By this point, many readers have struggled to help children or grandchildren assemble impossible puzzles or intricate Lego contraptions. In this spirit, we invite you to puzzle through the pieces of Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment project. Our list includes clues to the final picture.
Dec. 5: Speaker Pelosi announces the Democrats will draft articles of impeachment against Donald Trump.
Seven days later, Prime Minister Boris Johnson defeats Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K. general elections. It is the Conservative Party’s greatest margin of victory since Margaret Thatcher’s third win, in 1987, and Labour’s biggest defeat since 1935.
Dec. 12-15: Mr. Trump’s approval ratings begin to rise.
Dec. 18: The House votes to impeach Mr. Trump, with no Republican support.
The next day, seven Democratic presidential candidates debate in Los Angeles. Virtually all approve the impeachment, denounce wealth and offer agendas of increased public spending.
The day after that, the British Parliament votes overwhelmingly to support Mr. Johnson’s intent to pull out of the European Union.
I think we have enough pieces to see the shape of things to come.
After Mr. Johnson walloped Mr. Corbyn, some Democrats and American progressives asserted that the U.K. result had little relevance to the U.S. They said it was Mr. Corbyn’s personal failure, not a repudiation of Labour’s agenda. Which sounds similar to the notion that the Democrats’ loss in 2016 was Hillary Clinton’s fault, not theirs.
Still, the British result got me wondering about the point of Mrs. Pelosi approving the construction of a Potemkin impeachment—a grand facade to hide the reality of weakness inside her party.
Socialism is in the air these days, at least in the U.S., and the U.K. has long experience with socialism. The stark fact of the British election is that thousands of longtime Labour voters turned away from the party despite Mr. Corbyn’s promise of large-scale public spending.
Mr. Johnson’s victory may have been mainly about Brexit, but the result exposes what looks to be a tipping point for left-leaning liberalism in the U.S.: The Democratic Party has a big problem with the vision thing. It’s possible that government today, which is to say government that is everywhere all the time, has become a big bore to the voting public.
Like Britain, the U.S. has lived for most of the past century with high levels of public spending for an infinity of public programs. The population should be content and the left should be happy. They aren’t.
The average voter listens to an Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders promise vastly expanded public spending—and shrugs. The top Democratic vote-getter is Joe Biden, a party war horse in harness for 50 years.
The “average” Democratic voters supporting Mr. Biden are black, Hispanic or white baby boomers. What remains beyond these more-traditional Democrats are the party’s millennial utopians. They sound angry, but the truth is, they’re bored.
Instead of the political vibrancy of the 1960s, young progressives see their world in the grip of political stasis. They weren’t around for the hard work of building the Great Society, brick by brick, amendment by legislative amendment, the way their elders did, such as—just to pick a name— Rep. John Dingell.
No wonder Mrs. Pelosi was agog at the aggression from Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and the rest of the progressive “Squad.” They act as if none of this hard work ever happened and barely acknowledge its legacy exists.
Older leftists and liberals revere the alphabet soup of assistance programs and rotely support all of it. The New New Left treats all this pre-existing government as virtually an abstraction.
Note how Mayor Pete Buttigieg, 37, routinely waves off the achievements of Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s generation: “If you’re my age or younger . . .” The pedestrian dailiness of “government” has become a liability for traditional Democrats, despite all they’ve done. Dismissing U.S. history in general, progressive activists and gentry liberals want their own Great Society program. (For a reality check on the original version, read Amity Shlaes’s “Great Society: A New History.”)
But the left has a problem: The liberal legacy—extraordinarily big government (this year’s spending bill is more than 2,000 pages)—has sucked all the revenue out of the system. Elizabeth Warren’s multiple “plans” financed by beating taxes out of billionaires—like Jeremy Corbyn’s 21st century nationalizations—are the reductio ad absurdum.
She’s hardly alone. One listens in vain to the Democratic presidential debaters, including Mr. Biden and Ms. Klobuchar, for proposals to drive growth in the private economy. Instead, they all promise to keep shoveling more coal into the spending furnace.
The promise of more public spending is no longer an animating political philosophy for most people. It’s just there, a dull humming noise. Britain proved that. America, while it watches the Pelosi impeachment revels, may follow.
This article first appeared at wsj.com.