It is interesting that French President Emmanuel Macron was in Washington, D.C., recently, marking the first official state visit by a foreign leader to the capital since Donald Trump was sworn in as president.

In some ways, the two men are similar: Each was elected by a populist movement calling for radical change, each upended many traditional left-right paradigms during his campaign and each is struggling with his approval numbers at home.

However, in other ways, they couldn’t be more different: Trump is the oldest American president at the start of his term, while Macron is the youngest French leader since Napoleon. Macron came to power as a centrist who promised to get things working again, while Trump was elected by promising to break up Washington and “drain the swamp.” Macron is a committed internationalist, while Trump frequently portrays himself as a nationalist.

Much of Europe was likely hoping that Macron could reach out to Trump during this visit, encouraging him to retreat from some of his “America First” positions. In some senses, he’s already been successful, as France joined with the U.S. and Great Britain to launch air strikes on Syria in response to President Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. That united front, limited though it might have been, was nice to see, as it pushed back against a core goal of Putin’s: to undermine and divide the Western powers.

Back in the United States, though, those hoping for a centrist political re-set are likely to be waiting for quite a while.

Although Democratic leadership seems to recognize that they need more of a strategy in the coming years than simply opposing Trump at every possible turn, they’re facing a backlash against that approach from donors and activists alike. Billionaire left-wing donor Tom Steyer has been pushing for Democrats to be on the record in support of impeaching Trump, and he’s taking that message on the road across the country. In Texas’ 7th Congressional District, an activist who made a name for herself opposing Trump has forced a runoff next month against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s hand-picked choice for the seat.

We’ve seen this dynamic at play in Maine as well. In the highest-profile Democratic primaries here – the nomination for governor and for Congress in the 2nd District – the front-runners or establishment candidates are facing opposition only from the liberal wing of the party, not from the center. In the gubernatorial race, front-runner Janet Mills doesn’t face any primary opponents who are trying to move to her on the right and draw away the support of moderates. Instead, they’re trying to outflank her on the left on various issues.

This was especially evident on the candidates’ responses to questions about gun control. While Mills rightly pointed out that questions about banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were complex ones that would involve extensive discussions, her rivals rushed to embrace these measures. They mostly even supported enacting universal background checks on all gun purchases, although this proposal failed at the ballot box about 18 months ago.

In the 2nd Congressional District, there is no Democrat running who truly fits the mold of previously successful candidates there, like John Baldacci, Mike Michaud or, in his gubernatorial races, Joe Brennan. All of those men were able to combine a populist appeal to the district’s rural voters with a slightly left-of-center profile that played equally well in Madawaska as in Lewiston.

The choice of national Democrats, Lewiston state Rep. Jared Golden, is probably the closest to them, though he can hardly be considered a moderate willing to stand up to his own party. He’s consistently received high ratings from liberal groups like the Maine People’s Alliance, and at a recent debate he didn’t disagree with his primary opponents on very much.

At the national level, there isn’t much sign of a moderate Democrat looking to challenge Donald Trump, either. Rather than rebuking Trump from the center, many Democrats seem more interested in pandering to progressives. Recently, a slew of them – including Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York – embraced the concept of guaranteeing a job for each and every American citizen.

In the next few years, the greatest hope of conservatives (and fear of moderates) may be that Democrats continue this trend of lurching to the left.

If they do, they could well help Trump get re-elected or allow some future Republican to reclaim the centrist label even if they are victorious.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @jimfossel


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