On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles....I know the arguments against this, which have been articulated most passionately by Jonathan Chait: Republicans regained power after their 2006 and 2008 shellackings by opposing everything President Obama wanted, because they knew Democrats would get the credit if his policies were enacted and worked well. Trump is a dangerous man, so Democrats' primary goal should be to obstruct him in nearly everything. That will make him a failed president, and voters will embrace Democrats again.
Democrats ... face a profound decision after last week’s stunning defeat: Make common cause where they can with Mr. Trump to try to win back the white, working-class voters he took from them, or resist at every turn, trying to rally their disparate coalition in hopes that discontent with an ineffectual new president will benefit them in 2018.
Mr. Trump campaigned on some issues that Democrats have long championed and Republicans resisted: spending more on roads, bridges and rail, punishing American companies that move jobs overseas, ending a lucrative tax break for hedge fund and private equity titans, and making paid maternity leave mandatory....
Still, there will be areas of bright-line disagreement. Democrats are speaking out against Mr. Trump’s appointment of Stephen K. Bannon as his chief strategist, and will oppose his promised tax cuts for the wealthy and his vow to deport millions of illegal immigrants.
The biggest problem with this argument is the fact that Republicans have a noise machine and Democrats don't. There's a large and engaged audience in heartland America that has absorbed the Republican narrative and eagerly imbibes Republican propaganda. In the GOP narrative, Democrats are cartoon villains who've set out to destroy America, and who hate ordinary (read: heartland white) Americans. When Republicans fought Obama, they could spread this narrative in order to justify what they were doing. Heartland America bought it.
Democrats will have enough trouble trying to block the truly awful aspects of the Trump/Ryan/McConnell agenda -- not just conservative media outlets but the mainstream media will scold them endlessly for being the Party of No. Because the right's propagandists will hammer away at this message, and the MSM will pick up on it (no more blaming "Washington" for gridlock), any dysfunction will be the Democrats' fault. By contrast, Democrats could never manage to get blame to stick to the GOP when the GOP was shutting down the government or engaging in other obstructionist stunts. There just isn't a large pool of voters ready to believe that Republicans are inherently evil, and there isn't a large segment of the media devoted to Republican-bashing. (A couple of hours of MSNBC prime-time programming every night doesn't count.)
This isn't reason enough for Democrats to accept the vast majority of the Trump agenda -- they should fight hard against it -- but they'll get no benefit out of fighting policies that seem good for ordinary people. Even a bad infrastructure bill designed to line private developers' pockets rather will put at least some people to work. Paid maternity leave and ending the carried-interest tax provision for hedge-funders would be good things (though I suspect these ideas will disappear into the ether very soon). Do Democrats want to be positioned as against these policies? When Republicans opposed Democrats on popular ideas, there was no noise machine to focus America specifically on Republican intransigence. If Democrats oppose good ideas, or seemingly good ideas, the spotlight will be on Democrats, and it will be glaring.
Democrats' only hope is to either (a) develop a noise machine as powerful as the Republicans', so they'll have a voter base as politicized as the GOP's, or (b) wait for Trumpism to fail on its own. My money is on the latter. Maybe Democrats can rally the base around opposition to Medicare privatization or a similar outrage. But generally speaking, Trump isn't going to be an "ineffectual new president." Republicans in Congress will ram through a lot of legislation without Democratic input. I suspect voters will turn to Democrats when it's clear that Republicans aren't making America great again. But it will probably take years.