NEW YORK – Donald Trump is failing bigly. Why aren’t Democrats taking advantage of this amazing opportunity to rebuild their party?
Barely four weeks in office and the U.S. president has his first scandal. Flynngate has everything a president doesn’t want: a top national security official accused of treasonishness, messy investigations afoot, reinvigorated enemy journalists smelling blood.
At first glance, losing a labor secretary nominee might not seem to matter. All the other Cabinet picks got through. Still, Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal reveals staggering incompetence. Trump’s No. 1 issue was illegal immigration. Puzder hired an illegal immigrant; dude was a billionaire too cheap to pay her taxes. Seriously?
Trump’s first major policy move, the Muslim travel ban, ended in tears — within hours. So-called judges and their stupid “Constitution”!
Political journalists have a technical term for a cluster-k like this at such an early date in an administration: a s—t show.
So where are the Democrats?
The only thing more baffling than the Great Republican Unraveling is the failure of the Democrats to rise to the occasion exploit the situation. Yeah, conventional wisdom says to stand aside when your opponent is making a fool of himself. Right now, however, the Democrats’ failure to articulate an alternative vision — becoming a “party of outrage” doesn’t count — seems less like jujitsu than political malpractice.
He’s retired and deserves some rest after all those late-night droning sessions, but the Dems’ colossal cluelessness is epitomized by that video of Recently Former President Barack Obama kite-surfing — a sport most voters never heard of before — with Virgin mogul Richard Branson.
Given his fanatic dedication to detachedness, Obama as exiled leader of the anti-Trump resistance is probably too much to ask. Still, as John Oliver observed, “Just tone it down with the kite-surfing pictures.” He continued: “America is on fire. I know that people accused him of being out of touch with the American people during his presidency. I’m not sure he’s ever been more out of touch than he is right now … You’re fiddling while Rome burns!”
Trumpism is collapsing with impressive rapidity. In a two-party system, citizens expect the party out of power to step up, say I-told-you-so, and explain how and why they can fix this s—t show. So far? Nothing. The cavalry isn’t merely not coming. It’s asleep.
It’s easy to see why. The Democratic Party still suffers from the division that cost it the 2016 election. All the party’s energy is with the progressive base who backed Bernie Sanders (henceforth, the Guy Who Would Have Won Had the DNC Not Cheated), now gathered around the awkward, oddly colorless Elizabeth Warren. But its leadership caste is still dominated by the Dems’ fading corporatist DLC-Third Way hacks who installed Hillary as nominee. What was needed in 2016 to defeat Trump is still needed to defeat him in 2017: Sanders or someone like him. But the ruling Clintonistas won’t give up centrism unless it’s pulled out of their cold, ideologically dead hands.
The refusal of the Democrats to pogo-dance on Trump’s grave is one of the biggest missed opportunities in recent political history. For example:
He who sees first, and says so, wins. Remember, Trump anticipated Rust Belt rage over NAFTA. Clinton didn’t. Now to 2017 or perhaps 2018: Trump will probably face a forced exit sooner rather than later. Pushing for Trump’s impeachment now would position Democrats as forward-looking thinkers who had it right before anyone else. Moral authority matters.
Oh, and if you don’t do it, the Republicans will steal the moral high ground by doing it themselves. Ryan 2020!
Co-opt the nascent left-wing tea party movement. Sanders-Warrenites are flooding Republican town hall meetings the way the tea party of the right did eight years ago to Democrats. Hey, DNC: those kickass activists can freelance, perhaps setting the stage for a left-right split of the party. That is, unless you do what the GOP did when they faced their version of a populist insurrection. Let them inside. Let them lead.
Republicans let their tea party take over the party; now the party controls the government. Democrats should do the same.
Remember Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” for a “Republican Revolution”? Lay out a “Democratic Revolution” platform that explains to Americans what you stand for. Right now, most voters know that Democrats don’t like Trump, but not what Democrats are for. But remember Hillary’s lame $12/hour minimum wage, at a time when big cities already had $15? Don’t bother unless those platform planks go big. You might not get the $25/hour you ask for — but you’ll get people talking and thinking. Right now, the only thing anyone’s talking and thinking about is the orange monster in the White House.
Ted Rall is author of “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” an examination of the life of U.S. President Donald Trump.
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