We’re all familiar with the Republican Party’s internal fault lines: On issues ranging from immigration and entitlements to trade and foreign policy, there are significant differences between the policies that Donald Trump espoused during the 2016 campaign, and those favored by (for lack of a better descriptor) the Bush-McCain-Romney GOP. Rhetoric and posturing aside, Trump has governed as a far more conventional Republican than many people expected — trade has been the major exception — which has helped the party manage its divisions.
The Democrats are divided, too. Their most notable fissure separates old-fashioned liberals from Trump-era “progressives.” The latter group is clearly ascendant, as it includes virtually all the party’s biggest young stars and 2020 presidential hopefuls — people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker.
What distinguishes contemporary progressives from their liberal antecedents? As Joseph Epstein writes in the Wall Street Journal, the liberals of yesteryear “supported labor unions, civil liberties, racial integration, involvement in international affairs.” By contrast, the new progressivism “edges into socialism,” it “exalts identity politics,” it “has no argument with political correctness,” and it “has made life in America seem chaotic, if not a touch mad.”
In 2018 as in 2016, untold numbers of Trump supporters are more “anti-progressive” than they are “pro-Trump.” Says Epstein, “The pull to the left of the Democratic Party is Donald Trump’s greatest hope for re-election, while Mr. Trump’s behavior is the greatest force pulling Democrats still further to the left. Tariffs, trade agreements, even immigration policy seem slightly beside the point when, as now, not two different parties but two radically different views of the good life dominate public discourse.”
Nothing has corroded our public discourse more than identity politics. “On the Left,” Mark Bauerlein recently noted at American Greatness, “even to say ‘all lives matter’ counts as an insult. To hail the working man is to slight working women. To insist on due process in sexual allegations is to disbelieve women. To teach Western Civilization is to uphold white supremacy. To be a faithful Catholic is to deny gays their civil rights. To enforce the border is to sustain white nationalism.
“This is today’s Democratic Party: the conversion of just about everything into group tensions — not labor groups but identity groups.”