Brian Beutler says we liberals and progressives must demand opposition, but we also must expect defeat.
Severe backlash to every perceived act of surrender can be an effective source of political pressure, as Republicans learned during the Obama years, but it can also herd the opposition party into traps. Resistance can be galvanic, but a false sense of strategic failure can be demoralizing. Quite frequently, at the urging of people who should’ve known better, conservatives scapegoated their elected representatives for allowing things to happen that those members lacked the power to stop. It was this sort of blind thirst for impossible victories that drove Republicans to shut down the government and nearly send the U.S. government into default on its debt.
There is a better balance, but it can only be struck if liberals and progressives accept that they are about to lose a whole lot of fights.
In other words, we must demand complete Democratic opposition to everything. But that won’t stop bills from passing in the House if the GOP is unified. And that won’t stop cabinet secretaries from being confirmed if the GOP is unified. And that wont stop the GOP from nuking the filibuster on the Supreme Court if they want to. But that all doesn’t matter.
Just so long as no Democrats collaborate.
Jonathan Chait says Trump is an autocrat in at least one respect:
This morning, Trump repeated one of his favorite authoritarian tropes by insisting that protesters against him have been secretly paid — “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters,” he ranted on Twitter. Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, insists that protests are not democratic. “There’s nothing peaceful and nothing democratic about folks who are out there just trying to re-litigate the election and protesting things they know nothing about,” she tells Sean Hannity. The election result, in Conway’s view, settled all political questions, and any protest against Trump’s policies is therefore undemocratic.
Trump likewise believes that he is entitled to a greater level of deference and respect because he controls the presidency. Conway (whose influence with Trump lies in her ability and willingness to articulate his beliefs in the media) made this complaint a few weeks ago: “We got no forbearance, we got nothing, we got no respect. We … this man is president of the United States.”
Alec MacGillis explains to Democrats that becoming the Party of No to balance a Trump administration isn’t as difficult as they may think:
A closer look at Mr. McConnell’s opposition during the Obama years suggests that the choices confronting Mr. Schumer and the Democrats may not be as stark as they seem. For one thing, the McConnell approach does not preclude going through the motions of working with the president of the opposite party. Recall that in the summer of 2009 Mr. McConnell allowed three Republicans, led by Chuck Grassley of Iowa, to spend months meeting with three Democratic counterparts on health care reform. The negotiations came to naught, allowing Mr. McConnell to claim that his party’s eventual monolithic vote against the Affordable Care Act came only after the Democrats’ refusal to move off their “far left” proposal. […]
The record of Republican intransigence in the Obama years also suggests that voters pay far less attention to the legislative process than Washington insiders would like to believe. What Mr. McConnell recognized was that a president’s party is rewarded in midterm elections if he’s popular and getting things done, and punished if he’s not. […]
Similarly, Senate Democrats’ 2018 prospects in states that Mr. Trump won will depend more on whether he’s seen as succeeding — on how energized or demoralized the ends of the polarized electorate are — than on whether a given senator found an issue or two of common ground with him.
Dave Faris at The Week: “The time for compromise, civility, and moderation is over. This is political war. […] [Missouri Senator Claire] McCaskill’s wavering is symbolic of a larger problem: The 2018 Senate map is abysmal for Democrats, who will be defending far more seats than the GOP, mostly in hostile territory like Missouri and North Dakota. But any attempt to save these endangered Democrats by currying favor with Trump and his voters can only end one way: in estrangement from the Democratic base, humiliation by Trump, and then defeat in 2018. Instead, McCaskill and Co. need to Google Map their spines, dig in, and fight like hell.”
John Cassidy at The New Yorker:
The Democrats and their supporters will be largely on their own, and with McConnell holding the option to exercise the nuclear option the outcome will be pretty much predetermined: Gorsuch will eventually take a seat on the Court. Of course, losing battles are sometimes worth waging, especially if they encourage your side and cause lasting damage to the enemy. […]
One argument, which the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent put forward on Wednesday, and which I find persuasive, is that the Democrats “can use the nomination fight to shine a light on Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and serial undermining of our democratic norms.” […] Another thing to consider is that forcing the Republicans to get rid of the filibuster may encourage Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on the Court, to postpone his retirement, thereby depriving Trump of the opportunity to appoint another ultra-conservative judge.
Eugene Robinson’s take:
Senate Democrats should use any and all means, including the filibuster, to block confirmation of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. They will almost surely fail. But sometimes you have to lose a battle to win a war. This is purely about politics. Republicans hold the presidency, majorities in the House and Senate, 33 governorships and control of the legislatures in 32 states. If the Democratic Party is going to become relevant again outside of its coastal redoubts, it has to start winning some elections — and turning the other cheek on this court fight is not the way to begin. […]
I’m not counseling eye-for-an-eye revenge. I’m advising Democrats to consider what course of action is most likely to improve their chances of making gains in 2018, at both the state and national levels. […]
From my reading of the progressive crowds that have recently taken to the streets, the Democratic base is in no mood to hear about the clubby traditions and courtesies of the Senate. The base is itching for a fight.
