What do you call a party that refuses to represent the interests of its base in an increasingly critical time in U.S. politics?
Soon to be over.
Since the beginning of this decade, the Democratic Party has continuously grown more and more out of touch with their base. We saw it in the 2014 midterms, when the decision to swing to the center and distance themselves from Obama resulted in sound defeat in Congressional races. We saw it in the heavily contested Democratic primary, as more and more traditionally left-leaning people began to critique, if not outright reject, the political establishment.
Yet their decision to play soft at a time when members of their base are occupying airports in protest of Trump’s Muslim ban, and flooding the U.S. Senate with calls to oppose Trump’s grossly unqualified Cabinet picks, is not only the wrong move to make for a party that champions itself on diversity and inclusivity, it is strategically unsound and will undoubtedly result in even more electoral defeat in the years to come.
From jump, the Republican Party was committed to obstructing President Obama’s right to govern. Though he was far from it, those on the right succeed in painting him, in the words of dream hampton, as “Huey Newton reincarnated.” For those of you who need a refresher, here is a brief summary of the obstruction the GOP insisted on over the last eight years, in their own words:
“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president…if he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it’s not inappropriate for us to do business with him.” –Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2010…who, along with his colleagues, ultimately voted to repeal Obamacare over 60 times.
”This is not a time for compromise…We’re going to do everything — and I mean everything — we can do, to kill it, stop it, slow it down.” Former House Speaker John Boehner on the Affordable Care Act, 2010.
“I fully support Leader McConnell and Chairman [Chuck] Grassley’s [ decision not to move forward with the confirmation process. We should let the American people decide the direction of the court.” Current House Speaker Paul Ryan in March of 2016, just days after twice-elected President Obama announced his nominee to fill the empty seat on the Supreme Court.
The list, unfortunately, goes on and on.
But the Democratic base seems to be sending a crystal clear message to its elected leaders: play dirty too.
Aside from simply wanting to ‘returning the favor’ to the GOP, people who are in opposition to Trump’s hyper-nationalist, discriminatory agenda are actively rejecting the idea of “going high” when the other side goes low (sorry Michelle Obama.)
And for the sake of self-preservation, it is absolutely necessary that they do so. The Muslim ban that Trump promised (and others laughed off) is now in full effect. White supremacists are not so subtly creeping back into the White House. A man who wants to roll back consent decrees for police departments with a record of misconduct is preparing to become the next U.S. Attorney General.
What good is self-righteousness if it won’t stop your enemies from actively working to strip you of your rights, liberties and dignity?
While some Democratic senators, notably Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, have, for the most part, rejected the idea that the Trump Administration deserves their respect and cooperation, regardless of whether or not the same was shown to President Obama, others, like Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, just can’t get with the program.
But every single Democrat serving in government must ask themselves which option they prefer more: the abandonment of their base in favor of two to six years of non-confrontational interaction with the GOP and almost certain defeat in primaries, or representing the will of the people as they resist an increasingly dangerous Administration, with the privilege of keeping their jobs while at it?