There were so many headlines touting the death of the GOP following Donald Trump’s win in 2016 that even the most optimistic conservative got the impression that the Trumper/Never-Trumper disagreement spelled the undoing of Lincoln’s Grand Old Party.
Political analysts were sure that Trump and his rust-belt base, the one that actually propelled him to the executive office, were never going to fit in with “the establishment” GOP, the upper to middle class Republican of Mitt Romney that looked very different from the blue-collar worker of Wisconsin. Those class divisions were deep and intractable and the GOP would never be able to sustain them both.
The fracturing of the GOP, however, despite the doomsday pronouncements, has yet to materialize. There remains a healthy debate on the right — primarily about what true conservatism is and whether the fringe alt-right is actually conservative at all — but that’s arguably been a good thing. The debate shows a general interest in the future of the party.
But something unexpected happened on the left side of the aisle while everyone was chomping their popcorn, looking to the right: the Democrats, argues Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon, are actually the ones fracturing from what he terms “class realignment.” Using Donna Brazile’s recent 180 degree turn on Hillary Clinton as the jumping off point, he eventually gets to a description of the newly minted Obama Foundation and the spectacle of a party increasingly out of touch with reality that is at once hilarious and pitiable.
Continetti uses a recent article by journalist Edward-Isaac Dovere, in which the reporter describes the Obama Foundation’s first summit last week, as proof the party has left the earth.
The summit Dovere describes is a parody of a group therapy session for the liberal gentry, a cutaway scene from Veep minus Selina Meyer. “There was a morning meditation and yoga session, and an evening concert with Chance the Rapper and The National,” he wrote. Lucky ducks. He noticed a chalkboard where attendees were free to write down their hopes. “Samples: ‘We speak better and listen,’ ‘Americans will see each other’; ‘my nephews will escape toxic masculinity.'” One speaker asked the crowd, “Is there space among the woke for the still-waking?” (Not on college campuses.) The same speaker also mentioned something called the “starfish illusion.” Pretty psychedelic. I had to look it up.
Even the former president seemed aware of the absurdity of the proceedings. “Obama spent two feel-good but amorphous days making pop-in appearances at sessions and watching with bemusement, first as people didn’t realize he was in the room, then at the wave of squeals and applause that swept over as they realized he was there,” Dovere continues. “José Andres was at the hotel bar. Prince Harry was on stage, in jeans.” Mateo Renzi, the former Italian prime minister, was present as well. Lin-Manuel Miranda free-styled. At the pop-up bookstore you could buy Ta-Nehisi Coates’s latest, along with Man’s Search for Meaning. Someone told Dovere that he had entered “the sanity bubble.”
The sanity bubble! What a perfect label for the environs of the self-satisfied and righteous, the elegantly appointed ballrooms where the high and mighty, silhouetted in magenta up-lighting, nod reverentially at clichés mouthed by the latest faddish “thought leader,” before tucking into, say, a caprese salad with arugula and pesto, followed by spinach and gorgonzola tortelloni with caramelized pears and bleu cheese cream. Within the sanity bubble life is pleasant, comfortable, and agreeable, its niceties and pleasures and fixed ideas interrupted by only the maelstrom of political and economic change outside.
Continetti argues the bubble the Democrats that attend Obama Foundation summits insist is reality is so far removed from the actual reality of the average Democrat (which, as we now know, thanks to Brazile’s outing of Hillary Clinton, actually prefers the populism of Bernie Sanders) that the party has suffered from the promotion of it. Most especially due to their unwillingness to accept that the sanity bubble only applies to a tiny fraction of (quoting Stan Greenberg) the “cosmopolitan and professional America that wasn’t very angry about the state of the country.”
“I live in the bubble. Always have, even if I have come to disagree with what my college professors would call the ‘hegemonic discourse’ of postmodern liberalism, and to gag at the vanity and solipsism of many of my fellow residents,” Continetti admits. “But never, especially after the 2016 campaign, would I mistake the confines of the bubble for the whole of reality.”
And therein lies the reason the GOP — even as it recovers from a drastic shift in direction to retake the presidency and implement what is arguably a very healthy and traditional conservative platform — will survive while the Democrats may find themselves a shell of a party as they oust their former Queen to the dustbin of history: because the GOP addresses rather than ignores party factions such as the alt-right. They admit their existence, and continue the debate.
Democrats, however, seem to be burying themselves in safe spaces and arugula salads, still convinced that if only they can convince everyone they are victimized, the party will rise again.
Hate to break it to you, Dems, but the Bernie Bro is your future. It would be wise to accept that reality, stop rigging the system, and open the doors to let them in before your sanity bubble pops in your faces.
“And as long as Democrats prefer the safety of the sanity bubble to the realities of America in 2017, that coalition is not likely to be put back together anytime soon,” Continetti writes.
By contrast, the GOP, despite early struggles to come together, continues to change and grow and make adjustments, just like any living thing does.