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Political Editors / January 26, 2018

Democrats Have a Tom Steyer Problem

His anti-Trump impeachment campaign, while popular with the base, only pushes the party farther to the extremes.

Leftist billionaire Tom Steyer has been spending millions on his relentless anti-Donald Trump impeachment campaign. He and the rabid leftist base have become noisy enough that Democrat leaders are carefully distancing themselves from his cause over fears that his activism will paint them (accurately) as the party of ideological extremists and radicals, especially during this election year. Steyer, however, is having none of it, saying, “We’re just telling the truth to the American people, and it’s an important truth. And if you don’t think it’s politically convenient for you, that’s too bad.”

Democrats find themselves in a pickle. They welcome his cash — he’s already pumped $30 million into efforts to mobilize Millennial voters for midterm elections — but they also know that, sans any new and substantive evidence, continuing to pound the drum for Trump’s impeachment will only alienate moderate Americans who are fed up with the ultra-partisanship in Washington and quite pleased with their 401(k) balance and their tax reform windfall. The problem is that a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that Steyer’s impeachment mantra is quite popular with the base, with 70% of Democrats in favor. In other words, he’s speaking the base’s language. The question is, just how big is that base?

Steyer may prove to be more of a headache than an asset to Democrat leaders. As the New York Times’ Alexander Burns writes, “While Democrats intend to run on a fiercely anti-Trump message this year, party leaders envision a campaign of broad attacks on the president’s economic agenda rather than a blunt-force impeachment pledge. There is no realistic chance of impeaching Mr. Trump while Republicans control Congress, and Democrats from moderate and conservative districts fear the idea could alienate voters otherwise likely to vote their way in November. But the Democratic base, enraged by Mr. Trump and frustrated by party leaders counseling restraint, appear enthusiastically open to seeking the president’s removal.”

This is the inherent problem when catering to extremists and radicals — a return to the moderate center will only bring condemnation and accusations of selling out. And the Democrats have been appeasing the far Left for so long now, they’ve essentially lost what used to be their solid, relatively sensible base. Now they increasingly find themselves a party of radicals and extremists on the fringes of society. As Ronald Reagan famously quipped, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the Democratic Party left me.”

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