Thursday, November 17, 2016


I know I'm supposed to hate this plan, but I understand it:
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....

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.
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.

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.


Charon04 said...

I agree that obstruction is a bad tactic for Democrats, as their potential or gettable voters just are different people than the kind the GOP goes for. I can't see that working well for the Blue Team.

Trump probably sticks around for four years, but I would be surprised if he fails to get a primary challenge in 2020. Presidents with primary challengers generally do not get reelected.

Nzone said...

the difference is that people expect the GOP to obstruct precisely b/c they wallow in grievance politics and victim-hood. moreover, if any lesson can be learned over the last 8 years, it is that the GOP would rather watch the world burn--for which they paid no real political price--than cooperate with the Dems. The Dems, as a whole, do not want the world to burn, and won't get away with full on obstruction. they will be held accountable by the media.

swkellogg said...

It almost seems like the best tactic the Dems have is to play up their impotence. The RWNM loves to gloat, will feed into it and will trumpet it loud and clear to their minions -- who will love it!

But when the bill comes due, even the RWNM won't be able to pull off that two step.

Frank Wilhoit said...

"Effectiveness" -- [the appearance of] getting things done -- is admired and rewarded, regardless of which things those are. This is of a piece with the hardwired tendency to take megalomaniacs at their own estimation of themselves. Both are fatal defects in the human neurological wiring.

Feud Turgidson said...

It's gonna be bad,folks: real bad. Bad in ways you think, Nah, that ain't gonna happen. They will, tho.

Dump's playing with house money. He's got an unlimited tab. He'll play every table, every scam, and try to win every hand, beat every machine, with OUR money. Every time he loses, he'll double down. He's going to appoint a political offences AG, and the only offences that will matter will be dis'ing him. The FBI and CIA will both become Stasi, and on top of that we can look forward to DHS getting powers to stop protests and investigate and jail indefinitely anyone Dump wants.

Marcus said...

I sadly agree given i knew Trump would win the Republican nomination...didn't see him defeating the Obama coalition...
Finally they have their Santino...the republican ID...just hope the democrats find their Michael Corleone :)

Unknown said...


"But when the bill comes due, even the RWNM won't be able to pull off that two step."

What makes you think that? Has Kansas turned Blue? No - they are just going back to a different flavor of Red.

In all kinds of areas the choice is between Republicans and Democrats, but in dark red areas the choice is between supply-side magic economics Republicans and "normal" Republicans who will only loot the treasury a little bit. Oh, and the Democrats, but everyone knows that the Democrats are EVIL, so no one expects them to do anything

The Republicans/Conservatives/Alt-right/Tea Party/"real Americans" will beleive and do anything as long as they are allowed to hate "those people".

Even if Trump doesn't completely wreck everything, he has still given permission to his followers to vociferously HATE the people they hate. It's gonna take decades to get the hate back in the shame bottle

Monte Davis said... win back the white, working-class voters he took from them...

I know this has become the dominant narrative since mid-campaign ("Look at the Trump rally! All those pickups outside, all those gimme caps inside! Listen to Trump bellow about stolen jobs!") but it simply isn't so.

The 61M Trump voters were, in fact, extremely similar demographically (as well as in numbers) to the 61M Romney voters and the 60M McCain voters. The outcome turned on the decline of 3.5M Democratic voters since 2012, 7M since 2008. In the Rust Belt, WWC voters who switched were outnumbered 3x-5x by those -- WWC and others -- who had voted for Obama in 2012 but didn't vote for Clinton *or* Trump. We can argue about the reasons, but that is the elephant -- or disappearing donkey, I guess -- in the room.

(This has been a futile and quixotic gesture on behalf of facts. We now return you to the discussion of the white working class's headlong rush to populo-fascism.)

Victor said...

Unlike the old saying, Republicans are both rubber AND glue.

Anything bad that they do, they manage to get to bounce off of them, and stick to the Democrats. Example: Hillary casting a vote for the Iraq debacle made her responsible for the mess.

Any good Democrats accomplish first gets trashed, and then that good is redirected to themselves.

swkellogg said...


Yeah, I really do have to check myself on that. It's just a little hard to accept the whole demographics=fate thing right now. I'd like to believe that something sufficiently calamitous might inspire some mass introspection. But sadly, it seems that the American right is constitutionally incapable of honestly confronting their failings.


Dr.BDH said...

I would hope the Democrats are writing an infrastructure bill and a maternity leave bill and plan to unveil them in January. I understand it's impossible to know what Baby Doc Trump will actually do, but giving him what he wants (that we also want and that the Republicans don't want) could start to split up what otherwise promises to be a very cozy axis of evil between the White House and the Hill.

swkellogg said...

@ unknown

Okay this thread is old enough that you'll probably not see this response.

I conceded your point, but now I'm not so sure.

There really is a tendency to normalize the results of this election and that is a serious fallacy. Your scenario presumes that the fallout from a Trump presidency is just going to be bad, but garden variety bad, like GWB bad (which was pretty fucking bad), and that we'll somehow return to business as usual next election cycle. But I believe this will be catastrophically bad, as in total fucking collapse bad.

Right now, more than ever, we need serious competence, and instead we are going to get the dog and pony show to end all dog and pony shows. In addition to all the retrograde social and economic policy, we're going to get complete denial of the severity of the ecological crisis we are already in and when the shit hits the fan, it ain't going to be ho-hum change the channel time. Right now the planet is burning up, the oceans are collapsing and we're seeing a response on the part of knowledgeable people that is too metered. God knows what will happen if we continue to ignore it like we're about to, but it's pretty likely there is going to be more famine, more war, and massive social unrest. This is going to make the Great Depression look like an ice cream social.

And yeah there are always the Rohms who'll say "heil Hitler" before they take one in the chest, but even the true believers have a breaking point. We're rapidly approaching that point.