Americans are hurting as their country descends into dysfunction, polarization and widespread anger. Democrats are feeling an extra dose of despair with the elevation of the intemperate and partisan Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
But Democrats can make up lost ground — if they’re smart. If they’re smart, they’ll proceed in a cool, calm and controlled manner. The electorate outside the Trump base is a lot bigger than the Trump base. Donald Trump’s crashing approval numbers in the middle of a strong economy reflect a public upset by the chaos, cruelty and unbridled nastiness. The United States has its disputes, even with allies, but only the inmates from crazytown would heap abuse on Canada.
Most Americans pine for normal leadership. That’s what Democrats must offer. The enraged ones on the left will not help the cause by aping the uncouth right. The Trump camp lives for conflict with you. Don’t reward it by rising to the bait.
Stop accosting Republicans in elevators and restaurants. That only generates sympathy for the targets. It blurs the distinction between you and them.
Stop threatening impeachment of Trump and new investigations into Kavanaugh. Visions of more disruption scare moderates and excite the Trump base. Should you win the House, there will be plenty of things to investigate, and then you must choose those battles carefully.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) had it right in Iowa: “We’re not defined . . . in this state by Republicans in power; we’re defined by how we respond.” When he then remarked that he has “nothing personal against the president,” Booker wasn’t surrendering. He was brushing Trump aside.
What would effective an protest look like? It would look like the women’s marches in 2017. They were peaceful, dignified and even positive in their camaraderie. Nearly a half-million people marched in Washington alone. Those are serious numbers.
Here are some of the reassuring Democratic faces: Joe Biden, Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and Rep. Adam Schiff of California. Throw in former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, an independent. They all offer a sober presence, sharp intelligence and an unwillingness to go partisan for going partisan’s sake.
Sexual misconduct is a potent issue, but not one that should be leading the Democratic parade. (Please confine your obsession with the white male patriarchy to sociology class. You wouldn’t stereotype anyone else that way.)
If Trump feasts on the anxieties of working-class whites, what’s the best response? Welcome these voters and say, Here’s why you belong with us:
We will stop Republicans from destroying your hard-won health care security. They’re even going after protections for pre-existing conditions. It’s that bad.
The reckless tax cuts barely budged your wages. What they did do — besides enriching the already rich — is explode the deficit. The right will exploit rampaging deficits to attack Medicare and Social Security. You can set your watch by it.
Democrats, you have reason for optimism. Never forget that Hillary Clinton got nearly 3 million more votes than Trump. That happened despite a tsunami of setbacks. The Republicans’ campaign to disenfranchise likely Clinton voters. The Russians’ working for Trump. James Comey’s outrageous 11th-hour reopening of the email probe. Bernie Sanders and his brigade’s trashing the Democratic candidate all the way to the convention. And the Clinton campaign’s own missteps. Despite all that, only an Electoral College fluke could produce a Trump presidency.
Republicans’ abject submission to Trump has turned their party into the Trump party. A lot of agonized Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would now like to vote for the non-Trump party.
Democrats, you have become the party of normality — of defending what’s left of our political norms. Don’t blow it by losing your cool.
Froma Harrop is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.