Well, the last month has been interesting, to say the least. Trump has further unveiled his narcissism, racism and misogyny. More importantly, however, Michael Wolff’s tell-all, Fire and Fury, has revealed the complete and utter incompetence of Trump and his cronies. As someone who gobbled Wolff’s book down, I can only say that the men (and only men) that are running this country terrify me to my core.
But perhaps the greatest evil of the Trump era is not the president and his staff, but rather the Republican-controlled Congress that continually defends the monstrosity that is Trumpism. The moral bankruptcy of men (and only men) like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) threaten the very foundations of our democracy. Despite the complete lack of competence and morality among Republicans, Democrats are somehow, some way, losing the war on Trump and his allies.
Democrats’ recent defeat on the government shutdown — where Democrats failed to get a deal on DACA — is only a symptom of a much greater institutional dysfunction within the party. As a registered Independent, I find that my outsider status gives me a unique perspective on the party’s problems. In my view, Democrats face three major problems: they are still haunted by the ghosts of 2016, are unable to convey a coherent message and lack inclusivity.
2016 hangs over the Democrats like mosquitos on a hot summer night. Debates on whether Hillary stole the nomination, or whether it was her fault that the party blew the most winnable presidential race in modern history, plague the party. Democrats are still embroiled in a bitter civil war over a race that was lost over a year ago.
The time for fighting over 2016 is over. Democrats need to accept that there will never be a broad consensus over what exactly happened in that strange, bizarre election. As a swing voter, I personally find Democrats’ constant fights over the election to be annoying and distracting from the real issues. An autopsy is fine — but this all-out brawl feels like a fight between petulant children.
Beyond the election, Democrats face a massive messaging problem. If I were forced to identify the main theme of the party’s messaging, it would be this: Trump sucks. No focus on policy, no focus on the problems facing everyday Americans.
Instead, Democrats seem to be almost singularly focused on the fire-breathing dragon that is Trump. Sure, Democrats may occasionally discuss an issue that seems to have salience (DACA, for example); however, the main focus of their efforts has been an attempt to bring down Trump.
I understand the impulse to focus one’s energy singularly on the president: the guy is dangerous and wholly incompetent. However, Trump is Teflon. Look at the Republican primaries — Trump was able to literally insult veterans and somehow not lose support. Look at the general election — Trump bragged about groping women, yet somehow won over 300 electoral votes. Quite simply, the country has become desensitized to the filth and evil of this amoral buffoon. Thus, focusing on Trump is a gigantic waste of time.
Instead, Democrats should offer a reasoned alternative to the fiery blond orange. The party should present a platform that utilizes its history of economic populism with a well-thought-out foreign policy agenda. This will not only counter Trumpian populism, but will also contrast with the let’s-throw-a-hand-grenade-into-world-affairs-and-see-what-happens approach of the president’s foreign policy. Furthermore, the party should push a uniform message. It is clear that nearly every major Democrat — from Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) — has their own message and agenda. Instead, Democrats should strive to establish some sort of universal message that will routinely be heard by the American people.
Finally, Democrats face a major inclusivity problem. The party refuses to admit those who do not adhere to an exact ideology — meaning that anyone who has pro-life, pro-gun or any other semi-conservative leanings is unwelcome in the party. This is perhaps the most foolish thing that a party rebuilding from the ashes of a historic defeat can do. Republicans were routinely criticized by Democrats after 2012 for having policies that excluded minority Americans from their party; four years later, Democrats are effectively making the same mistake by blockading those that do not fall in line with liberal orthodoxy.
To win the war on Trump, Democrats need to free themselves of their self-imposed chains. They must present themselves as something beyond the broken two-party system that has paralyzed our system of government. And maybe — just maybe — if Democrats present themselves as a dignified party, they may raise the level of political discourse and force their Republican colleagues to emerge from their morally bankrupt status.
Michael Glanzel is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]. Cornell Shrugged appears alternate Mondays this semester.