The LAST thing we need is more partisanship

The usual partisan nonsense is even more pointless than usual in the face of the Trump crisis.

The usual partisan rubbish is even more pointless than usual in the face of the Trump crisis.

There’s an argument I keep having with Democrats lately, on social media and elsewhere.

On one such occasion recently,  I went on at some length in writing. And as y’all probably know, I hate to spend time typing something and then not put it on the blog. So I’ll share it with you.

This was on an email thread started by friend of mine who has a long list of people he regularly shares things with. On this occasion, he was sharing this story from The New York Times: “Who Hasn’t Trump Banned? People From Places Where He’s Done Business.”

Well, I couldn’t read the Times piece because I’d exceeded my free reads for the month, and I have no intention of subscribing. But I was able to read this response from another recipient of the email — someone who you can see is obviously a Democrat (and someone I’m not going to name because I have no indication he meant it to be published):

An answer:  do not normalize the Administration in any way whatsoever.

An answer:  daily resistance.

An answer:  reorganize the left-of-center ship—and well, frankly, be organized—and call failed leadership to account.

An answer:  approach 2018 as if the everything is on the line (it is).  It’s time to stop playing backyard croquet campaigns.

An answer:  Democratic officials need to stop endorsing Republicans.  (I can’t even believe I live in a state where that is necessary to type.)

I responded thusly:

I agree with [the gentleman] that Trump must not be normalized, and that he must be resisted daily — which I certainly do on my blog.

I disagree VEHEMENTLY with his apparent assumption that the answer is more partisanship… Especially his assertion that “Democratic officials need to stop endorsing Republicans…”

There is nothing MORE likely to normalize Trump than to treat this problem as just another inning in the absurd left-right, Democratic-v.-Republican game.

You really need to get out of that “left-of-center” rut and recognize that Trump is a phenomenon that has no place on the left-right spectrum. He is a unique problem, unlike anything this country has ever seen.

And conservatives — real conservatives — are just as capable of seeing that as liberals. If not more so — at least they can see this is not about the usual partisan games.

You need those people — and people like me who reject the whole left-right thing altogether (and are fed up with it) — on your side in the matter of Trump.

This isn’t about winning the next inning of the perpetual game in 2018.

This guy has to go. And you know who has to reach that conclusion? Republicans in Congress.

Yep, we’re a long way from that happening right now. Republican members are tiptoeing around as though in a minefield.

But you and I and everyone who understands what a threat to the nation Trump truly is should do anything and everything we can to give them room to reach the right conclusion.

And every time a Democrat tries to make it about party, that makes Republicans more likely to close ranks. In other words, it normalizes the situation.

You know where you could start to make the situation better? By supporting and encouraging Republicans who have the guts to stand up to Trump. Sure, it’s just Graham and McCain so far, and writers such as Bill Kristol and Bret Stephens. But the more of this bad craziness that Stephens wrote about today that we see, the more likely others are to wake up.

… IF the rest of us don’t chase them back into their partisan comfort zones. Which I see too many Democrats are eager to do.

MORE of the partisan nonsense that has turned off people across the political spectrum, from Sanders’ supporters to Trump’s, is most assuredly NOT the answer to this national crisis.

It’s time to rise above, and help all Americans, not just those of your own ideological ilk, to see what’s at stake…

I wrote all that in response to an email thread on Jan. 31. Since then, I’ve seen more and more instances in which Democrats act like this is business as usual. For instance, there is talk of pulling out all the stops to try to block Neil Gorsuch from the Supreme Court. Which is insane. It shows that these Democrats completely fail to understand what is going on — or, they don’t care.

Gorsuch is a highly qualified nominee and representative of the kind of judge that a mainstream Republican would nominate. If Democrats waste what tiny amounts of political capital they have left (were it gunpowder, they’d hardly have enough for a firecracker) on this, then they’re saying Trump doesn’t pose any sort of extraordinary problem for the nation — because they’d do the same with any Republican president.

It’s hard to think of a better way for Democrats to normalize Trump than to fight Gorsuch with all their might.

