What I am going to argue here will shock the establishment of the Democratic Party — if they take the time to read this. The party of centrism has not troubled themselves to learn anything from progressives for decades, and it will not surprise me if they continue with that attitude. The election of 2016 was not enough of an alarm for them, after all.
As Joe Biden continues to snooze through this go around, it is clear that once again, the party is hoping that the lesser of two evils argument will work for once. The polls on favorability for Joe Biden consistently say that the country is blasé about him, and while this feels like an improvement over Clinton, given how divided our country is, running a candidate who elicits yawns is poor strategy for the long term.
But the Democrats converted to Third Way liberalism under Bill Clinton, deciding that winning was everything — though in multiple elections since 1996, they have had a hard time doing even that — to the exclusion of policy in the belief that progressivism will not win in the suburbs. With that in mind, I have a nominee to offer them, someone who would be a perfect fit, if it were not for one inconvenient fact:
Get some lotion for your hands, Democrats, and a cough drop for your throats. All that wringing and tsking will burn if left unattended. She is everything the party has chosen to become.
She was a Democrat until recently, at least according to her voter registration, which addresses the criticism leveled about Bernie Sanders that he has always been really an independent, and she and her husband donated to Democratic politicians, the real concern of the party. She has a reputation for being pro-choice with regard to abortion, and since the party faithful have been willing to accept anti-abortion candidates in hopes of winning elections, someone whose position is unclear should be fine for them. She even is said to be in favor of GSRM (gender, sexual, and romantic minority) rights and of protecting the environment in the same unambitious manner that Democrats do.
But she has not managed to moderate her father’s lurch to the right, someone will say. Indeed she has not, and this is yet another selling point for her as the nominee. The Democrats have done little to move the country leftward for thirty years, having made concessions on welfare, education, healthcare, and war in a desperate attempt to get Republicans to like them, so she is in this sense overqualified for the party. She has demonstrated her ability to look photogenic while using a lot of words to say nothing at all, something that the current presumptive nominee struggles to achieve. And she won, she would be both the first female and first Jewish president.
I will be accused of being sarcastic here, to which I plead not guilty. I am certainly capable of bitter jokes when nothing else is possible, but I mean everything I have said above. If her family name were Smith, Ivanka Trump would be everything that the Democratic Party looks for in a candidate.
And this is meant as an indictment of the party. The Democrats of my childhood came out of the social tradition of Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. During my voting life, they moved to style without substance, winning with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama who both ran their campaigns for a first term as progressives to draw in the youth vote and for no other purpose. Under Al Gore, they flirted with caring about climate change, and with Obama, they claimed to want to guarantee healthcare for all. But since 1992, they have bungled efforts at reform, pandered to Wall Street, and marched in a variety of parades to avoid making life better for many groups. And by choosing Al Gore over Bill Bradley, John Kerry over Howard Dean — when he was a progressive — and Clinton and Biden over Sanders, they have made it clear that refraining from scaring the privileged classes is their highest value.
If Ivanka Trump were not her abominable father’s daughter, her combination of youth, shallow thinking, and acceptable stances would make her an ideal nominee. If the party is offended by my claim here, I invite them to take the time to reflect on what they have become. Remove the labels that only obscure the truth, and like the marble statue in Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” the core of what the party was through the middle of the twentieth century speaks to contemporary Democrats, telling them, “You must change your life.”