Amid the flurry of analysis and commentary marking President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, the Democratic Party’s position was clear: It is fighting the president and all he does, pure and simple
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez framed the situation more bluntly. “I miss Barack Obama,” Perez said in the opening of his speech. source
For Democrats these days, the key word in their political vocabulary is “resistance.” “Yesterday, we marked Donald Trump’s hundredth day in office—and, much more importantly 100 days of resistance,” declared a weekend email message from party Chairman Tom Perez. That message used the word “resistance” three times.
For now, this position is an easy one for Democrats. Their party’s base burns with dislike of the president and anger that he won the White House despite losing the popular vote by almost three million in 2016. The demand from the party’s activists is simply to fight all things Trump.
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But is that posture, along with a move to the left on cultural issues, the right long-term formula to claw back would-be Democratic voters lost in 2016? Some in the party aren’t so sure.
On the party’s left, Larry Cohen says: “Resistance is not enough.” Mr. Cohen, chair of Our Revolution, a progressive movement inspired by the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, adds: “The anti-Trump focus of much of labor and the [Hillary] Clinton campaign was not enough.”
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He argues for the Democrats to have an agenda of their own that should “start with a focus on democracy in all its forms—public issues like decent work, sustainable infrastructure, free public education from preschool through higher ed to provide real opportunity, health care for all, not simply access to overpriced insurance.” And, he adds, “keeping private issues private—women making their own health-care choices, gender and racial equality and real opportunity.”
On the party’s opposite wing, Jim Kessler also says of the resistance message: “It’s not going to be sufficient.”
Mr. Kessler is senior vice president of Third Way, an organization of moderate Democrats. He says Democrats “have to think as if the entire race—and all the races—are dependent on who has the best jobs plan for the country. Who’s going to bring the most jobs to America?”
Mr. Kessler suggests that Democrats start by promoting their own jobs-producing infrastructure initiative and a plan to rev up manufacturing.
As that suggests, Mr. Trump’s success was rooted in his ability to convince working-class voters that anti-globalism and economic nationalism have the potential to bring back manufacturing and blue-collar jobs. That message cut deep with working-class voters in the country’s center who once considered the Democratic Party home but were pulled away by a populist message—an ill-defined one, to be sure, but delivered with a heap of anger.
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It would be a mistake, though, for Democrats to think that it was only Mr. Trump who caused their predicament. Mr. Kessler notes that along the Atlantic seaboard and the West Coast, Democrats have roughly a 3-to-1 advantage in seats in the House of Representatives. Through the South and the interior of the country, meanwhile, they trail Republicans by more than 100 seats, many in districts that once were reliably Democratic.
Economic rather than cultural issues are the ticket for wooing back many of the lost voters in such places. Thus, the danger for Democrats nationally is that the resurgence of activism and anger in the party’s liberal base will push the party to the left on cultural issues—and, in the process, away from some of the very working-class Americans whose support is needed for a Democratic renaissance.
That danger was amply illustrated by a dust-up over abortion in recent days. Mr. Perez, the party chairman, and Sen. Sanders both campaigned on behalf of Heath Mello, a Democrat running to be mayor of Omaha. His victory in a deep-red state would be the kind of statement Democrats should want to show they can claw back voters in Trump territory.
The problem for some in the party, though, is that Mr. Mello is personally antiabortion, and, as a state senator, sponsored a bill that would require a physician to tell a woman an ultrasound image of a fetus is available before performing an abortion. So the Perez/Sanders appearance brought an immediate protest from Naral Pro-Choice America.
That pushback, in turn, prompted Mr. Perez to release a statement saying support for “a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health” is “not negotiable.”
Naral said in a statement that it will hold accountable “legislators who choose to substitute their personal beliefs for good policy.”
Mr. Perez’s declaration—atop a 2016 Democratic platform that put the party on record against the Hyde Amendment, which blocks taxpayer funding of abortion—led some to conclude the party now has no room for antiabortion Democrats. And that could be a significant roadblock for some of those working-class Trump voters the party wants and needs to win back. source