Democrats redefine center as theirs collapses

With their center’s collapse, Democrats’ only hope of reconstituting it is by redefining the center. As the Democratic primary race moves leftward, the definitions of their candidates are moving right. It resembles a play in which we are expected to accept that the same actors have become different characters simply because of a costume change.  

When the 2020 Democratic field was taking shape a year ago, its spread was straightforward. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenJan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats address reports that clean energy program will be axed Two House Democrats to retire ahead of challenging midterms MORE was the establishment anchor, in a center-left, front-runner position. A couple of candidates were to his right – Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve Bullock65 former governors, mayors back bipartisan infrastructure deal Arkansas, New Jersey governors to head National Governors Association Biden 'allies' painting him into a corner MORE and former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) – with most of the rest of the extended field to his left.  

Once the debates began eight months ago, the field’s small right quickly disappeared, as the campaign moved decidedly to the left. Even as its candidate lineup barely shrunk, its ideological range narrowed greatly, extending only from center-left to extreme left.  

Now as active voting has begun, the Democratic race has run left even more quickly. Gone is national polling’s illusion that there was a sizable percentage of primary voters who would keep Biden ahead. Those actually participating in the Democrats’ first two contests are voting even further left than Democrats have polled.  

Just two contests in and Biden has collapsed. He has gone from front-runner to back-burner. The outcome that was supposed to be inevitable has unraveled faster than anyone expected.  

Now the Democratic field ideologically stretches barely at all. It runs from left to extreme left; and to the extent that the remaining candidates are trying to differentiate themselves, it’s by moving even still further left.

Unable to admit the obvious, or hold the center, party leaders are hurriedly seeking to recast their field to the center. The establishment media are lending their collective hands too. The field they cannot reshape they will instead attempt to redefine.   

To do this they are employing old theatrical tricks, as when a farce puts a different hat on an actor, and tells the audience this is now a long-lost identical twin. America is simply supposed to go along with it.  

We are told now that what was the extreme left is now “progressive.” What was once left is now “moderate.” Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin meets with Sanders, Jayapal amid spending stalemate America can end poverty among its elderly citizens Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair MORE (I-Vt.) is no longer a socialist, though he used to say he was. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenAmerica can end poverty among its elderly citizens Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Misguided recusal rules lock valuable leaders out of the Pentagon MORE (D-Mass.), who is stumbling behind him, is now “more moderate,” while Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenate Democrats ask for details on threats against election workers On The Money — Progressives play hard ball on Biden budget plan Schumer, McConnell headed for another collision over voting rights MORE (D-Minn.) and former Mayors Mike Bloomberg and Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Build Back Better items on chopping block Buttigieg says delay in climate action will cost lives amid reports of Manchin roadblock Sunday shows - Buttigieg warns supply chain issues could stretch to next year MORE – all of whom entered the race stage left – are miraculously transformed into “moderates.”

From the beginning, the field was heavily slanted leftward. The entire direction of the campaign has been leftward. The actual voters in the contests are on the left. The only candidates remaining are on the left. Yet somehow moderates now abound.  

Of course, Democrats have no choice but to do this. Their entire strategy since President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE’s election has been to paint him as too extreme for America. They have few other options, and with each of his successes their options dwindle further.  

Confronted by necessity on one side and their field’s reality on the other, they must go with the former. They cannot concede that their field is now more extreme toward the left than President Trump is to the right. They must hide that their field is willingly conceding traditional American positions to him — our capitalist economic system, law and order, defense and enforcement of our immigration laws, among others.  

So, like moving the backdrop to create the illusion that the actors are in a different place, even though they remain on the same stage, Democrats want us to believe that “here” is “there,” even as it remains here.  

To create its artificial reality, a performance demands that we accept it, even as we know it to be artificial. All theater therefore requires a suspension of disbelief. But in Democrats 2020 political playhouse, they are not simply trying to suspend disbelief; they are trying to banish it altogether.  

J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.