Any lingering Democratic disunity after the election is being submerged by a powerful wave of grassroots reaction to Trump’s first days in office. From centrist Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer who initially made conciliatory noises about cooperation with Trump on items such as infrastructure investments to populists like Bernie Sanders who have long argued for a class-based economic message for Democrats, a common front is emerging based on the simple strategy of total resistance to the 45th president.
That is most evident in the Senate, where Democrats — who cannot actually filibuster Cabinet confirmations because of their own “nuclear option” vote in 2013 — have decided to make the seemingly inevitable confirmation of Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos as grueling, lengthy, and humiliating as possible. While they don’t have the votes to stop any Trump picks, they have decided to comply with activist demands that they conduct mini-filibusters by using up the 30 hours of debate allowed under current rules, starting with DeVos:
Having stacked up as many parliamentary roadblocks as they could find last week, Democrats are expected to take advantage of the mandatory debate time, probably to air their concerns about Mr. Trump’s picks as well as grievances against their Republican counterparts, who they believe have stymied a thorough examination of some nominees.
These dilatory tactics could expose new evidence damaging to the administration about this or that nominee — or perhaps not so much, since Republicans are responding by scheduling around-the-clock sessions to run out the 30 hours while most Americans sleep. The Democratic protest will take the form of an all-night Senate-floor gab-a-thon that will probably get some attention on the morning shows. But the most important element of the Democratic action is that it represents a collective decision not to let a business-as-usual atmosphere take over Washington. The overwhelming left-of-center response to the Trump/Bannon immigration order — and the administration’s attack on the federal judiciary that stood in its way —guaranteed that change of mood, as Politico reports.
Gone are the concerns about appearing overly obstructionist — an accusation frequently tossed at McConnell during Barack Obama’s presidency. Officeholders are now chasing a base that will not tolerate any sign of accommodation.
“Everyone is getting to the same point,” said Democratic pollster Margie Omero. “This is not like after George W. Bush won, where people had different kinds of strategies.”
It is entirely possible, of course, that this counter-polarization by Democrats is actually what Trump and Bannon intended to generate by behaving so provocatively. Pushing otherwise reluctant Republicans into a posture of anti-anti-Trumpism is certainly one by-product of depicting everyone to the left of the political center as allies of anarchists in Berkeley and activist judges in Seattle and Muslim-loving civil liberties lawyers in airports everywhere.
We’ll have to wait and see how long the feeling of solidarity on either side of the new barricades lasts. But for the moment, the “struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party” is on indefinite hold as all the donkeys show a stubborn streak.