What should the Democrats stand for in the Trumpian era?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
There is, supposedly, a blue wave coming that will wash away the Republicans in the midterm elections this November. Red will be cleansed from the electoral map, and blue will take its place as America reacts to Trumpian politics. The GOP currently controls both the Senate and the House of Representatives - but the Democrats are hoping to win them back, and curb the actions of the unprecedented president.
However, curiosity did not kill the cat, as an old school teacher told me; it was complacency.
Nothing is certain in politics - especially in recent times. Donald Trump surely cannot win the presidency, it was predicted. Hillary Clinton must have been measuring the curtains in the Oval Office, they thought. And then Trump won electoral college after electoral college - not the popular vote, it must be added - and won the White House.
Since he entered office, the Democrats have had an existential crisis. Who are they? What are they good for? For goodness sake, how did the Republicans win with firebrand Trump?
The midterms offer the Democrats a chance to rebrand themselves and win back confidence, as well as seats in Congress. As well as offering an alternative - or indeed an antidote - to the ugly politics displayed by the GOP in their Faustian pact with Trump, they need to add positivity to American politics saturated in hate and fear.
There has been a moment of self-reflection for the Democrats, and they now need to come out of it, fighting. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat who represents Arizona's 3rd Congressional District, argues that his party should become progressive, not merely liberal. Writing for the Washington Post, he notes the amount of progressive positions that have become reality, even to the opposition from the liberals. These include: marriage equality, which was once opposed by President Bill Clinton (who signed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996); opposition to Bush's invasion of Iraq; and the need to more strictly regulate the big banks. The progressive ideas, once treated as unrealistic, have now been vindicated and considered common sense.
Rep. Grijalva concludes: "If Democrats take nothing else from our moment of self-reflection, we should remember that on issue after issue, what was once pigeonholed as the "progressive" position has since become the popular position, or become law, or both."
Have a think back to the 2016 presidential election, as painful as it may be for Democrats. With Hillary Clinton as their nominee, what can you remember about their policies, or slogans? Clinton was breaking the glass ceiling by aiming to be the first woman president, but other than that it is difficult to name just one policy.
As CNN's Gregory Krieg notes, the "suddenly powerless" Democrats entered 2017 - the dawn of the Trump era - with "no message and, worse, no ideas". The party had been schooled by Trump, who had just entered the murky world of politics, because he knew that the American voters were crying out for a populist revival. The solution for the Democrats? They can counter this with a populist, progressive revival. A new Democratic agenda is taking shape, Krieg argues, and it is more and more progressive.
While the Republicans attempted to tear down Obamacare and Medicaid, the Democrats in the Senate went the other way and have crafted five pieces of legislation that would expand Medicare for more - or all - Americans. Recent bills from senators in the party include a federal jobs guarantee, and legislation that would require the US post office to offer bank services - in other words, create a public option for personal banking. "To varying degrees," Krieg writes, "these bills have one crucial thing in common: they take steps toward removing private industry - and with it, profit motives - from critical aspects of pubic life."
The Democrats are trying to move on from their existential crisis, and discover what their role is for the American people. They cannot just simply be the anti-Trump party; they need to offer policies and a message. They need to be the antidote to Trumpian politics not just in words, but in actions, too.