These first days of the Trump administration have been amateur hour for sure. But Democrats are making a mistake by mimicking some of Trump’s theatrics and demeanor in their responses. We are in serious need to have at least some adults in the room. Thus, my advice in these first 100-days is for the Democrats to look to a “twist” of a timeworn British saying: “Stay Calm, But Don’t Carry On.” We have plenty of children acting out, we desperately need some cool and grownup behavior.
Democrats and others who did not vote for Trump are not primarily to blame for the election result. The Republican primary process and the weaknesses of alternative potential nominees delivered us President Trump. The establishment’s lack of understanding of the seething frustration of many, many citizens delivered us Trump.
Trump will hurt us all, but he is first and foremost a Republican problem. Establishment conservatives and their surrogates have made a Faustian bargain in their effort to control the White House. They now have as their leader a hedonistic, anti-trade, ethnic nationalist, and Peron-like corporatist. Not exactly bedrock conservative ideals.
Democrats through their hyperbolic responses over these last few days provide cover for the Republican moderates. In effect, the Democrats are saying what the Republicans would eventually be required to say. Democrats should stop carrying on and start looking and acting like a more grown up and responsible opposition. No one will listen to their criticism except fellow Trump haters. If McCain, Graham, Collins and Ryan and others have to say it; eventually it might sink in.
Trump’s cabinet nominees are going to be appointed eventually. Democrats should have presented polite, critical counterpoint at the hearings; setting up the record for later use. Instead, they behaved badly and ineffectually with a boycott of Mnuchin’s and Price’s confirmations for Treasury and HHS respectively. It was a useless and distracting tantrum; not showing an alternative demeanor to the Republican’s chronic obstructionism while they were in the minority. It only fueled the invincibility of the Trumpians. The same will follow on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Is he perfect; surely no, but generally continues the status quo of Antonin Scalia. Sure, it was unconscionable for the Republican’s to block Obama’s constitutional prerogative of appointment for almost a year; but will it do any lasting good to behave uncivilly? Extreme obstructionism will not work.
For Democrats, this should be a time for proportionality and reality in their response to Trump. If things go as they seem, Congressional Republican leadership will eventually abandon their Faustian devil. If Democrats smartly do not take the bait, it is the Republicans that will eventually rein in all the destructive policies and tendencies of the Donald.
Public demonstrations and the press can provide the emotional energy; the Democratic leadership must be calm, smart, grown up and strategic.
But Democrats also desperately need a fresh, new voice – think of the early Barack Obama. Trump’s message is fear, isolation and bravado. Democrats need to harness hope, access and confidence with a new communicator in this digital age.
It’s the long game Democrats should be thinking about, not the pettiness of the day. We potentially have four years “to carry on”, but if the conservatives and the country have their fill, perhaps Article 2, Section 4 of the Constitution will come to the rescue before then.