Bottom line, it just looks increasingly unlikely that the Democratic Party is going to play any kind of constructive role in helping the country out of this mess. Which leaves it up to the rest of us.

Well, that’s the UnParty response. What’s yours?

24 thoughts on “The LAST thing we need is more partisanship

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, I received several messages from folks on that email thread applauding what I was saying — including two who are among the staunchest Democrats I know in SC. So there ARE folks out there who are not blinded by partisanship, which is a start…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Along these same lines, I keep seeing stories such as this one, and they drive me nuts:

    Why John McCain’s #resistance is bad for Democrats

    … it’s not necessarily good for Democrats when McCain leads a charge against Trump. In fact, it might represent a short-term problem….

    Democrats need their base to see them resisting. In covering the (extremely long, but almost finished) race to run the Democratic National Committee, I’ve been struck by how cynical rank-and-file Democrats are about their party. The day after the Super Bowl, I covered a meeting between DNC candidate Thomas Perez and rural Wisconsin Democrats, and more than a few grumbled that the party was not doing enough to oppose Trump’s Cabinet nominees. This was exactly when Senate Democrats were forming a solid, 48-vote bloc against education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, and forcing — for the first time ever — a sitting vice president to bail out a Cabinet pick.

    Pushed by their party’s base, Senate Democrats have been moved from generally supporting Trump nominees to mostly opposing them.

    You know what? I couldn’t care less what Democrats or their base “need.” I’d be happy to see the Democratic Party dry up and blow away, as long as it takes the equally useless GOP along with it.

    There is one overriding problem facing this country today, and its name is “Trump.” Frankly, it does little good for Democrats to oppose Trump, because that just normalizes him — it makes him look like just another Republican.

    Probably the most constructive thing Dems can do for the good of the country is to stand back and applaud, discreetly, when McCain and other Republicans stand up to Trump. Because without that happening, we’re never going to wake up from this national nightmare…

    1. Harry Harris

      I’m sure Democrats are grateful for strategic advice from your corner. The danger that many liberals, progressives, and moderates see is the extremism and irresponsibility of Trump&Co making destructive Republican-backed policies seem somehow a reasonable compromise. The bulk of Trump’s cabinet nominees are not just right-leaning, but hostile to the mission of the agencies they are picked to lead (or destroy). McCain and Graham have only spoken-out on the most dangerous of Trump’s moves and pronouncements, and they have accolades from Democrats on those few.
      Here’s my main takeaway. Mitt Romney had it right during the campaign – ” a fraud and a huckster.” Now, he and others have rolled over. They see this dangerous figure as a means to get what they want.
      Voter restrictions and intimidation.
      Tax benefits for wealthy and big business.
      Laxness in environmental and energy regulation.
      Free market (ie insurance and drug company) control of health care issues.
      Deregulated financial systems, including predatory lending.
      Privatized schools
      Cutbacks and privatizing social security

      Democrats will not do what the McConnell/Demint led Republicans did from day 1 with Obama. Remember, the stimulus passed with no Republican votes in early 2009. It did its job, but was opposed and condemned and called “failed” though it was heavily influenced by Republican-backed ideas (40% was tax cuts). The ACA, modeled mostly after Romneycare and ideas (the individual mandate) proposed by the Heritage foundation was demonized, lied about, and used as a wedge for 7 years by Republicans.
      Be assured that McCain, Graham, and any other Republicans will find Democratic support in instances where they defend Social Security and Medicare from privatization or cutbacks, support public school improvement, resist tax breaks for super-wealthy individuals, and support a modernized military with troop preparedness and morale at the forefront. They will be supported and joined when they oppose dictator-like policies of demagogic attacks on the press, other branches of government, and US allies.

  3. Bob Amundson

    “When they go low, we go high.” I miss Michelle Obama; I stated in early 2016 that she would be a great first female POTUS.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, I don’t know if I agree with that. I agree she’d have been better than THIS guy, but almost anyone would.

      But then, I don’t go around thinking about who would be “a great first female POTUS,” because I don’t think in Identity Politics terms.

      Maybe that would be a challenging Top Five topic: “Top Five Women Who’d Be Great Presidents.”

