05 January 2017

Responding to the Republican regime

Some Democrats (mostly bloggers and other commentators, not politicians) have proposed that we should respond to the coming Republican-dominated regime by blocking everything it tries to do, no matter what the merits of the case.  This is the wrong approach.

The vast majority of what the new minority-rule regime tries to do will be bad, and must be resisted.  That's beyond dispute.  But it's possible that from time to time some element of that regime may propose something positive.  The most likely "element" to do this is Trump himself, whose positions are notoriously changeable and non-ideological.

As an example, at various times during the campaign Trump suggested he'd support raising the federal minimum wage, though of course at other times he's said the opposite.  If at some point during his term he actually proposed doing this, it would be absurd for Democrats to oppose it simply because he was the one making the suggestion.  The same would apply if he eventually reacted to a prolonged debacle about "replacing Obamacare" by proposing a single-payer system, something he's also talked about in the past -- or if he made an unexpectedly moderate nomination for the Supreme Court.  In the unlikely event that he actually did any of these things, he wouldn't get much Republican support, but there are past examples of Presidents working with the opposition party to pass things their own party objected to.

The average person struggling to survive on the minimum wage or worrying about health insurance doesn't give a rodent's posterior about whether some politician (or blogger) succeeds in remaining unsullied and pure from the taint of cooperation with a Republican.  He just wants a better minimum wage or more secure insurance.  If you're a member of Congress, your job is to serve the interests of that person, not to show off how strong of an absolutist posture you can adopt.  Pragmatism dictates that when an opportunity arises to do some good for the country, that good must indeed be done.  Real leaders get this, with Pelosi, Sanders, and Schumer having already said they would work with Trump if he ever does offer any progressive proposals.

The pragmatism of political gain points in the same direction.  It will be argued that if Trump were to propose (say) a higher minimum wage, Democrats should not help pass it because Trump would get the credit.  However, Democrats would get some of the credit, especially if most Republicans noisily resisted the idea.  And if Democrats responded to such a scenario by blocking the increase, Trump would still get the credit for trying, while Democrats would get the blame, and millions of low-wage workers would not get the increase they need.

It's important that this be grasped not only by Congressional Democrats, but by activists and ordinary people as well.  Mass public opposition can actually force Congress to change direction, as the recent attack and sudden reversal on the Office of Congressional Ethics showed.  This is an encouraging sign for the next four years of dealing with the overwhelming majority of the Republican agenda which is unequivocally destructive and must be resisted.  But we need to be prepared to respond properly to any opportunities which arise as well.


Blogger Frank Wilhoit said...

This is a subtle distinction that a lot of people are confused about. Tactical cooperation is not out of the question; but tactical cooperation that implicitly grants legitimacy is out of the qeustion.

05 January, 2017 05:31  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I agree with supporting any Liberal policy that Trump may propose, such as minimum wage increases. I just wonder if Trump's advisors would ever let that happen. My impression of Trump has been that he has no core values and will support whatever he thinks will bring him the greatest amount of admiration from his sycophants. As you can see, I'm not very optimistic.

05 January, 2017 06:05  
Anonymous Marc McKenzie said...

Mass public opposition can actually force Congress to change direction, as the recent attack and sudden reversal on the Office of Congressional Ethics showed.

This, right here. But may I also add that it has to be organized, and with a proper end goal in mind. An Occupy-styled protest against whatever the GOP has planned will not work(just like Occupy didn't work, in my opinion).

The GOP is about to find out that no, they do not have a mandate and they cannot steamroll their hateful agenda over everyone. We can look back to 2005, when they held the House, Senate, and White House, and were still thwarted in their plans to privatize Social Security.

Thanks for penning this, Infidel. I also agree that if we can find allies, regardless of whether they have an R after their name, we should. Many Republicans have been disgusted by Trump and the GOP leadership fawning over him, and in matters such as the Russian interference in the 2016 election, some are livid.

05 January, 2017 07:13  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

Now that we know for certain that Trump is a Russian agent, we owe it to the country to do absolutely nothing that grants him any legitimacy whatsoever. The position of the Democratic party must be that until his party removes him from power and sends him to prison for treason, they will never recognize the Republicans' right to govern in any way.

