Saturday, November 16, 2019


In an opinion section that employs David Brooks, Bret Stephens, Frank Bruni, Thomas Friedman, and Ross Douthat, it can be hard to concoct a "Democrats are doomed!" argument that really stands out. But Roger Cohen of The New York Times has given it his best shot. Here's Cohen's thesis: Democrats are in deep trouble unless they find a way to win over upper-middle-class older white men who have been members of the Republican Party all their lives.
Chuck Hardwick, lifelong Republican, former Pfizer executive, now retired in Florida, voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but not without misgivings. He’d met him in the 1980s and noted a “consuming ego.” Still, elections are about choices, and he disliked the “scheming” Clintons. He was mad at the media for first mocking Trump during the primaries and then turning on him as nominee.
So Hardwick has been a Republican all his life and was an executive in the pharmaceutical industry and is so plugged in that he once had a chance to meet Trump personally. Hardwick's adjective for Bill and Hillary Clinton is "scheming" and he thinks Trump was treated badly by the media. (Translation: Like many white male septuagenarians, he watches Fox every day.)
Three years later, Hardwick, 78, whose political career included a stint as speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly....
So not only is he a lifelong Republican, he was a top Republican officeholder. (Cohen doesn't mention the fact that Hardwick was in such good standing in the GOP that he ran for governor as a Republican in 1989 and finished a strong third, with 21% of the vote. The winner of that primary, Jim Coulter, got 29%. Later, Hardwick briefly lived in New York City and served in the administration of Rudy Giuliani.)
Three years later, Hardwick ... is unsure how he will vote in November 2020. Trump confounds him. He admires the president’s energy, his courage in taking on difficult issues like China “stealing its way to prosperity,” his corporate tax cuts, and what he sees as a revitalizing impact on American ambition.

“But if I was on a board that had hired Trump as C.E.O.,” Hardwick tells me, “I’d have to say to him: ‘You’ve got good traits but you can’t manage people. You’re fired.’”
You know what the technical term is for people who like Trump's corporate tax cuts and his "revitalizing impact on American ambition"? Republican voters. (And yes, "American ambition" was at such a low ebb during the Obama years. Wouldn't you agree, Jeff Bezos? How about you, Mark Zuckerberg?)
... Hardwick views the impeachment inquiry as a “damaging distraction.” Trump’s reduction of a large European state, Ukraine, to a potential source of dirt on leading Democratic candidate, Vice President Joe Biden, was “not good but not worthy of impeachment.”
(Many American voters, even those who aren't lifelong Republicans, like to find a middle ground on issues they don't really understand. On impeachment, Republicans are working hard to occupy both the right and middle positions, and are having some success -- "Trump is a great president who's done nothing wrong and is the victim of a coup" being the rightmost position, while "Trump did something that's bad but not impeachable" is the center position. This is a problem Democrats need to address, and I'm not sure what the solution is.)
The broader issues, for him, are Trump’s “inept, clumsy and provocative” style on issues like immigration (even if he is right to take it on); his utter fiscal irresponsibility; and a sense that a second term of Trump tantrums “would do great damage to the Republic.”
But not as much damage to the Republic as a tax increase on the rich, amirite?
For Hardwick, Elizabeth Warren is not a choice. He likes her American story, her humble beginnings, her quick mind, but thinks she’s too far left on economic policy for the country to accept.
Yup, I'm right.

And Cohen agrees with Hardwick:
That’s probably right. When you want to make the United States more like Europe, you always run the risk of destroying what makes America unique: its hustle and unrelenting creative churn. America was born in contradistinction to Europe not as an extension of it. That identity is nonnegotiable.
Yes, America was an ennui-ridden nation with no hustle and creative churn back when our top marginal tax rates were in the 90s, which was ... (checks notes) ... during the Eisenhower years. Rock and roll, huge cars with tail fins ... so French.
Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who has made active preparations to enter the Democratic primary, gives Hardwick a serious option to reject Trump. “I like him — no-nonsense, stable, clear-thinking, data-driven, he would do a good job and keep the economy moving. He looks better to me every day.” Anyone else? “I would not rule out voting for Biden.”
Hardwick is a voter who says he disapproves of Trump -- somewhat! -- but clearly expects Democrats to impress him, primarily by exhibiting Trump traits Hardwick approves of. Surely there are 2016 Trump voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida (not to mention Iowa, Ohio, Arizona, and so on) who are thoroughly disgusted with Trump and require much less cosseting (and embracing of right-wing talking points) before they'll vote Democratic this time (or at least stay home). Right? Why must Democrats prostrate themselves before voters like this one?

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