What will it take for Democrats, now in the political wilderness, to win bigly against a despotic, insecure, self-aggrandizing bully?
It will take a lot of things too many Democrats either aren’t willing or free to do, The Democratic leadership in Congress, by their very actions, signalled that in spite of the election results, the party apparatus there will remain firmly under the control of the establishment. But winning, as strategies go, will take the same kind of strict self-discipline and unity the GOP demonstrated over the last six years. One advantage the Republicans had was that, while not all necessarily answered to the same patrons, the vast majority of rank and file members were aligned along the same ideological lines. That isn’t the case with Democrats. If anything, the last eighteen months have reinforced, bigly, that there is a clear ideological split within the party, and between party leadership and its membership at-large. Early on, some of the most liberal senators, including Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said they’d work with the Trump administration. At one point, Senator Joe Manchin was named as one Democrat who was under consideration for a Trump administration cabinet position.
One long-standing criticism of liberal Democrats by progressives has been the fungibility of principles the center-right continues to show. At a time when it is very likely that 80 years of progress in the areas of civil rights, civil liberties and the social safety net will be wiped out within the first year of the new Trump administration, not only would it would behoove Democrats to go back and reacquaint themselves with their core missions, but as a new oligarchic age begins, they should steer completely clear of even the mere appearance or redolence of cronyism and back-room wheeling and dealing. By the time the Trump era comes to an end, public sentiment will not favor those who will be deemed to have triangulated with the enemy of the people.
Democrats must be willing to make hard-nosed choices, including shedding the belief that compromising with the other side is part and parcel of good governance. This philosophy of triangulation, at the heart of Clintonian politics for thirty years, is one the upper middle class Democrats associates with desirability in one’s politicians. The reality, however, is that the other half of the party – the one that fell out of the middle class or is a part of the working class – is triangulation-weary and sees its compromises as the chief cause of the demise of the party and their middle class status.
It’s one thing to compromise in situations where the sides meet half-way in a limited set of circumstances. It’s quite another to compromise on matters involving core beliefs, as has the Democratic party since the 1990’s, in order to satisfy big money donors. This was made none the clearer when Senator Cory Booker voted against Democrats on allowing Canadian pharmaceutical imports. In the thirty years since the first Clinton administration, both parties have been yanked further and further to the right – to the point where present day liberal Democrats’ positions are virtually identical to those we used to associate with moderate Republicans.
As America continues browning and millennials take over as the largest voting bloc, it would behoove Democrats to risk losing some cachet with their older voters and engage in a dual strategy of presenting a united front in the resistance movement against Trump and the GOP, while engaging in a psychological game to push the GOP to claim sole ownership of the legislation that will undoubtedly put voters at even more of a disadvantage. This strategy should be employed equally forcefully on all fronts, from economic legislation, to healthcare, to the social safety net, and civil rights and civil liberties. Not an inch should be given. Democrats who deviate from this tack should be singled out by the leadership and shunned, including Joe Manchin, even at the cost of losing the state.
[[Update: Senator Elizabeth Warren announced she would back Ben Carson as HUD Secretary. Senator Cory Booker defends school choice advocate and Education Secretary-nominee, Betsy DeVos. Then, The Intercept reports that 14 Democrats voted for Mike Pompeo, Trump’s CIA nominee. Two other Democrats were absent. ]]
When voters are so disgusted with a party that has run far afield from its mission and publicly asks the public to oppose Trump but turns right around and hands him his nominees, what exactly does the leadership think will happen? That people will forget the way they did in 2010? 2012? 2014? How about 2016?
If there is any hope left, Democrats must also work assiduously to regain all the lost ground in membership in the entire nation. This means engaging young voters and not only bringing them back into the fold, but getting them to engage in political activism. Former Congressman Steve Israel nails it in this video from Mic.com:
Regaining ground also means the establishment must realign itself with the left, rather than continue on its current center-right path. Democrats, if they want to survive as a party, must adopt Senator Sanders’ very successful strategy of engaging voters and focusing all fundraising on small recurring donations from a loyal base. This means Democrats need to shun big donors from here on out. Can the establishment turn itself around and learn to love its left flank? Realistically speaking, such a turn-around appears unlikely.
In this nightmare scenario of a new American oligarchy, one in which our president is a self-centered egomaniacal authoritarian oligarch whose only concern is his appearance as a winner, how can Democrats win too in the political wilderness of the minority?
Congressional Democrats must avoid, at all costs, the appearance of collaboration with the GOP. They must both resist and capitalize on existing rifts between the GOP establishment and their new president by consistently characterizing the GOP’s legislative actions as inconsistent with Trumpian doctrine and intent, making President Trump look like a loser.
Progressives made huge gains in state Democratic party elections in California. This is a direct result of Senator Bernie Sanders’ very successful primary campaign and the resulting organization, Our Revolution.
Man Booker Prize-winning author, Paul Beatty gave an interview to The Guardian newspaper and, in it, he touches upon the election of Donald J. Trump:
“After Trump’s victory was announced, a class of students that he [Beatty] teaches at Columbia University in New York greeted him in tears. “They were distraught. They were inconsolable. They are in their early 20s, so they’ve grown up with whatever Obama does symbolise, they’ve grown up with that for a big part of their lives. They’ve come of age with it, and all of a sudden that’s gone.”
For many, Obama’s presidency marked an era of change in America. But Beatty always doubted the rosy image of improving race relations under the nation’s first black president that was presented at the time. Some of his students, he says, were horrified and hurt when their own parents started spouting pro-Trump rhetoric. “What’s to be hurt by? Why are you hurt? Is this new for you? How is this new?”
The existence of white supremacy, xenophobia and violence is something he and many of his generation of non-white Americans have grown up with. Beatty describes always feeling an outsider in his own country. “Maybe I just don’t feel accepted, so I don’t feel hurt. I’m not a patriot. It’s just my home, where I grew up, but hurt, no. I don’t have that parental relationship to the place. It’s like if my mom kicked me out of my house, I’m hurt. I don’t have that relationship to the government, to the people. I don’t.”
The Democratic party must begin to pay far closer attention to the needs of minorities. Neither the party, nor Nancy Pelosi, can afford the sight of a party that opposes Black Lives Matter as was exposed in a WikiLeaks email dump. Democrats also can’t afford the visuals of Democrats who engage in corrupt practices, as Pelosi did in 2010, when she and then Speaker Boehner were confronted by a 60 Minutes crew over their stock trades. As cronyism and corruption become daily occurrences in the White House and halls of Congress, Democrats must hold themselves to the highest standard of propriety. Democrats should avoid the visuals viewers were treated to on Friday as President Trump signing his first executive orders. I understand the need for protocol and politeness while carrying on official functions. I really do. But did Pelosi really have to pounce on the opportunity to score a signing pen and then engage in the barter that ensued? It reminds of Trump’s fondness of boasting about his greed and saying he likes to “grab, grab, grab!”
Pomp and circumstance don’t need to go hand in hand with the kind of chumminess witnessed here. In these dark times, there is no need to appear friendly and arranging as everyone else is told to resist Trump. If we are resisting him, why bother making nice?
It is these kinds of confusing double-messaging that Democrats need to eliminate. There is no need to be nice. The GOP leadership is not made up of nice people. Trump is a bully. We don’t make deals with bullies.
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Pelosi toasts Trump and Pence