Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-5) was pretty emphatic that he isn’t planning to “attend any meeting in any hotel or elsewhere to plot the failure of the President-elect.” The reference, of course, is to the infamous meeting that took place shortly after the inauguration of Barack Obama wherein congressional GOPers laid out the plan for the eight years of obstruction that followed. Some other wannabe high-minded types, so-called “centrist” Democrats, however, do seem to have gotten together in order to coordinate the rhetoric they’ll use to explain why, like Cleaver, they’re going to roll over and play nice whenever they can in the four years ahead.
Missouri’s Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill replied to a letter I wrote her asking that she support an independent investigation into Russian tampering with the last election by informing me that, “no matter who wins or loses, elected officials have an obligation to serve all constituents, not just their supporters.” She added that she is proud of her “record of working across the aisle to help all Missourians.” Fast upon the heels of McCaskill’s response, I heard Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) claim in an interview with NPR’s Audie Cornish that his “job isn’t to represent the Democrat Party or the Republican Party. It’s to represent Hoosier families.”
Do you see why I think there’s some coordination? Same message, slightly different words, intended to let these timid souls off the hook. Because these two responsible adults have taken the moral high road they can condescend to childish democratic voters and, at the same time, fiddle while Trump puts the match to Rome.
There are, however, two misleading claims packed into their rhetorical stance:
(1) The voters have spoken, but was Trump the message?:
- Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes – the largest margin ever by which a candidate has won the popular vote but lost the electoral college. Trump’s electoral college win in the three states that put him over the edge was razor thin, less than 80,000 votes in all three states together.
- The legitimacy of the election is questionable given the covert actions of Russia, directed by Putin, and confirmed by both the CIA and FBI, to aid Trump. If Trump or his campaign entourage were complicit in the Russian meddling – which may be the case – they were guilty of treason and he is unfit to hold the office of President.
- There was clear-cut evidence of voter suppression in crucial swing states.
(2) The preferences of Trump voters should be honored because he won the election and Democrats should try to cooperate with Republicans:
- These Democrats were presumably elected by folks who knew their party affiliation, which means they were elected because they stand for certain values and principles that they are expected to embody in their legislative demeanor.
- These principles are not compatible with the idea of bipartisanship when the other party is as ruthless, ideologically rigid, and as corrupt as the Republican party has shown itself to be. High-minded ideals are useless when the other guys come armed with brass knuckles and shivs, determined to protect and extend their territory.
- Many of the folks who were energized by Trump’s explicitly nationalist and white supremacist messages were overt racists and covert racist sympathizers – folks who were driven into a frenzy by America’s first black president. Should these voices be honored?
- Other Trump supporters are folks who were misled by Trump’s populist rhetoric – which is already belied by the elitist wrecking crew he is assembling around him. Isn’t deference to a president who won by lying abut his intentions a bad thing?
- Trump and his cabinet mafia are promising to destroy vitally important institutions – Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare, public schools – the list goes and on and on – and will ultimately hurt every one of us, including many Trump voters. Will bipartisanship in these cases really help everyday families? Have our so-very-nice Democrats ever heard of Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Pact?
An article about Obama’s weak response to RussiaGate at Slate Magazine has the subtitle “he [i.e. Obama] has his dignity and his faith in civic norms. Republicans have the government.” The same could be said abut the weak response to the Trumpocalypse on the part of several centrist Democrats.They’ll stand by their one-sided principles and we’ll pay the price. They don’t seem to realize that the rules of the game, civic and political norms, if you will, were broken over the past eight years and all the king’s men and all the king’s horses can’t put them back together again.
There are Democrats who are rising to the challenge, calling for an independent investigations of RussiaGate, or readying challenges to Trump’s mostly insane cabinet picks. Elizabeth Warren and few others have filed a bill that would force Trump to “disclose and divest” businesses that represent conflicts of interest. Legitimate and consistent opposition that focuses on true abuses should not excite the scruples of our more easily intimidated Democrats – if they really mean what they say about representing the needs of their constituents.
Which is why Missouri Democrats need to know if Claire McCaskill will stand up for them, or if she intends to continue busying herself with minor bean-counting issues, good in their way, inoffensive, but in the face of our current challenges, almost irrelevant. If she prefers to confine her activities to avenues that don’t rile the short-fused Trump supporters, and goes AWOL when she is most needed, perhaps she should have to depend on Trump supporters come next election.
Of course, that would require Missouri Democrats to be as hard-headed as Missouri Trump supporters – when Republican Rep. Ann Wagner turned up her too-nice nose at the prospect of Donald Trump, they threatened to vote for Bill Otto, her Democratic opponent, instead. And they were willing to carry through; I saw signs for Otto go up in yards sporting Trump signs. And guess what? Wagner snapped into line. Keep it in mind.
*Edited slightly for clarity. Third bullet point added under (1). (12/17, 4:23 pm)