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Democrats' sweepstakes of frivolity

Democrats' sweepstakes of frivolity

April 14th, 2019 by George Will in Opinion Columns

WASHINGTON—The Democrats' presidential aspirants seem determined to prove that their party's 2016 achievement—the election of the current president—was not a fluke that cannot be repeated. But the Republican Party, whose last remaining raison d'etre is to frustrate Democrats, seems to be thinking: We are determined to lose the 2020 election in order to foil Democrats' attempts to lose it.

The Democratic aspirants radiate unseriousness about things they speak about with notable solemnity. By their words of endorsement, many of them said that the Green New Deal is a matter of life and death—for the planet, no less. But their actions—zero Senate votes for the GND—say something else.

Among the reasons these aspirants give for promising to abolish the Electoral College is one reason that virtually guarantees that it will not be abolished: Because each state gets two electoral votes for its senators, the system advantages the least populous states. Opposition by 13 states will extinguish any constitutional amendment. If the legislatures of any of the 13 least-populous states (Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Delaware, Rhode Island, Montana, Maine, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Idaho, West Virginia) fail to oppose an amendment abolishing the electoral-vote system, other legislatures—those of, for example, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Utah, Mississippi—probably will ensure defeat.

Competition in the Democrats' frivolity sweepstakes is intense. Beto O'Rourke contemplates amending the Constitution "to show that corporations are not people." Conceivably, he has not thought through why corporate personhood has been in Anglo-American law for centuries: For-profit and nonprofit (including almost all progressive advocacy groups) corporations are accorded rights as "artificial persons" (William Blackstone's phrase) to enable them to have lives, identities and missions that span generations and produce a robust civil society of freely cooperating citizens.

Donald Trump must secretly admire Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's thoroughly Trumpian proposal—made where pandering is perfected: Iowa—to ban foreigners from buying U.S. farmland. Lest diabolical foreigners take our loam home? No, Warren says foreigners threaten "food security," hence "national security," too. Warren and Trump—he who sees a national security threat from imported Audis—are together at last.

"I wore my Planned Parenthood pink!" exclaimed Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar at a recent Washington cattle call for Democratic candidates. She, who is supposed to represent the sensibility of flyover country in her disproportionately coastal party, told the conclave that a "major priority" for her, one that she would emphasize in her presidency's first 100 days, is statehood for the District of Columbia, a peculiar promise to facilitate retaking Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Julian Castro—former mayor of San Antonio, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development—said that when he is the 46th president he will favor making Congress subject to the Freedom of Information Act. This is perhaps a good goal but not uppermost in the electorate's mind.

The Financial Times notes that in 2018, exit polls showed that a plurality of voters—41%—ranked health care as their foremost concern. That was the year when it became obligatory for all candidates to promise that health insurance shall not be denied because of a person's preexisting health problems. But Trump ("Nobody knew health care could be so complicated") evidently is going to seek reelection saying: Trust me, there will be "a really great" Republican health care plan—after the election, and after my administration has convinced a court to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act (including guaranteed insurance coverage for those with preexisting conditions), which now enjoys the support of a narrow majority.

Voters might wonder why the coming health plan's greatness will not be unveiled as an election asset. And voters might remember that in 1968 Richard Nixon said: Trust me, I have a plan to end the Vietnam War. When, seven years later, in April 1975, the last helicopter lifted off the roof of the besieged U.S. Embassy in Saigon, more than 21,000 Americans had died in combat since Nixon's inauguration—approximately 37% of those killed in the war since the early 1960s.

The eventual Democratic nominee is probably among the many already running. So the party, with its mosaic of factions to placate (affluent progressives, faculty club socialists, suburban women, African Americans, Hispanics, climate worriers, identity-politics warriors, etc.) and its aversion to winner-take-all primaries, should remember 1972 or 1984. Its nominees, George McGovern and Walter Mondale won 25% and 38%, respectively, of the nominating electorate's votes. In the two general elections, they lost 98 states.

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