      That would be tough for me, though, because I suspect the very BEST women for the job would be people I haven’t heard of, just as there are no doubt lots of men out there who would be great presidents but don’t ever step onto that path.

      The women people would usually think of first — Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, for instance — don’t really have appeal to a broad base, and a successful president needs that.

      There’s little doubt that Hillary has the resume for it, but you’ve got to be able to APPEAL to people far better than she does. And both she and Michelle, in different ways, lack the raw political talents of their husbands.

      I think we have to step outside that sphere a bit, but that’s as far as my thinking goes. I’m not sure which way to go after that…

      1. Bob Amundson

        My primary point was to agree with you, Brad. Perhaps I should have said I would have had no problem voting for Michelle Obama; I did vote for Hillary Clinton, but it just didn’t feel right.

        I am not a big fan of “raw political talent.” Political talent often seems shifty to me, with a focus on being elected or re-elected. I’d rather have a leader who always focuses on doing the right thing.

          1. Doug Ross

            One man’s “right” is another man’s “wrong”. You thought George Bush did the right thing with Iraq. Many of the rest of us thought it was wrong. He had the political “talent” to get it done.

              1. Doug Ross

                Seriously? He got Democrats and Republicans to buy into a phony war that accomplished nothing. He got bipartisan support for No Child Left Behind which accomplished nothing. I’d say he had a lot of political skill and zero common sense.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Meanwhile, Obama actually was unable to do ANYTHING because he had no political skills whatsoever. He thought he was a visionary and that everyone would line up behind his “hope and change” shtick. When it came time to do the hard work, he stuck to his partisan roots. Had to go for the big bang on Obamacare which guaranteed it would be fought tooth and nail by Republicans.

              2. Bart

                You might want to check out some of Ann Richards’ comments about GWB. She tried to defeat him but couldn’t and she was a good politician and had great political and personal skills. GWB, like BHO has a lot of personal appeal and that carries a lot of weight and is integral to making up the political skills package of any politician.

                Bill Clinton had great political skills but his greatest attribute was his personal appeal to voters. Hillary Clinton has no personal appeal to voters and comes across as cold, calculating, and uncaring. If Romney had run instead of Trump, I suspect the margin in the EC and popular vote would have been won by Romney by a large margin.

                Trump comes across as a fighter, anti-political establishment, a “tell it like it is” guy, and is not afraid of the media on any level. I suspect that at some “gut” level, that appeals to more voters than we care to admit it does.

                Neither one carries a lot of political skill on the personal level but Trump made a connection that transcends the personal and it resonated with voters who took Hillary Clinton’s choices of who to campaign to on a personal level. Consider the voters who would have voted for her if she had been more personable and if she had taken the time to campaign in the states Obama carried in 2012, she would be sitting in the Oval Office now instead of Trump.

                You can analyze and debate the reasons Trump won from now until the next election but there is no one single reason for his win, it was a combination of several things that put him over the top.

                The contributors to this blog are all in my estimation are of above average intelligence and can communicate effectively. Most do not approve of Trump but I know too many who are also above average intelligence and articulate who did vote for and still approve of Trump. I also know many who are not highly educated and voted for Trump. Like it or not, he did have a broad range of voters from all walks of life. Democrats probably won’t agree but there were too many crossing over to vote for Trump in several swing states for whatever reason they had for doing so.

                Trump’s win will remain a conundrum and like Gordian’s Knot, I don’t believe it can be solved or untied or analyzed effectively. When I see any lede on an article attempting to explain why Trump won, I skip it. Like mine, it is an opinion only based on personal observations.

                1. Doug Ross

                  You have it right, Bart. Trump’s win was as much Hillary’s loss. For her, it was a death by a thousand cuts – most self-inflicted. The Putin sideshow was a papercut compared to the lacerations of fainting, ignoring the Rust Belt, using surrogates to do the heavy lifting, the lingering stench of Bill Clinton, Obama fatigue, the email server, James Comey’s letter to Congress, Obamacare entering the death spiral, Benghazi, questions about her health.