New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow has some elegantly-put observations about the Gorsuch nomination, which Dems can mine for sound-bitable comments: “This nominee is the fruit of a poison tree and no amount of educational pedigree or persuasive elocution can cleanse him of that contamination…If Trump can impose a Muslim ban until we “figure out what the hell is going on” with national security threats, we can withhold approval of his Supreme Court nominee until we “figure out what the hell is going on” with threats to our national elections…As for the “brilliant” rollout, let’s be clear: It was a solid rollout, but the bar for Trump has been set so low that merely behaving like an adult, deferring to counsel, not stepping on your own message with idiocy and building support makes a blathering half-wit look like he’s had a stroke of genius…As for Gorsuch himself, he’s a rather standard right-of-center, religiously deferential judge…Democrats must oppose Gorsuch on principle. Democrats have grown too soft. They are still trying to fight a gentleman’s war in the middle of a guerrilla war. Their efforts to reach across the aisle keep being met by hands wielding machetes; their overwhelming impulse to take the high road ignores the fact that Republicans have already blown up the bridge on the high road.”
John Russo explains “Why Democrats Lose in Ohio” at The American Prospect and suggests a path forward for the state’s Democrats: “The party should have done a better job of recruiting stronger candidates, developing political strategies, and building local support..The state party’s general cluelessness should be cueing up an insurrection within the ODP, just as the establishment’s inability to change and win has done in other states…No challenges have been mounted to the Democratic leadership in this former battleground state, where Sanders received almost as many votes as Clinton…The most productive tack the Democrats could take would be to begin organizing ballot initiatives to roll back unpopular GOP legislation, such as the bill prohibiting cities from raising the minimum wage, or to enact progressive reforms, such as raising the minimum wage statewide, developing a new formula for school funding, or improving the electoral system (by using mail ballots, for example). All these direct-democracy initiatives have public support and that of Ohio Democrats’ most successful office-holders, Senator Brown and Representative Tim Ryan. Such initiatives could strengthen the party and give Democratic candidates statewide an attractive platform to run on.”
Noah C. Rothman, a conservative columnist at USA Today:
Trump loves making enemies and that’s a problem
Trump surely doesn’t regret being seen as ruthlessly pursuing “America First” foreign, immigration and trade policies. If that rankles friend as well as foe, then so be it.
But the problem with creating enemies at this pace is that, eventually, you’re surrounded. As a Republican president, Trump’s only true opposition is the Democratic Party and its liberal base. The longer he and other Republicans take their eye off the ball — focusing instead on the media, the ACLU, the courts, Mexico, China, and who knows how many enemies of the people yet to come down the pike — the stronger their true opponents will get. And 2018 is right around the corner.
“Vincent Viola, a billionaire Wall Street trader and President Trump’s nominee for secretary of the Army, abruptly withdrew his name for the post on Friday night after concluding it would be too difficult to untangle himself from his business ties,” the New York Times reports.
Josh Rogin: “White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon wanted to stop Kelly in his tracks. Bannon paid a personal and unscheduled visit to Kelly’s Department of Homeland Security office to deliver an order: Don’t issue the waiver…”
“The confrontation between Bannon and Kelly pitted a political operator against a military disciplinarian. Respectfully but firmly, the retired general and longtime Marine told Bannon that despite his high position in the White House and close relationship with Trump, the former Breitbart chief was not in Kelly’s chain of command, two administration officials said. If the president wanted Kelly to back off from issuing the waiver, Kelly would have to hear it from the president directly, he told Bannon.”
“Bannon left Kelly’s office without getting satisfaction. Trump didn’t call Kelly to tell him to hold off. Kelly issued the waiver late Saturday night, although it wasn’t officially announced until the following day.”
Wall Street Journal: “How much of the first two weeks’ tumult was strategic and how much was a result of infighting, inexperience or simple disorganization is hard to pinpoint. This account—based on interviews with White House officials, lawmakers, federal officials, people close to the White House and others who have met with the president in his time in office—shows Mr. Trump has work to do before his White House is running at peak performance. It shows, too, that while he might try to impose more discipline among his staff, his own freewheeling style drives some of the turmoil.”
“Mr. Bannon and policy director Stephen Miller favor a rapid-fire series of executive orders and pronouncements that leaves opponents off-balance… Another White House wing that includes Mr. Priebus and Ms. Conway prefers to move more deliberately, seeing pitfalls in trying, as one aide put it, to squeeze ‘the first 100 days into the first 100 hours.’”
Politico: “What looks like chaos is at least in part a strategy to remind voters that they’re getting what they asked for — a real shakeup in Washington.”
“Unable to block the federal government from sending refugees to Arizona, six Republican lawmakers want to penalize the charities that help them resettle here,” the Arizona Daily Sun reports.
Key takeaway: “The potentially more far-reaching part of her legislation would impose a fine on charities of $1,000 a day for each refugee it helps place in the state. And if a refugee is arrested, the charity would be financially liable for the cost of arrest, prosecution and incarceration of that person.”
Timothy O’Brien: “Advisers will come and go in the White House in coming years, but it’s likely that the only permanent confidantes and counselors to the most powerful man in the world will be his 36-year-old son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, 35.”
“It will probably be Ivanka to whom Trump turns for final gut checks on major decisions, and the Tillersons and Mattises of the world may have to shuffle along.”
“That’s not to say that outside advisers won’t ascend from time to time. Remember Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani? Both men hovered in Trump’s inner sanctum during the 2016 campaign before he passed them over for White House and cabinet posts they coveted. For a time they appeared to be close counselors before being put out to pasture once Trump deemed them to be liabilities.”