The Scapegoats

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute's 'A Time for Choosing Speaker Series' at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on April 20, 2023, in Simi Valley, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

A few days ago, the leader of the free world recounted a conversation he’d had at the 2021 G7 summit with French President François Mitterrand—who’s been dead since 1996.

He meant Emmanuel Macron, you might say. People misspeak sometimes. That’s true, just as it’s also true that people sometimes lose their train of thought. But when the “people” in question are of a certain age and their train of thought derails in an unusually garish way …

… it’s fair to wonder, as most Americans do, whether there’s more to these missteps than the usual pitfalls of extemporaneous speech. There must be a reason that the president would decline an opportunity to answer questions before a gigantic audience of voters this weekend in the thick of a reelection campaign, and we all have the same suspicions about what that reason might be.

Any discussion of weak political leadership in modern America properly begins with the health of Joe Biden, a liability which, I’m convinced, will end up costing him a second term this fall. But Biden’s condition obscures an underappreciated aspect of his party: Democrats enjoy relatively strong leadership in other institutional roles.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has brokered multiple legislative deals with Republicans on big-ticket matters like infrastructure—no easy feat in an era in which the right treats any compromise with Democrats as treacherous. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries has held his liberal and progressive factions together on numerous key votes that have led to embarrassment for Republicans, most notably the effort to oust then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy. And the Democratic National Committee under Chairman Jaime Harrison crushed its GOP counterpart last year in both fundraising and cash on hand.

Whether the head of the Democratic Party is in control of events remains, and will remain, an open question. But the DNC and the party’s House and Senate caucuses continue to run smoothly and professionally, with next-to-no internal tumult that might impede their respective agendas.

In the other party, it’s the opposite.

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