                  The RNC can also blame itself for not reigning in all the marginal candidates before the primaries started. They should have closed it down to 3-4 before it even started (and that would mean leaving Jeb Bush out as he carries much of the same baggage as Hillary). Allowing the vanity candidates like Graham, Carson, Fiorina, Christie, Jindahl, etc. to muck up the process let Trump slide his way to the top.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Bart, I agree that if Hillary possessed even half of Bill’s ability to connect with voters, she’d have won. But she doesn’t, and never did.

                  As to this: “Most do not approve of Trump but I know too many who are also above average intelligence and articulate who did vote for and still approve of Trump.”

                  Yeah, those are some of the people I’d like to hear from. They probably don’t want to talk about it — they’re not the true believers who show up at his rallies and roar their approval — but they ought to be able at least to explain why THEY did what they did.

                  I have to disagree with what you say at the end, though.

                  The efforts to understand Trump voters’ motivations are not always “an opinion only based on personal observations.”

                  I refer you to that piece I mentioned earlier that ran in the Post on Election Day. It was headlined “A new theory for why Trump voters are so angry — that actually makes sense.” It was about a researcher who had done a lot more than express a personal opinion. As the story said, “For the better part of the past decade, the political science professor has been crisscrossing Wisconsin trying to get inside the minds of rural voters.”

                  To summarize:

                  Cramer’s recent book, “The Politics of Resentment,” offers a third perspective. Through her repeated interviews with the people of rural Wisconsin, she shows how politics have increasingly become a matter of personal identity. Just about all of her subjects felt a deep sense of bitterness toward elites and city dwellers; just about all of them felt tread on, disrespected and cheated out of what they felt they deserved….

                  And this quote I thought was telling:

                  And third, people felt that they weren’t getting respect. They would say: The real kicker is that people in the city don’t understand us. They don’t understand what rural life is like, what’s important to us and what challenges that we’re facing. They think we’re a bunch of redneck racists…

                  Anyway, it has to be said that SO much effort has gone into understanding this phenomenon that even before the election, the effort was being parodied:

                  What’s become painfully clear this election cycle is that there’s a fundamental disconnect between national journalists — most of them based in New York City or Washington D.C. — and the white working-class Americans who are Trump’s most ardent supporters. But, except for roughly 7,200 articles on the subject, there has been scant effort made by the mainstream media to understand the kind of voters who say Trump speaks for them. So I set out on a road trip to the part of America most coastal elites don’t think about, except when they’re reading one of the fourteen daily pieces in the mainstream media where a journalist visits a town most coastal elites don’t think about.
                  Bleaksville, Kentucky (or maybe it’s in Ohio or West Virginia, I can’t remember) has seen better days. From the 1950s through the 1970s, it was home to two of the largest pillowcase factories in America, singlehandedly exporting 15% of high-quality American pillowcases all over the world. But beginning in the 1980s, many factory jobs began to be shipped abroad, mostly to China’s “Pillowcase Belt.” And when those silky ladders to the middle class vanished, so did the town’s social fabric. If Bleaksville was already on the ropes by the end of the ’90s, the Great Recession dealt it a knockout blow. It now ranks in the bottom ten in the country in crucial quality-of-life measures like social mobility, teen pregnancy, and Politico Pro subscriptions. Bleaksville’s Main Street was once a thriving hub of commerce; now it’s dotted with used-condom stores, with the husk of an old abandoned monorail looming in the background. There used to be fourteen bars along this stretch, where workers would congregate after a long day producing and assembling pillowcases. Now there’s only one, O’Briens, and it only sells opioids.
                  I spoke with Freddy O’Brien, a fifth-generation Bleaksviller who operates the bar. He told me he’d already talked about his support for Donald Trump to reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Daily Mail, The Hindustan Times, and Stormfront so far that day, but that he’d be willing to do one more interview before hosting an opioid and pizza party for the high-school football team (which I assume is the linchpin of the community). I asked him why he disliked Hillary Clinton so much, given that her tax and health care policies would directly benefit his family, whereas Trump had personally pledged to take away his father’s oxygen tank and burn it for sport. “People around here are tired of getting spit on, and Trump gets that,” O’Brien said. “I’m angry. We’re all angry.”
                  “What are you angry about?” I asked.
                  “Everything,” he replied.
                  I couldn’t help but notice that people in Bleaksville are angry….

