If Democrats were smart… they’d understand that words have meaning, and people have concerns. Words can turn those concerns into fears, and fears can build tribal power. By denying those real and genuine concerns, Democrats have made many average people feel that Dems don’t understand them—and don’t care about them.
Let’s begin with the wall. Donald Trump largely won in 2016 because he understood the underlying anxieties of English-speaking America, particularly men. We look at people in our country with darker skin. There didn’t used to be so many. And even when we go to Lowe’s—a hardware chain—the signs on the wall are now in both English and Spanish. We didn’t used to see that, so we must be under invasion. Canadians have had English/French signs and they do okay. Of course, French-Canadians mostly stay “on the reservation’ in Quebec. Our Spanish-speakers are “everywhere,” so we notice the change.
Trump is trying to portray the shutdown as a referendum about border security, and the continued Anglo nature of our country. As long as Democrats look like “the party of no,” they’ll lose influence.
If Democrats were smart… they’d immediately redefine the “wall” argument as an issue of Constitutional authority. Congress has the unique and sole power of the purse strings. It is up to Congress to write laws and to provide the funding for those laws. Trump is overstepping his authority by telling Congress what will be funded. Libertarians, in particular, even in the Freedom Caucus, should understand that. Trump is trying to usurp their power.
In a story last year, we wrote:
There’s an old story about a freshman member of the House who is getting shown around by a senior member on his first day, and the freshman asks about the other party. ‘I want to meet the enemy,’ he says. ‘No, son,’ says the old bull, ‘they’re the opposition. The Senate is the enemy.’”
These days, Democrats are not the enemy of the Republican Senate. The person challenging their authority lives in a big white house, at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. So far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shirked Congressional power. He has said he won’t pass anything Trump won’t sign. So Trump won’t have to veto controversial laws. They are being killed before they get to his desk. So why have a Senate?
If Democrats were smart… they’d leave the investigating to Robert Mueller and the various states. Democrats in the House should eschew investigations, which are unpopular with the American public. Instead, they should spend every waking hour trying to come up laws that help workers and consumers—and force the Senate to refuse to consider them.
If Democrats were smart… they’d immediately resubmit and pass the exact temporary government funding bill that Trump said he’d sign. Then, they should, at the same time, pass a law that recognizes the importance of border security. That second law should direct Trump to begin immediate negotiations with Mexico, to figure out how they, not the American taxpayer, will pay for the wall. That, after all, was the campaign promise that Trump made. Why are taxpayers being asked to fund it, and why is the government shut down?
If Democrats were smart… they’d look for allies, not impose a litmus test. Trump has seen the fervor of Fox News, AM radio, and their listeners. He has turned the GOP into TP (the Trump Party). Democrats should reach out to anyone and everyone whom Trump has alienated. What about NeverTrumpers? Is there any way to work together, at least on specific issues?
They should look all the way up the Trump juggernaut. With the way Trump disposes of, and ridicules, former cabinet members, there are lots of people who could become Democratic allies in some fashion. And that also includes the people closest to Trump.
The media have picked up on friction between Trump and Melania Trump. But instead of being sensitive to that, Democrats have dumped on her. They should, instead, chide the media for being unfair to Melania. Instead of jumping onto the criticism of Melania’s “I Don’t Care” coat, for example, Democrats should be praising her for her initiatives and pet projects. They are, after all, basically, Democratic issues.
It should also be obvious that, while Donald Trump has no firm beliefs or ideals, his daughter, Ivanka does, and she tends to be liberal. Why not try to find ways to work with her? After all, she and Chelsea Clinton were best friends until the 2016 campaign pulled them apart. Power politics got between them, but their ideals and beliefs still align.
Ivanka has contradicted her father, saying that the press is not the enemy of the people, as well as showing disfavor about separating families at the border, and other clear examples of comeuppance of her father. Several months ago, Trump suggested that Ivanka should go back to New York. The reason given was that the media were being unfair to her, but it might also be that she was making him uncomfortable.
If Democrats were smart… they’d pick up the pieces of the rubble that Trump has left behind. That includes his disrespect for the judiciary. He has packed courts across the country. He should be trying to increase the respect for the Third Branch, which he now largely “owns.” That includes the Supreme Court, which is already solidly conservative and is likely to be for the rest of our lives. Instead, Trump has alienated John Roberts by undermining the rule of law, and respect for judges—because the courts don’t bow to him 100% of the time.
Roberts handed Trump an unprecedented rebuke, following Trump’s encouraging partisanship by judges. Slowly, but surely, Roberts is becoming the “swing vote” on the court, partly because it’s so much fun to hold the most power and get the most attention. All the other justices are predictably conservative or liberal. He is the only one who can give journalists a story to print. If Trump continues the way he is going, he could turn Roberts into another Earl Warren.
Eisenhower named California Governor Warren to the court, expecting him to be predictably conservative. Instead, almost immediately after joining the Court, Warren led a unanimous decision that changed America—Brown V Board of Education, which outlawed government-sanctioned segregation. The “Warren Court” is now synonymous with judicial activism, working toward what it considered “fixing” the country. Ike later said that naming Warren was the biggest mistake he ever made as president.
George Bush named Roberts to the Court. Despite clear ideological differences, Roberts repeatedly said that he would try to work toward unanimous, or at least strong majority votes. In order to do that, Roberts will have to sway liberals to join the conservatives, but it would obviously be easier to cajole his fellow conservatives to lean a little left, to achieve that goal. Considering that Trump has been so unfair toward George Bush, Roberts might have another reason to want to show Trump that the Court is an equal branch of government, which cannot be bullied.
If Democrats were smart… they’d be very careful to be deferential to all of the Courts. They won’t, of course. They’ll rail against any ruling they don’t like and question a judge’s integrity. They probably won’t do any of the things they “should” do, and despite his missteps and purposely antagonizing erstwhile allies, Trump will be re-elected, and Democrats will just become angrier. Because they’re not smart.