As John Lennon said, it’s easy if you try.
The reason for this is not that Donald Trump has some secret liberal core. It’s that he has no core. Donald Trump believes in one thing: himself. If he thought he would have had better electoral success as a Democrat, he would have run as one. If you don’t believe me, consider his changing position on abortion.
Despite his flexible ideology, Trump certainly fits in the Republican party better than the Democratic one. He clearly disdains people different from himself — women, people of color, immigrants (unless he marries them) — and this obvious dislike would be disqualifying among most progressives.
Furthermore, as a liberal myself, I believe we tend to be, in general, kinder, more generous people. After all, we believe in taking care of people other than ourselves. That said, Trump as a person is pond scum. I had a really hard time finding a picture of him looking anything other than angry or creepy.
But let’s face it, despite our claims to our outrage over his personal behavior, that’s not the reason we don’t like him. Nor is it his clearly authoritarian impulses.
No, there are one of two reasons we don’t like him. The first reason — the most charitable — is that he stands for a policy agenda counter to ours. If you care about the environment, economic justice, civil rights, or any number of other policy positions near and dear to us, you must be outraged by Donald Trump’s administration.
While we may have disdain for the general incompetence of his administration, his people who bother us the most are the ones who are effective — consider Scott Pruitt. It’s not his self-service that bothered us. It’s his success at moving forward his anti-regulatory agenda.
We also hate Mitch McConnell. He may be a smarmy racist bastard who champions give-aways to the rich. But what really bothers us is that he had succeeded spectacularly in his effort to transform the courts. Without McConnell, liberals would now be enjoying a majority on the Supreme Court.
The other reason we might despise Donald Trump is that he is not on our team. He is not one of us. He knew liberals would never accept him with his orange skin, his coiffed hair and his bleached teeth. Even when Trump does something we would otherwise like — and I have to admit that I’m having a hard time coming up with an example of this — we would still oppose it just as he opposes anything Obama was for.
Nevertheless, just as Trump swooped in from the outside and took over the Republican party, a liberal could conceivably do the same on the Democratic side. Consider Mark Cuban. He is rich, has been a vocal opponent of Trump’s, supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, and has repeatedly spoken about running for office in both parties. He has also been accused of sexual harassment. He is also far smarter and more articulate than Donald Trump could ever dream of being.
Therefore, Mark Cuban, or someone like him, could be the Donald Trump of liberals.
Cuban could articulate the issues that matter to liberals and commit to fight for them no matter what.
Republicans would decry his positions on the issues, but would also, as they did with Obama (ironically, since Obama could not have been farther from an authoritarian) they would decry his abuses of power. They would argue that he was violating norms in his relatively successful attempt to advance the causes liberals care about, and that he was taking the country away from good average folks and creating a dictatorship of the left to benefit elite liberals, gays, feminists, immigrants and minorities. You can just hear the howls of outrage now.
If that were to happen, I wonder how many Democrats would stand up to him and push back against his abuses of power. I expect he would be extremely popular with the Democratic grassroots due to his success in achieving our agenda. I expect that legislators who opposed him would face angry primary challenges.
In effect, I wonder if there were a liberal Trumpish character, would we liberals behave any differently from how conservatives are behaving with Trump now?
The point of all this is not to make us liberals feel badly. Instead, it is to point out that our hysterical cries of outrage over Trump’s authoritarian behaviors will fall on deaf ears.
Instead, the way for us to win is to promote our issue agenda. Clearly, most Americans favor health care for all. Most favor economic justice over tax cuts for the rich. Most favor some level of abortion rights, and most support environmental protections.
“Nobody cares about process” was the mantra of one of my political mentors. Instead, we need to focus on the issues that matter to each individual voter. By promising them real relief to the pain they are feeling, Democrats stand a chance of winning again.
One thing is certain, however. The cause of the pain most people are feeling is not Trump’s abuses of power. The more we emphasize that point, the less chance we stand to start winning again.
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