Democrats, it’s time to fight like hell
Michael Lindenberger shares a five-step plan for those in denial about Trump’s victory
Democrats and liberals are still licking their wounds over this month’s election, and who could blame them? It was a nasty shock, and the early days of Donald Trump’s transition have hinted at worse horrors to come.
But enough with the denial, Democrats. You lost. I lost. And now all the world is going to endure the consequences. What you need now is a strategy. Here is one in five easy pieces.
1. Get your heads out of the sand. No, the Electoral College is not going to reverse the outcome of the election. No, you can’t impeach the president-elect.
And the protests? It’s not for me to tell anyone they don’t have the right — or even the obligation — to be in the streets singing their song of America. But already, the message #NotMyPresident has grown stale, even offensive. You’re part of America, and America needs you.
2. Admit that Trump is right. On some issues, he is. Just like Bernie Sanders before him, he has targeted something real in the nation, a cancer that will eat its prosperity and its civic prospects.
A rich country can’t stay that way if too many of its citizens are poor. Especially in democracies, disorder has ever sprung from the seeds of poverty, and usually just as things are starting to get better.
Trump has also made reasonable proposals that Democrats ought to greet with relief. He’s likely to back massive spending on infrastructure in this country. If he wants to put a firmer wall between government officials and the lobbying jobs they often rely on to get rich, then that’s good, isn’t it?
As Sen. Joe Manchin, the former West Virginia governor, put it, “If Presidentelect Trump comes with good policies, I’m going to be 1,000 percent behind him. OK? Maybe the rest of my caucus will not, but I’m going to find a pathway forward.”
3. Refuse to fall into the trap of fighting for the white working class. America doesn’t have a “white working class.” It has a working class that includes black, brown, white and every hue and creed and race imaginable. Democrats have always championed workers in this country, and to the extent that the party has in recent years overlooked that part of its identity, it’s time to rectify it.
But it’s worth emphasizing that American voters rejected Trump. They chose Hillary Clinton, a fact that is important even if it isn’t legally relevant under our Electoral College system. Among her voters? Millions of workers, many of color, who responded to her message over Trump’s promises. The new Democratic agenda must include a focus on — and real solutions for — the plight of workers.
4. Find your allies. Face it, Democrats. You’re a minority party. It’s a real question whether Democrats have ever been so weak in Washington as they are right now. So, as satisfying as it may be, a strategy of all-out obstructionism isn’t going to work, not with these numbers.
The good news is that Trump has cobbled together a coalition of factions so unlike one another they won’t stand united. There will be conservative Republicans who turn on Trump, maybe not completely, but on this piece of legislation and that piece. Democrats must seek these senators and congressmen out, and make them allies.
5. Fight like hell. How bad will Trump-era policies be? Pretty bad. And when the worst of the worst heads to the Hill, Democrats will need to fight like badgers.
But that’s going to require judgment on the part of the opposition. Will they fight to keep a wall from rising? Probably not. From his filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court? Only if he nominates a total extremist.
But someone better be ready to grapple with the majority, should our next president seek to create a vast army of immigration police to round up 11 million undocumented residents. Or to begin requiring citizens of one faith or another to register. To weaken free speech or the free press.
Democrats won’t win them all, but there is honor and purpose in fighting hard. It’s the party’s only path back, away from political oblivion. The party’s leaders are going to have to do more than say what they’re made of. They are going to have to show it.