Congressional Democrats are continuing to obstruct President Trump’s agenda — but should they be wary of how that tactic might hurt their own party?
In a column for USA Today, Jesse Ferguson, a deputy national press secretary for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, argues convincingly against the Democratic Party plan to obstruct President Trump solely in retaliation for Republicans obstructing President Obama.
“There’s a big problem with this political strategy for Democrats: In the long run, it won’t work,” Ferguson states matter-of-factly.
“Democrats should feel no pressure to support Trump given his weak standing, but simply opposing Trump because Republicans opposed Obama isn’t a winning political strategy for Democrats, either. If one thing is crystal clear from the past three decades — since President Reagan’s election in 1980 — it’s that the more voters hate government, the more Republicans benefit. That’s their strategy. We can’t play into it.”
Ferguson also points out how Democrat obstruction could play into the hands of Republicans, who themselves have made major political gains running on a “government is broken” platform.
“If our only plan is to make government non-functional like Republicans did to us, then we will end up invalidating the basic progressive thesis: Government action can improve people’s lives,” Ferguson writes. “We can’t win the public debate in elections about a progressive agenda if we end up proving the central hypothesis of the conservative agenda — that government can’t get things done — to be true instead.”
Ferguson closed by issuing a stark warning to his fellow Democrats: “Republicans win among voters who hate government, so Democrats’ political strategy can’t be to make more people hate government.”
In addition to other Democrats echoing Ferguson’s opinion, data also lends itself to his argument.
Asked whether the Democratic Party is in touch with the concerns of the average person, a staggering 67 percent said Democrats are out of touch, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News survey.
Originally, Democrats probably envisioned that obstruction would be welcomed by their base. However, because last year’s election was a “change election,” this decision may backfire on them.
For example, here are two tweets by President Trump where he mentions “obstruction” and “Democrats” in a negative connotation, and then, in the same sentence, claims they are hindering progress on healthcare, tax cuts and national security.
The Democrats, without a leader, have become the party of obstruction.They are only interested in themselves and not in what's best for U.S.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 30, 2017
Democrats would do much better as a party if they got together with Republicans on Healthcare,Tax Cuts,Security. Obstruction doesn't work!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2017
Can Democrats not see what he is doing?
In the minds of millions, he is drawing a connection between Democrats and the government’s inability to function. This has been the Republican Party’s calling card for the last 30 years. The president is attempting to rebrand the Democratic Party by labeling them the party of obstruction.
Rather than adhering to the maxim pronounced by former first lady Michelle Obama, and embraced by the Clinton campaign during the presidential election last year — “When they go low, we go high” — Democrats are instead choosing to resist the president at every level.
David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Obama, cautioned against that mindset in a February interview with NPR.
“Do you resist everything? That is the mood of activists within the party. It creates some problems, for example, for the 10 senators who are running in 2018, Democrats who are from states that Donald Trump carried,” Axelrod said.
All signs point to the Democrats not heeding the advice of Ferguson or Axelrod. In fact, most of the liberal leaders in Washington are catering to the extremists in their party, all the while ignoring their true base: the blue-collar factory worker.
Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, these are the very voters who helped Trump tear down their “blue wall” last November.
If Democrats want to someday return to power, the road back is through corroboration; not obstruction.
Democrats must prove to their base that, despite their ideological differences with President Trump, they remain the party of the people and not the party of rich elites.
Obstruction does not send that message.