Democrats, it’s time to fight like hell

Michael Lin­den­berger shares a five-step plan for those in de­nial about Trump’s vic­tory

The Dallas Morning News - - VIEWPOINTS - Michael Lin­den­berger is a Dal­las Morn­ing News ed­i­to­rial board mem­ber. Twit­ter: @Lin­den­berger

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.

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