The Trump presidency has become the most festering, counterproductive, time sink since the invention of Facebook, when the notion of a time sink burst into our vocabulary.
Last week, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren exemplified the state of our politics, as she sought to ridicule and humiliate Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in front of the Senate Finance Committee. Warren, the face of the Democrat resistance to Donald Trump, decried Trump and Mnuchin walking back from statements supporting a reinstitution of Glass-Steagall and breaking up the largest banks. Mnuchin respectfully stood his ground as Warren closed her remarks by describing Mnuchin's responses bizarre and crazy.
As is her wont, Warren was playing to her base, and no doubt her base loved every minute of it. But to what end remains unclear. If the early weeks of the Trump administration were manifest by real fear of incipient authoritarianism, Warren's performance was closer to reality television. We know that Donald Trump has no intention of keeping many of the core campaign promises he made to his base, but reinstituting Glass-Steagall? In the scheme of things, it is small potatoes. It was repealed by Bill Clinton, after all. Her soliloquy may have been satisfying on an emotional level, but it did nothing to broaden her--or her party's--appeal beyond her devoted core.
Two weeks ago, conservative talk show host Charlie Sykes wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, suggesting that the political battleground has shifted from those who are anti-Trump versus those who are pro-Trump, to those who are anti-Trump versus those who are anti-anti-Trump. Faced with a president who is proving objectionable or incompetent to many in his own party, Republicans are increasingly motivated as much by the rage and antics of Democrats as anything else. As if to make Sykes' point, the most recent Quinnipiac Poll suggests that Republican approval of Donald Trump is now lower than their disapproval of Democrats in Congress.
After the furious first few weeks, the Trump fever has broken. Fears that democratic institutions might not be up to the task have proven to be ill-founded. The federal judiciary has played its role as proscribed, and the media has refused to back down from the name calling and derision from the Oval Office. Perhaps Donald Trump's greatest misjudgment was the appointment and then underestimating of Rod Rosenstein, who has now firmly planted Trump's presidency down a new path.
The Trump presidency is now lapsing into something that may be less satisfying for Democrats to contend with: conservative government. MSNBC talk show host and former conservative member of Congress Joe Scarborough may rail on about the Republican Party having been taken over by a long-time Democrat, but the infrastructure of the Trump administration is deeply conservative, and fully prepared to do its best to support the agenda of Republican majorities in Congress. It is what political parties get to do when they win elections, they get to pass laws.
According to CBS News Nation Tracker polling, public attitudes toward the idea of Democrats winning back the House of Representatives next year breaks down 50/50. Half of those polled think that a Democrat Congress would provide a needed check on President Trump, while half suggested it would lead to more gridlock or bad policies in Congress.
anti-Trump rage, party activists are rapidly--and deliberately--undermining their party's ability to appeal to the political center. Their rage against Trump is accompanied by their continuing bitterness over Bill and Hillary Clinton's control over the Democratic National Committee that rigged the system in favor of Hillary's nomination.
Penned in by activists on the left, Democrat leaders seem determined to ignore the yawning chasm of voters alienated both by Trump, and his sycophants in Congress, and the activist left. Rather than reaching out to broaden a prospective Democratic coalition, the Democrats are becoming a less-tolerant, narrower political party. Every time Chuck Shumer stands in front of a microphone to vilify this or that Trumpian outrage, he plays into the dynamic that Sykes described. Every time Nancy Pelosi demands that Sean Spicer or some other Trump factotum resign for this or that stupid statement, she undermines her own currency and diminishes her appeal beyond the Democratic Party base as aspiring Speaker of the House.
As it stands today--as Charlie Sykes has warned--every time Chuck Shumer feels that irresistible draw to a microphone to launch one more attack on Donald Trump, he is not doing his party any favors, he is simply playing into the anti-anti-Trump narrative and increasing the likelihood that Republicans will retain the upper hand in statehouses across the country, and Donald Trump will be a two-term president.
Read it at the HuffPost.
Follow David Paul on Twitter @dpaul.
Artwork by Jay Duret. Check out his political cartooning at www.jayduret.com. Follow him on Twitter @jayduret or Instagram at @joefaces.