06 January, 2017 18:07  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Frank/Green: The problem is what, exactly, "refusing to grant legitimacy" consists of. Refusing to recognize or acknowledge something has no effect on the real world outside one's own head. I haven't given any thought to whether I myself "accept" Trump as a "legitimate" President or not, because it isn't an important question. What's important is minimizing the damage he can do. If "refusing to grant legitimacy" includes refusing to take advantage of the kinds of rare opportunities I mention here (if they arise), then doing so will harm people and make it more difficult to win future elections, with no offsetting benefit (avoiding a feeling of being tainted is an illusory benefit with no real-world effect). Millions of people throughout history have been faced with dictators, foreign occupiers, etc. with no democratic legitimacy. The point is what you do about the situation. Minimizing concrete harm in the real world is important. Maintaining the purity of one's own mental state of rejection is not.

Short version -- if Trump were to suggest a minimum-wage increase and Congressional Democrats refused to help it get passed with the help of the few sane Congressional Republicans who would go along, because working with Trump would mean "granting legitimacy" in their own minds, then all the people who needed that increase and didn't get it would rightly judge the Democrats to be self-indulgent assholes and would be less likely to vote for them later.

Shaw: Maybe not, and he's certainly got some very nasty characters around him. But he doesn't strike me as easy to control. My point here is not how likely these things are, but how to respond if they happen. And if he's just out for admiration, then perhaps he'll eventually try doing things that are actually popular.

Marc: Mass opposition probably is the more effective, the more organized it is -- but this is all the more reason to take encouragement from the wave of anger that stopped the gutting of the OCE. That happened before there was even time to organize anything, but it worked. Organized campaigns will be even more effective, provided they focus on specific demands and preventing specific legislation.

I think there are a fair number of potential Republican allies out there, or at least opponents of Trump who will work with us on a few issues. He's stepped on a lot of toes. And in the political realm, right now we're not in a position to be too choosy about our allies.

07 January, 2017 01:18  
Blogger Tommykey said...

Given his desire to be respected, adored and admired, sometimes I wonder if it would make sense for some liberal groups to have rallies where they appeal to Trump instead of condemn him. Have rallies in support of protecting choice or in support of environmental issues by having pro-Trump signs and pitching the rhetoric as appealing to him to support the people against the radical right. Appeal to his vanity to encourage him to offer his support.

07 January, 2017 11:31  
Anonymous nonnie9999 said...

I wish I didn't agree with you, Infidel, but I do. It would warm the cockles (I'm a female, do I even have cockles?) of my cold, cold heart to treat the orange turd as badly as Yertle McConnell and his cohorts treated President Obama. However, if Trumpelthinskin does propose a higher minimum wage or infrastructure spending, then the Dems should get on board. Here's the thing, though. When they do get on board, they should have a Dem on every Sunday talk show, at every microphone available, and in every reporter's ear crowing about how happy they are that Hair Furor as decided to run with a Democratic idea. Remind constituents (all politics is local) that the Dems have been pushing these issues for years, and it's so nice that someone from the other side has finally agreed. Then they should add that they hope the Rethugs in Congress don't get in the way. That said, I would not bet even a wooden nickel on the talking toupee doing anything that will benefit Joe Schmo. Just like he said himself, he doesn't need them anymore.

07 January, 2017 14:45  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Tommy: That's an interesting thought. It might be worth trying, at least, especially if he starts getting resistance from Republicans on a few things (his anti-free-trade stance is likely to provoke that, for example). Kowtowing to an unworthy ruler to get what we want would be a repellent necessity, but we'd be far from the first people in history to be in that position.

Nonnie: True, we need to keep the public straight on the fact that the good ideas are Democratic ones, regardless of who gets on board with them. This would have the further advantage of irritating the hell out of the Ryans and McConnells of the world.

Oh. and congratulations on what must be the most nickname-rich comment ever posted here.

07 January, 2017 16:59  

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