I'm a Confused Democrat: Reconciling Resistance and Reality In The Trump Era

The resistance is here. It's time to grab a sign. I've spent a lot of time thinking about what I'd write on mine if I was heading to a protest or a rally, or any one of the dozens of mass mobilizations that have come to symbolize the resistance and I've settled on one.

Don't Fail Us Again. 

Some of you may be thinking, that's an odd sign for the resistance. But isn't the point to voice whatever displeasure or conflict you see in the current political climate? If that's indeed the case, then my sign is directed straight at my party. 

I want with every fiber of my being to give in to my greatest impulses and direct my anger and frustrations solely at Donald Trump, but I can't get there. His administration has had a more disastrous start than even most bed-wetting liberals had in mind. It's been a sloppy, disorganized messed peppered with leaks and internal dissent, seemingly void of any clear hierarchy of influence, and as hasty and impulsive as the most tenuous days on the campaign trail. It's been draped in Donald Trump's eternal vanity - a cloak so heavy and suffocating that he botched slam-dunk presidential moments honoring fallen CIA members, Black History Month, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and The National Prayer Breakfast. He's in 2 weeks brought more global uncertainty to the United States' standing as keepers of a wider liberal order than George W. Bush and Barack Obama did in 16 years. He's incited needless bickering with one of our largest trade partners and one of our most trusted allies. And yet, despite it all, this isn't his fault. 

My liberal friends are going to hate this rambling from me. They often talk about how we liberals tend to purity test ourselves into oblivion. My dad says the Democrats are too weak, and that we need to stoop to the Republicans' level in order to win. And they may be right, who knows? Maybe I'm naive for thinking that this isn't about governance, or principles, but it's really just a power struggle and the sooner I come to that realization the better off I'll be. But the resistance isn't helping lift my spirits because I fear that the Democrats are taking pages from the same playbook that got us into this place of powerlessness. We're demanding our elected officials to spend the bread crumbs of political capital they have left on meaningless opposition stances in battles we simply can't win right now. 

A march isn't a vote. A protest isn't governance. And no matter where I look within my party I see the same faces, espousing the same tactics that don't win. Tom Perez is Mitch McConnell with a D next to his name. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are too entrenched in the same petty squabbles they've been fighting for years in the halls of Congress like chickens pecking at each other. Elizabeth Warren has her moments when she's focused. Cory Booker tries too hard. And above all, they are still playing the politics of being better people. AND IT'S NOT WORKING.

Take the Muslim Ban, for example. What is the heart of the issue? In my mind, the Muslim Ban is a misguided solution to the problem of easing public fears on national security. And whether real or not, the perception for millions of Americans is that we're not as safe as we once were and extremism is a threat. What has been Democratic leadership's response - more tone deaf calls of bigoted politics, un-American values, questions of who we are as a nation. It's philosophical, it's moral, but it's not a solution. It is a strategy that once again, like much of the entire campaign, says what we're against, what we don't want to be, than what we are. We're still trying to be the "best" people in the room, not the most helpful. Like it or not, Trump saw a perceived problem with the voters he was speaking with, and he gave them an answer. 

What I'd say to Democrats is this: lead with the solution to the problem. Ease the perceived fears of the public first. Tell Americans how good we already are at vetting refugees (2 arrests of conspiring to commit terror since 9/11 despite allowing 750,000 refugees globally). Tell us about our strategic partnerships with forces within those Muslim majority countries that will be harmed by this policy. Tell us about the deployed service men and women who will now be in greater danger due to a perceived war on Islam in extremist camps. Show them the propaganda the ban is creating. Don't be afraid to get REAL. The best thing to come out of a Democrat's mouth since the ban is from Chris Murphy, who said "This policy is going to get Americans killed." It's a compelling entry point to the safety issues this policy will cause, not fix. Go above and beyond by instantly proposing added vetting measures for extra security that wouldn't include a ban. Give an ALTERNATIVE. Show the American people that this isn't a choice between A and B, like the Trump administration wants to make it - i.e. "We are either safe with this policy, or doomed without it." Instead, say we can protect our people, protect our values, and uphold the moral obligation to do our part in the world. But I really can't continue to support a party whose main stance is we're better than you. 

I want the Democratic party to be better. I want real leadership. One that is more focused on organizing and less on settling scores. I want real organization that mobilizes emotion into votes. I want us to win back seats - the right way - through better policy solutions for Americans. I want a better message. Inclusivity and a big tent is great, but if you aren't articulating why Democratic ideas lead to better outcomes, everyone in the tent is still stuck in neutral. I want us to stop looking backwards. The GOP played dirty pool to get to where they are, but now they hold all the cards so let them own this mess that's brewing, and be there with a mop and bucket for the American public when they call "clean up on aisle 1600." I want strategy. And reform. And decisiveness. 

I want to be able to say I joined the resistance, and I got more from it than just a lousy sign.