Democrats – and the world – have had nearly a month to acclimate to the unthinkable: An egomaniacal, bullying, boasting, undisciplined and willfully ignorant man will be president.
We’ve had time to consider how we should react, including whether and how to engage a President Trump and his administration.
Most Republicans have made their choices. Even party leaders who denounced Trump in damning terms – declaring him unfit, a con man, a fraud and a danger to democracy – now seek jobs in his administration. These former opponents, like 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, know Trump has multiple conflicting interests that will tempt him to cash in on his office. They know he’s unsuited to head the armed forces and represent the country abroad. But they’ll sign on to advance their careers or push through their pet projects, like tax cuts for the wealthy, a weakened social safety net and gutted environmental regulations.
History will not treat these former leaders kindly. The past is littered with the smashed reputations of officials who attached themselves to despots, thinking they could manipulate their leaders or moderate their worst impulses in pursuit of short-term political gain. Today’s Republicans are playing a dangerous game.
For Democrats, the choice is more difficult. They may achieve legitimate goals like an infrastructure bill by selectively engaging a Trump administration.
But Democrats must stand firm against Trump and Trumpism. Collaborating would make us little better than the self-serving Republicans who aim to use Trump for their own ends.
There are good reasons to fight, rather than cooperate. For one, Trump’s early appointments have smashed any illusion that his administration would be more moderate than his campaign rhetoric. Each person he’s chosen to serve has a record of antagonism toward established policies that help Americans and keep us safe.
His vice president is a hardline Christian who would highly restrict or eliminate a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. Mike Pence also is rabidly opposed to equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender citizens.
Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary wants to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that has given millions reasonably priced health insurance for the first time. That revocation includes the expanded Medicare program that is improving health and saving lives among the nation’s poorest citizens. (The nominee, Georgia Rep. Tom Price, says the ACA “interferes with the ability of patients and doctors to make medical decisions,” the New York Times reported. Interferes? More than private health insurance, which has long dictated which doctors we can see and forced physicians to seek prior approval for many procedures?)
Meanwhile, the nominee for education secretary is devoted to disemboweling the education system and replacing it with vouchers and charter schools, funneling the highest performing, most well off students to for-profit schools while those who need the most help are left in cash-starved public schools. How would this work in rural Iowa, where there are few private schools and not enough students to support charters?
For national security advisor, Trump nominated a rogue former general who thinks a ragtag band of uneducated radicals scrambling through Mideast deserts in pickup trucks are an existential threat to a nuclear-armed, militarized, wealthy nation of more than 300 million people. Michael Flynn’s belief that we’re in a world war with Islam antagonizes millions of believers in a mainline, ancient religion, providing fodder for those who would recruit new radicals.
And of course, there’s Trump’s strategy advisor who, if he isn’t a racist white nationalist himself has nonetheless eagerly embraced those who are for political expediency – which may be worse.
There’s more, from an attorney general who denigrates voter rights to a
But there’s an even bigger reason Democrats should refuse to cooperate with President Trump: Doing so makes the way he won the office a legitimate strategy. It makes lying, bullying, insulting and assault for political gain normal. It makes threatening to investigate and jail your political opponents acceptable. It makes appeals to hate, fear and racism permissible political tools.
In an earlier, more genteel era – before reality TV, take-no-crap attitudes, conservative talk radio rabble-rousers and if-you’ve-got-it-flaunt-it social media coarsened our discourse – polite society would have ostracized a Donald Trump. His ostentatious wealth, bragging self-promotion and demeaning attitude toward women and the less fortunate would have made him an outcast. No amount of money would have bought him legitimacy.
This is not to say Democrats should treat a Trump presidency as illegitimate, as President Obama’s detractors – including Trump – attempted to do, via the citizenship issue. Like it or not, he will be president.
That’s why Democrats should give Trump the cold shoulder. His behavior during the campaign – actually for the last eight years, as he attacked President Obama’s citizenship – and his continued insults and lies since the election have earned him scorn and exclusion. Anything less hints that his horrible behavior is tolerable.
by Thomas O’Donnell