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    That piece is pretty funny. Another excerpt:

                    “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re white, yellow, or colored. I’m just worried about these Muslims forcing Shariah Law on us here in Bleaksville. Trump’s gonna put a stop to that.”
                    When I pointed out that there wasn’t a single Muslim in the county, he cut me off.
                    “Trump’s a businessman,” he said. “We’re angry,” he added.
                    I wanted to hear more, but he explained that David Brooks had scheduled an interview with him to discuss whether he ate dinner with his family every night, and what it means for America….

                    And of course, that’s exactly the “explanation” we keep hearing: “’Trump’s a businessman,’ he said. ‘We’re angry,’ he added.”

                    This was written BEFORE the election, mind you, when we could afford to be amused…

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      But even after the election, that guy’s pretty funny. In a reported dated May 21, 2017 and headlined “Nuclear Winter? Many Trump Fans Are Loving It,” he writes:

                      Trump’s first communication after the attack, a tweet reading “South Korea will pay!!!” — misidentifying the country responsible — was his most popular ever. His defiance rallied the GOP base: a Gallup poll conducted by horseback last week showed 62% of Republicans now favor sending ground troops to South Korea, with only 7% of Democrats on board. Perhaps more surprisingly, after Trump suggested that being attacked by nuclear weapons might actually help America “toughen up,” a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken via carrier pigeon showed 93% of Republicans agreeing that exposure to a colossal mushroom-cloud explosion would “move the country forward.”…

                    2. Brad Warthen Post author

                      OK, I just can’t stop reading this guy, Benjamin Hart:

                      Congressional reaction, like public opinion, has been split along predictably partisan lines. Democratic lawmakers almost uniformly condemned Trump’s actions as needlessly destructive. (West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, an exception, said he was “still looking into it.”) But Republicans, wary of drawing primary challenges, opted to stick with their embattled leader even as fire rained down on millions of constituents. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that “Namibia’s president should be clearer in his diction next time around.” And, in an interview broadcast from an undisclosed location, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan maintained that Trump’s initial response could have been handled “more carefully,” but that he “agreed with the general idea.” He added that he expects Congress to tackle tax reform in the coming weeks.
                      In these impassioned times, political arguments extend beyond ideology to the very concept of reality. A growing chorus on the fringe right wing insists that the attacks didn’t take place at all — an idea lent credence by the president himself, who tweeted on Tuesday, “FAILING CNN reporting nuclear attack!! Never happened! Crisis Actors?? Bad!!!”
                      Some at Joey’s have taken such seemingly outlandish theories to heart. They eschew gas masks, drink straight from contaminated taps, and dismiss talk of hazardous side effects as mere government overreach.
                      “You think I’m gonna trust a bunch of experts to tell me if we got hit with a bomb?” said one legless man who did not want to be identified. “These are the same people who got the election wrong. For all I know, it was just a really bright sunrise.”
                      “Trump’s a businessman,” he added.

                      And don’t forget, he’s built casinos!

                3. Bart

                  Brad, we can agree to disagree on my last comment about opinions. And if you didn’t read the follow-up with Cramer in the WaPo article, it is worth reading.

                  Cramer is a professor at UW in Madison. Nothing more needs to be said about her political convictions and ideological leaning. Madison is or has been known as “Moscow Between the Lakes” for a long time. If the residents of Madison were transformed into lemmings, probably the entire city including most university students would march off the cliff of liberalism, socialism, and communism in lockstep together. FWIW, I have spent time in Madison and Milwaukee plus some of the rural areas and a couple of small towns and did get to know a lot of the people I come in contact with. Madison lived up to it’s nickname 100%.

                  The following is an excerpt from the follow-up with Cramer and I was a little surprised at her response to the WaPo reporter’s questions.

                  WaPo reporter “Were you surprised at the election results?”

                  Cramer reply – “I think I was surprised, but also not surprised. I guess my work allowed me to see that the people who support Trump are not all a bunch of crazy idiots.

