The Resistance and The Democratic Party.

Senate Democrats must make up their minds about how to handle President Trump. CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon.

Senate Democrats must make up their minds about how to handle President Trump. CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon.

The Democrats won’t be leading the resistance, they are reluctantly following it, and it’s past time to commit. There’s an excellent, in-depth article at Think Progress about what the Dems are doing, and what they aren’t doing. Highly recommended reading.

…With protesters flooding airports in the cities that have actually been victims of terrorist attacks, American voters got their first glimpse of how Democrats might dig in against the new administration’s attempts to abandon longstanding U.S. values. Elected officials didn’t just offer moral support; they showed up in person and lent the power of their office to a concrete effort at combating injustice.

But even then, Democrats were not leading a resistance. They were racing to catch up with the people who moderate strategists and elected officials within the party’s fraying Congressional minority have been ignoring for years.

A gap has opened up between federal officeholders with a “D” next to their names and the wide majority of Americans who do not like President Trump. Staunch Senate resistance to Trump’s ill-suited and ethically challenged cabinet nominees last week suggests some in Washington are beginning to wise up. But the week also offered more evidence that Democrats believe voters will reward them for cooperating with Trump where possible — a misguided notion that would leave the party standing apart from protesters and resistance groups, and create a political vacuum strong enough to swallow the party for good.

For all the party’s faults, and all the harm its corporatism has done to left-of-center political ideas and public policies, further breakdown in Democratic cohesion and backbone would leave Americans without any meaningful opposition to Trump’s backward ideas — and no hope of rescuing the world’s largest free society from self-inflicted oblivion.

People who seek political office tend to view themselves as leaders. But Democrats find themselves instead following a wave of energy they cannot claim to have originated. While it may sting the ego to be behind the leading edge of anti-Trump resistance, the party and its individual members have a perfect opportunity to position themselves as joiners, helpers, and colleagues of a budding populist movement.

Both the Democratic Party and the country are better served by these leaders becoming a part of that movement rather than by attempting to manage it — or appearing to betray it in the name of Beltway compromise.

I can’t emphasise the truth of the above enough. The notion of playing along or picking your battles is one which alienates all those who see the rapidly widening cracks under our feet. It’s often a snort of disgust to be heard after a democrat decides to compromise, like affirming Ben Carson, the idiot’s idiot, to be in charge of housing. There isn’t time for democrats to make up their mind here, while shuffling their feet and having debates over the merit of this, that, or the over. It’s time for quick thinking and action. It’s troubling, to say the least, that those traits aren’t common ones in those who make up political parties.

…The initial stirrings of a real resistance movement in Washington run contrary to an old party conviction — one that guided Democrats into their early capitulations, and which still lurks behind wishy washy statements on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and in closed-door meetings about “Triangulating Trump” on infrastructure and trade.

Leaders think that Republicans will operate in good faith so long as Dems do likewise. If they show how reasonable they can be, the moderate thinking goes, Schumer’s gang can pick off some Republican votes on the truly odious nominees.

But while this kind of horsetrading might have made some sense with Obama in the White House, it is flat-out nuts to accord Trump’s party the same faith.

Trump’s approval ratings are already down from the record lows that greeted his inauguration. Millions are already in the streets marching against him. He is bringing sycophants to the CIA to clap for him in front of the press. He’s telling Congressional leadership that voter fraud is real because a golfer told him a story once. His political brand is emboldening the men’s-rights crowd and the modern white supremacist movement, two allies sure to further taint his reputation.

It is hard to craft “be reasonable” into an effective political brand even in more stable times. Obama-era Democrats should have learned that lesson in 2010 and 2014 as Republicans were rewarded for years of hardline obstruction.

Another truth. For the whole of the Obama administration, rethugs pulled every filthy trick in the book, even to the point of shutting the government down in a massive tantrum, to get what they want, and no one in the democratic party seems to learn from that behaviour – they continue to behave as though being submissive and conciliatory will work, when it’s been shown time and time again that it won’t. When you’re up against an immoral force, caving is never an effective strategy.

 The few voters who pay obsessive attention to political news may notice Democrats’ commitment to being the adult in the room and reward it. But most Americans won’t see or hear about or understand the intricate machinery of Democratic grownup-ism. They will instead see flashes of Democrats collaborating with Trump, blurring the brand distinction between a Democratic vision for the future and Trump’s bug-eyed retreat into fear and vengeance.

