Stuart Muirhead
November 2016.

What should the Democrats do now to oppose Donald Trump?

1 answer

We have to co-operate when it’s helpful, but primarily fight with every ounce every single unacceptable strategy he has, all while holding out the positive vision we have of a united country where everyone is included. It is tough to fight with all your might while smiling, though.

Democrats have to remind ourselves that we don’t have to throw everything out. Remember, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by one million, and we can come back and build on all of that. We do need to bring fresh air to our party, and do a better job of holding up what we believe is in the best interests of working America. I do believe that there’s a lot of perception of condescension in some parts of the country – much like how in Britain, the Brexit vote illustrated the urban/rural split which is really a global phenomenon. But it doesn’t mean that we should lurch in that direction and forget that our message, in future, is much stronger as the demographics of the country shift.

Trump played to a white nationalist audience that brought along a lot of people who were willing to ignore the racist elements because they felt he was talking to working-class rural white Americans in places where industries are shifting. We are not going to – and shouldn’t – appeal to the white nationalist element Trump was talking to, but the voters who are struggling as the economy leaves them behind are the people who we should be approaching with new strategies on healthcare, on job transition, on education.

“Donald Trump isn’t going to get the industrial heartland back to work by wearing a baseball cap, and that will be abundantly clear very quickly.”

Donald Trump isn’t going to get the industrial heartland back to work by wearing a baseball cap, and that will be abundantly clear very quickly. As that happens, we have to be extremely aggressive about doing what we’ve already done – being the party that puts the resources into retraining someone who has lost their job, or protecting their healthcare or keeping their kids from piling up college debt. That’s not about a billionaire descending from his tower and using incendiary language that makes people feel good. Trump is a placebo – cotton candy that will not nourish people who are facing loss. Democrats have more substantive solutions, and we have to put that in a more compelling way, and frankly with a more compelling candidate.

An upside of the very disturbing Trump win is that it could reshuffle a calcified political climate. The Republican coalition has been pragmatic centrist, doing a Faustian bargain with extreme conservatives and I would say some people who played with racism. That is a fragile coalition, which was shown to be fracturing during the election, and I do believe that the pragmatic, moderate part of the Republican party will have no ultimate home in the cacophony of extreme ideologies of Trump, and the ultra-right wing that captured a once-proud party. There is the potential, for example on something like infrastructure to say: let’s go build some things.

This election should have been about the inability of the Republican party to do a single thing except say ‘We don’t like Barack Obama’ – who, by the way, is leaving office an extremely popular figure. There is a tremendous opportunity to say to people who are sick of things not getting done, let’s create a third way. And Democrats have to be open to that. I was the first mayor in the country to endorse Obama, and Obama was only possible because of George W. Bush. The catastrophic election of Donald Trump, I believe, will enable Democrats to go more boldly and more progressively into the next campaign.

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