Democrats continue to believe that Trump is an aberration rather than the natural evolution of Republican politics. Nowhere is this more evident than in their frighteningly inadequate response to Trump’s joint address to Congress.
“It actually felt a little bit like The Hunger Games at points,” Rep. Jamie Raskin told the Huffington Post. “I looked up and I saw [former House Speaker] Newt Gingrich and suddenly I felt that I was transported to a different world.” But Trump is not a cartoon dictator. Comparing him to President Snow is a mildly humorous dig at best, not a serious counter-message. Perhaps it is unfair to make an example of Raskin. But these pop culture references feature prominently in liberalism’s anti-Trump rhetoric, and they are not helpful. They tell us nothing useful about Trump or his ideology and they do not provide us with the politics we need to take him down.
See also: The Democratic women who wore white to last night’s speech. It’s a charming gesture. That’s all. It didn’t intimidate Trump or his party. And it’s an obscure reference: It seems unlikely that most viewers understood the significance of the color—it’s to honor suffragettes—so it’s near-uesless as an act of protest. Democrats could have made a more powerful statement. Rep. Maxine Waters, for one, boycotted the speech. But in large part, Democrats were reluctant to rock the boat. Rep. Steny Hoyer told The Hill that Democrats had urged their members to be “respectful” of Trump. Rep. Eliot Engel decided to #resist by refusing to reserve an aisle seat for the event, an area that is sometimes referred to as asskisser aisle.
And the party inexplicably decided to have former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear deliver its official response to Trump. It’s likely they thought Beshear would appeal to Obama coalition defectors. But Beshear talks like a Baptist preacher, not a populist. He is not actually what those voters want.
The overarching impression is that the party is still dangerously out of touch with the political reality it inhabits. The Democratic Party can’t defeat the big bad with the force or a magic wand or matching outfits. They need a different kind of politics—resistance politics, loud politics, obstreperous politics. And there’s still no proof they understand that.