Digging in to fight every battle, on the other hand, would ensure that even casual viewers hear Democrats blasting a constant bullhorn of objection, defiance, and “no.” Becoming the party of no in opposition to Trump would put Democrats on the moral high-ground. The approach urged by party moderates, though, actively privileges a different, stodgier set of values over those of justice, equality, tolerance, and broad economic opportunity.

Yes, yes, yes, yes. And yes.

Senate collegiality is a value. Continuity of administrative competence in Washington agencies that directly touch Americans’ lives every day is a value. Deference to the 46 percent of 2016 voters who put a madman in the White House is a value, too. But they are not ideas that can rekindle a party.

Yes, yes, yes, yes. And yes.

The absolutist rejection of Trump policies on Capitol Hill is a prerequisite for Democrats’ resistance efforts. But it is not, on its own, a resistance movement.

Movements happen in streets, living rooms, diners, bars, and churches. They operate from communities upward. Their structure is bottom-up rather than top-down, which can leave would-be leaders of a Trump resistance who hold federal office on unsure footing. If they attempt to stake out leadership positions on behalf of airport protesters and women’s marchers and defiant federal bureaucrats, will they appear to be big-footing organic populism that’s driving them left?

But it is not complicated to hedge against this risk. Democrats simply have to go to the people directly.


If there are in fact any Trump moderates, they are severely outnumbered within his movement by dyed-in-the-wool anti-liberals genuinely eager to ban Muslims, wall off Mexico, and lock up every black woman who cusses at a cop. Democrats can speak to the gettable independent voter and say “no” to all things Trump at the same damn time — and there is simply nothing they could ever say that would split loyalists from their glib, TV-savvy president.

So instead of trying to out-argue the ogre in the White House, Democrats must bypass him and the national media figures that jump at his every little mendacity like a crow leaps at a shiny pebble. They must communicate directly with the people. And in doing so, they must surrender their sense of being entitled to call themselves leaders — and embrace instead the power of following.

Many more yeses. Think Progress has the full article, highly recommended.


  1. says

    I agree. The dems are also part of the problem. While I voted for their candidate, Clinton was not someone I was exactly excited about, either. And they’re bending over backwards, now, to show that they’re part of the same system that Trump is part of -- in fact I blame them as much for the current situation as I do Trump. A plague on all their houses.

    The dems have probably set themselves up to have their own “tea party” movement, and I’m afraid if that happens it’ll result in another successful repub candidate in the next election -- if there is one.

    I’d like to see the dems play every dirty trick they can, including trying to completely shut the entire government down, permanently. But they won’t -- because the dems and the repubs are actually the same team, they just pretend to be on different sides about a few (very important) key points -- but points, all the same, which don’t interfere much with how they rule the country. Until we see candidates that are serious about rolling back imperialism and military spending, we can be sure we’re looking at candidates that are all part of the machine.

  2. cubist says

    For an individual human being, picking one’s battles is a practical necessity, because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for one person to fight everything. For a major political party like the Democrats, which is made up of gods-know-how-many–million individual human beings…

  3. brucegee1962 says

    In all of these protests, I’ve been looking for the next actual leader to come to the fore. So far I’m not seeing it.

    Elizabeth Warren sounds like the closest thing we’ve got. I wish she’d run last time — if she’d managed to get the nomination, I think she would have wiped the floor with Trump. But I fear she’ll be too old. We need someone with the passion of Warren or Sanders, a real fire in the belly, but a decade or two younger. Maybe someone will rise up out of the rallies and marches. But yeah, right now the Democratic party is a parade with nobody in front. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I think of every Democratic speech now as an audition, and I don’t see any more Obamas on the horizon.

  4. says

    We need someone with the passion of Warren or Sanders, a real fire in the belly

    They have no passion at all. They’re insiders that are part of the scam. They’re just slightly to the edge of the scam, instead of mainstream scammers.

    They’re the best of a bad lot, but that’s not saying much at all.

  5. chigau (ever-elliptical) says

    Why does there need to be A Leader?
    Do we need someone to sacrifice to the gods?

  6. says

    @chigau, you do not need someone to sacrifice to the gods, but you need someone whom the people can put in the white house.

  7. KG says

    the dems and the repubs are actually the same team, they just pretend to be on different sides about a few (very important) key points -- Marcus Ranum@1

    No, they don’t “just pretend” to be on different sides with respect to abortion, LGBT rights, the reality of climate change, the agreement with Iran, the separation of church and state… -- they really are on different sides over those issues. Of course they have a lot in common, particularly over imperialism and militarism, but it’s sheer blithering idiocy not to recognise and work to exploit the very real differences.

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