House Speaker Paul Ryan has invited President Trump to address a joint session of Congress on February 28. This is a genius move. If Democrats boycott the gathering, as some surely will, they will commit political suicide.
More positively, maybe Trump can convince members of both parties to do what is right for the country: enact tax reforms that benefit small and large businesses, reduce the regulations that inhibit investment, and push healthcare reform that will actually give middle-class families access to medical care.
Ryan announced the invitation in his weekly press conference, explaining, “This will be an opportunity for the people and their representatives to hear directly from our new president about his vision and our shared agenda.” In other words, unfiltered through the mainstream media. A Ryan spokesman earlier said, “The Speaker and President Trump are eager to continue moving forward on their shared agenda to jumpstart the economy and get the country back on track.”
Will Democrats play ball? Maybe not. Democrats have so far opposed every single proposal from Trump, demeaned and criticized nearly every cabinet nominee, sat out the inauguration in large numbers and generally conducted themselves as sore losers. If they persist, they will further alienate the group that elected Donald Trump – middle-class Americans who have traditionally supported Democrats -- and relinquish any hope of rebuilding their decimated party.
The Trump agenda is beginning to roll forward, picking up followers like a snowball picks up snow. In particular, labor unions and American workers are cheering some of the very first measures signed by the president – walking away from the TPP and green-lighting the Keystone Pipeline. On Monday, shortly after announcing the official termination of the multi-nation trade agreement, the president met with labor leaders who applauded his move. Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa said in a written statement, “With this decision, the president has taken the first step toward fixing 30 years of bad trade policies that have cost working Americans millions of good-paying jobs.”
Sean McGarvey, president of the North America’s Building Trades Unions, said after the confab (most of which was private), “He intends to do the work on the issues he discussed on the campaign trail…It was by far the best meeting I’ve had in Washington.”
This new-found harmony between the GOP and Big Labor should have Democrats shivering in their Gucci’s. The party is in the midst of the sort of intensive self-analysis that accompanies a colossal defeat. They continue to pin Hillary Clinton’s loss on Vladimir Putin and James Comey, ignoring the real reason for their defeat: the defection of their core constituency, blue collar workers.
Moreover, anxious Democrats are looking in the wrong places for salvation. There are some who see in last Saturday’s large and news-grabbing women’s march the seeds of renewal. They liken the outpouring of millions of exuberant demonstrators to the stirrings of the Tea Party in the early days of the Obama administration. They are wrong. The activists who railed against rising deficits and debts, kicked into action by Rick Santelli’s famous on-air rant and call for a “Tea Party,” did indeed rouse Republicans from the depths of despair and help put the party back on the map. But the call to action was a national call, appealing to all Americans who worried about the country’s soaring debts and unsustainable spending.
By contrast, the marchers in Washington and other cities around the world had no unifying theme. It was not pro-women; after all, pro-life women’s groups were excluded. It was a crew of often vulgar anti-Trump sloganeers who were championing the kind of identity politics that Democrats have embraced to their peril for the past eight years. This was the weekend of a presidential inauguration; for most Americans a time of national pride. There was no such sentiment offered up by the women in the streets.
Columnist David Brooks points out that the marchers “could have offered a red, white and blue alternative patriotism, a modern, forward-looking patriotism based on pluralism, dynamism, growth, racial and gender equality and global engagement. Instead, the protests offered the pink hats, an anti-Trump movement built, oddly, around Planned Parenthood, and lots of signs with the word “pussy” in them.”
Not quite the cohesive message that will start a political movement, which is the only kind that matters.
The same issues arise as Democrats consider who will lead their party out of the darkness. There are now three African-Americans, two whites and one Hispanic vying for the position. At a recent candidates’ forum, Sally Boynton Brown, who is white, garnered attention by saying that if successful, her job will be to “shut other white people down”; she lambasted fellow Democrats for not talking enough about Black Lives Matter and said if selected, she would make sure that “[white people] get that they have privilege.” Is that really the burning issue for Democrats today? Or for the country?
President Obama left office with high approval ratings even though he arguably never put the country’s overriding concern – job creation – at the top of his agenda. Instead, Obama catered largely to environmental and minority issues, leaving behind a nation more divided that when he took office. Hillary Clinton lost in part because she mistook Obama’s personal popularity for approval of his policies.
In 2018, there are 10 Democratic senators up for reelection in states that Trump won; five in states that Trump won decisively. Some, like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, have already started to back Trump’s policies. Others may follow suit, undermining the current brick wall of Democrat opposition to Donald Trump. If they don’t climb aboard the Trump train, the GOP could well enter 2019 with a filibuster-proof majority.
Democrats have a chance to work with President Trump to boost the economy and raise incomes. So far, newly elected Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised no cooperation and pledged no backing down. He could play the part of Bill Clinton’s Newt Gingrich or Ronald Reagan’s Tip O’Neil, the loyal opposition helping to pass popular legislation and at the same time build up his party. If he does not, Democrats will be in the wilderness for some time to come.