It’s a tale of two Tuesdays, in two hemispheres, which demonstrates that left-liberals (in the American sense of the term) are out of touch with the electorate.
On Tuesday morning The Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank was interviewed on the ABC’s News Breakfast program.
He is in Australia as a guest of the taxpayer-subsidised US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. As USSC executive director Simon Jackman conceded last November, not one of the self-proclaimed experts at the centre predicted that Donald Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton. In response to a question, Jackman added that not one academic at the USSC supported Trump. So as one of the leading Trump-haters in the US, Milbank should feel at home during his time at the USSC.
Milbank’s appearance on the ABC was foreshadowed by footage of him dining in Washington, DC’s fashionable Del Campo restaurant in May last year. He was fulfilling a promise that he would eat an entire column if Trump won the Republican nomination. During this faux dining experience, Milbank was at his leftist sneering best, referring to a bottle of “Trump Sauvignon Blanc” as “better than gasoline”. In writing about his Del Campo experience, Milibank predicted that Trump would lose to Clinton.
On Tuesday Milbank was introduced by News Breakfast co-presenter Michael Rowland as a “celebrated columnist”. There followed a conversation primarily about the US President and the media. However, Milbank did manage to accuse Trump of “challenging all the structures of American democracy” before calling him a “charlatan”. This is hyperbole followed by abuse presented as analysis. Milbank was not asked, and did not volunteer, why his analysis last year of the Republican Party and the US electorate was so wrong.
That was Tuesday morning, Australian time. About 12 hours later news came through of the special elections for vacant seats in the House of Representatives in Georgia and South Carolina. The Republican Party held both seats — as it had previously retained seats in Kansas and Montana.
The election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district (in Atlanta) turned out to be one of the highest profile house special elections in history. As The New York Times reported, the 30-year-old Democrat candidate, Jon Ossoff, raised “$25 million from progressives across the country eager to express their anger at Mr Trump”.
However, 55-year-old Republican Karen Handel won comfortably by 52 per cent to 48 per cent. Trump openly supported Handel. Moreover, Republicans sought to depict Ossoff as too left-liberal, linking him with Democrat house minority leader Nancy Pelosi and her “San Francisco values”.
At least one Democrat got the message. Massachusetts congressman Seth Moulton tweeted: “(Georgia) race better be a wake-up call for Democrats — business as usual isn’t working. Time to stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future.”
A starting point for any such reassessment would be to read Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes (Crown, 2017). The book demonstrates that the Trump campaign received greater help from Clinton’s real incompetence than from Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s alleged interference in the election.
In the lead-up to the November presidential election, the likes of Milbank in Washington and Jackman and his colleagues (including the high-profile David Smith and John Barron) in Sydney did not understand contemporary grassroots America.
When appearing on ABC’s Insiders on September 11 last year, I upset colleagues when I said that, despite the ridicule directed at Trump, there was a possible path to victory. The point was that if the Republicans held all the states that Mitt Romney won in 2012 and gained Florida (which is usually close) along with Ohio and Pennsylvania, then Trump would be president in January 2017.
This view was widely dismissed in Australia, despite the fact Barack Obama in 2012 was a far stronger candidate than Clinton in 2016 and Trump had greater cut-through than Romney. As we know, the Republicans won all three states plus Michigan and Wisconsin. In the lead-up to the election, Clinton did not bother even campaigning in Michigan or Wisconsin. Putin had no involvement in this disastrous decision.
The left-liberals and self-proclaimed progressives in the US and Australia failed to see that Trump had considerable support in the “rust-bucket” states of the American northeast. Also, their prejudice was such that they could not comprehend that Trump might receive greater support from African-Americans and Latinos than Romney.
It would be foolish to speculate as to what might happen at the next presidential election in 2020 or even in the midterm elections next year. But the evidence from Georgia, South Carolina, Kansas and Montana suggests there is no widespread revulsion against the Trump administration in the mainstream electorate.
On Wednesday the Rasmussen Reports’ presidential tracking poll had Trump’s approval rating among likely voters at 45 per cent. This is a satisfactory result in view of the almost daily political crises in Washington and the fact this President has had the most hostile media in decades.
In the lead-up to the election last year, Milbank told his Washington Post readers “Trump’s supporters raised their arms en masse”, evoking “the sort of scene associated with grainy newsreels from Italy and Germany”. He also wondered as to where “Trump’s flirtation with fascism” would end. Earlier, Milbank compared Trump with Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
It’s likely that the left-liberals and progressives at the University of Sydney will appreciate such hyperbole. The problem for the Democrats is that much of what passes for wisdom in the Del Campo restaurant on I Street in Washington has little impact in large parts of Georgia and other states that Trump won last year.
If the USSC were into a serious analysis of contemporary politics in the US it would scale back on Trump-haters and examine why the Democrats have been so unsuccessful in house, Senate and state elections in recent years and why Clinton flunked last year. But don’t hold your breath.