                  He hasn’t hoodwinked a bunch of people. The people that I have spent time with see his flaws. They know he’s got this crazy character, that he’s very flamboyant and irrational. They supported him not because of his character, but because he represented substantial change.”

                  WaPo reporter – “That’s really interesting to me. The media has focused a lot of attention on the nastiness that erupts at Trump campaign events. From those incidents, it’s easy to assume that all the people who voted for Trump were crazy racists.

                  But you’re describing a kind of racial indifference. Many Trump voters probably don’t care about what Trump is threatening to do to immigrants or Muslims — or at least, that’s not their primary motivation for supporting him. They might even find his comments on minorities distasteful. But they think Trump is going to be good for their own communities, and that’s all that matters to them.”

                  Cramer’s reply “Right — there’s definitely this view that racial justice is not a concern. The term “racial justice” isn’t even in their vocabulary. It’s not their thing. It’s not something they think the world should be worried about in this moment.

                  Just this morning I was in Central Wisconsin, and there’s this group that meets in the back of a warehouse. We talked for a long, long time. They’re happy that Trump won. They have a lot of hope for the future, because they think that finally, we have someone who is not a politician. There is a chance he will run the country like a business, and he will stop spending money that we don’t have.

                  They don’t have much to say about what a great person or great leader he is. They think that he’s kind of arrogant. But his promise to shake things up, to overturn what we have been doing, to just do things completely differently in Washington, D.C. — that was really appealing to them.

                  Here’s the thing that was really eye-opening to me this morning. Eventually, we got around to discussing specific policies. I asked, “So what are you hoping he accomplishes in the next four years? In what ways do you think he’s actually going to make your life better?”

                  And they kind of looked at me. And they said, Well, probably nothing. Presidents don’t do anything for people like us. But at least he’s going to balance the books and stop spending money that we don’t have.

                  They did believe that Trump was going to boost the economy. They thought there would be 4 percent growth in the economy under him, and there might be more jobs and things would perk up. But they also said, Well nobody even notices that this place exists, so it’s probably not going to affect our lives that much.

                  I think that’s a good indicator of the perspective that folks are coming from. They are feeling so stuck. Even this person, whom they support because he represents overnight change to them — they still don’t have hopes that he will significantly improve the quality of their lives.”

                  Exploring further, even the NYT reporters admitted they didn’t spend time with the voters in the Rust Belt but it is for darn sure they went back after Trump’s win and talked to the Clinton supporters.

                  I am on record time and time again that I do not support Trump but the one thing I refuse to do is to do a hatchet job on the people who did vote for him because it is their right to vote for whomever they please. And I refuse to join in the trashing of “Trumpeteers” the way you and so many others went after Tea Party members/supporters because they spoke their minds in public as is their right.

                4. Doug Ross

                  Hmm… you wonder why you don’t understand Trump voters but find “parody” pieces that paint them as retarded drug abusing racists as “pretty funny”.

                5. Doug Ross

                  Brad – what is the longest period of time you have spent outside of South Carolina in the past ten years? Aside from any vacations or visits to relatives, have you been anywhere where you could get a feel for the local political sentiment?

  4. Phillip

    “unlikely that the Democratic Party is going to play any kind of constructive role in helping the country out of this mess.”

    Is it not constructive to oppose extremist positions, such as the ones Trump holds on health care, global warming, and a variety of other issues? Opposition to such extremism was expressed by over half the voters of the country in November, after all. It sounds like what you are saying is they should just sit on their hands and let the Republicans decide how far they are willing to let Trump go. If the GOP ratifies everything Trump does, how long are the Democrats supposed to say, “oh no, don’t blame Republicans for Trump, they didn’t nominate him, he nominated himself, they have nothing to do with him and bear no responsibility for him being President, nor for his policies now being implemented.” ?

    You can still “go high” rather than “go low” and convey that message I think. Anyway, even in power I think Trump has cornered the market on “going low.”

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    I was looking back over this post, and something hit me. It’s that NYT headline I referred to in passing: “Who Hasn’t Trump Banned? People From Places Where He’s Done Business.”

    Shouldn’t that be “whom?”


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