Instances of the Democratic Party taking responsibility for losing the 2016 presidential election—and elected offices in Congress and state legislatures throughout Barack Obama’s presidency—have been few and far between. So far in Donald Trump’s presidency, Democrats have doubled down on their failed strategy of depending on Trump to provide Democrats with ammunition against him and hoping that his unpopularity will result in electoral victories..
On April 12, Politico published an article asserting that Democratic Party leaders were working on messaging that would align the party with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ populism; however, very few details were released. Instead, several Democratic members of Congress cited in the article argued that they don’t need a message; they just need to wait out the Trump presidency.
“It’s less important what our national message is right now, given that Donald Trump is sucking all of the oxygen out of the room,” Rep. Ron Kind told Politico.
“We have no message right now,” added one House Democrat who asked to remain anonymous. “But we don’t need one either.”
These sentiments echo those vocalized by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in February when she said that Democrats just need to wait on Trump’s voters to turn on him. “We’re not interested in losing any friends. Let them find out,” she said, adding that the women who voted for Trump were just following their husbands’ lead.
“Resist” has become the slogan of those who oppose Trump, but the Democratic Party has struggled to define the term. Party leaders have often pushed back or condescendingly scolded activists, comparing them to the Tea Party on the right.
Facing criticism from the left, responses from Democratic Party members have ranged from begging progressives not to primary them—like Sen. Claire McCaskill—to taunting critics to find a primary challenger—like Sen. Joe Manchin. In most cases, calls to vote against every Trump cabinet nominee were unsuccessful; Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and Senate Democrats voted in favor of most nominees.
The Trump administration has hit several roadblocks in its first few months that the Democratic Party has exploited to market itself—despite having done very little to prevent the implementation of the Republicans’ agenda. The Muslim travel ban has been held up in court in large part due to activists, organizations like the ACLU and federal judges. Repealing Obamacare failed due to a combination of increasing support for a single payer system and the Republican Party’s failure to come to a consensus on a replacement system. A recent poll conducted by Morning Consult/Politico found that 44 percent of Americans support a single payer system—including 37 percent of Trump voters—and 36 percent oppose it. Despite its popularity, the Democratic Party has dragged its feet in supporting such a plan..
This disconnect between the public’s favorable attitude toward progressive policies and the extent to which the Democratic Party supports them remains immense. Instead of supporting these policies to provide a viable alternative to Trump and the Republican Party, the Democratic establishment’s definition of “resistance” has been to stand by and do nothing. As long as this remains the strategy, that’s exactly what they’ll get in return from voters.