matter how aggressively we try to rewrite the future we’ve created. Liberal Democrats should stop worrying about losing ground among the less wealthy, or the blue-collar worker who is a racist. The best, if grim, path ahead is to warn the American people that things aren’t working. If the Bush II years taught us anything, it’s that the American electorate is sensitive to a whiff of powerlessness and despair. If President Donald Trump really does try to explain away the fact that the economy is headed in the wrong direction, remember that when the One China policy becomes bipartisan orthodoxy, and that Americans begin living in Trump’s America, it’s hard to think the best of him.
In a country as fractured as ours, with so many people with different interests, the election isn’t really about destiny, but about our willingness to live with the reality of the moment. A good voter is someone who is willing to choose the alternative that feels most likely to bring better results. Unfortunately, for Douthat, that’s not what Democrats have or will provide to the country.