The Democrats Abandon Ship


Democrats have two options: 1) #theresistance; or 2) get in the game.


By DANIEL HENNINGER March 1, 2017



Daniel Henninger

That scene you saw at the moment President Trump ended his speech to a joint session of Congress was the Democrats abandoning the ship of state.


Like the progressive street demonstrations endured by the country the past four weeks, we may assume Congress’s Democratic delegation organized their post-speech bolt to the exits via the famous social-media hashtag #TheResistance.


During the speech’s most extraordinary moment, the tribute to Carryn Owens, wife of slain SEAL Ryan Owens, one notable Democrat who refused to stand was Rep. Keith Ellison, who just lost a close race for Democratic National Committee chairman to Obama Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, also a man of the left.


You’d have thought that at the two-thirds point, when Mr. Trump hadn’t self-destructed as expected, when instead he was looking less like Alec Baldwin and more like President Trump, that Chuck Schumer might have pulled out his smartphone to tweet the troops, “Walkout maybe not a good idea.” Not this crew. En masse, they went over the side, just as they’ve refused to attend hearings for cabinet nominees and voted as a bloc against virtually all of them.


Donald Trump extended an olive branch on key legislative issues, and the Democrats gave him the you-know-what. In fact, the party might consider making you-know-what its new logo because Mr. Trump has stolen their mascot, the Democratic donkey.


The donkey was the creation of Democrat Andrew Jackson, whose portrait hangs now in Republican Donald Trump’s Oval Office. Jackson’s opponents called him a jackass, which he transformed into a badge of honor by putting the jackass on his campaign posters.


Jackson served two terms. Eight years is going to be a long slog for Democrats if indeed they plan to conduct the nation’s business with the Trump White House from various street corners.


There is one other relevant image from the moments after the speech ended: Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin standing—alone—to shake Mr. Trump’s hand.


Last week, progressive activists petitioned Minority Leader Schumer to expel Sen. Manchin from the leadership team as retribution for his vote in favor of Scott Pruitt’s nomination to run the Environmental Protection Agency.


Sen. Manchin should admit reality and move across the aisle to join the Republicans. What do the middle-finger Democrats have in common anymore with West Virginia, which Mr. Trump carried by 42 points?


We keep reading that the Democrats’ newest coalition of the ascendant—from left to far left—sees the tea party as a model. Presumably that includes the politics of mutually assured destruction.


Imperiled Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, which Mr. Trump carried by 18.5 points and 523,000 votes, expects a primary challenge from the left in 2018. Democratic Senators Jon Tester of Montana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Bill Nelson of Florida and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, all facing tough re-elections in 2018, must feel like they’ve been pulled into an alternative universe. And they have. It’s called the alt-left.


With Breitbart’s Steve Bannon in the White House, we’ve read umpteen journalistic histories of the alt-right, a phrase some reporters seem to have programmed into a user key.


Well, with established Democratic members of Congress now adopting “resistance” as their basic political model, aren’t we due for a similar media dive into the origins of the alt-left?


Keywords would include: the 1930s, the 1960s, Vietnam, Ramparts magazine, the Weather Underground. Which is to say, if the alt-right flirts with white nationalism, the alt-left always conducts politics at the edge of violence, such as the trashing last month of UC Berkeley. One sign: “Become Ungovernable.”

Become ungovernable sounds pretty close to the party’s modus operandi for Donald Trump—before he gave that speech.


Congressional Democrats have two options now. Option one is to stay the course of mass resistance. This option assumes that Tuesday evening’s President Trump will revert soon to Mr. T, the combative street-fighter.


Maybe, but Hillary Clinton thought Americans would abandon Mr. T, and that failed because too many voters were looking past the personality to get the Trump policies on economic revival. It looks now as if that’s exactly what he is going to give them.


If Mr. Trump succeeds, even with only Republican votes, Democrats alienated from the progressive capture of the party could drift further away. The Trump coalition, which is arguably a political bubble, instead could last a generation.


Option two is get out of the streets and get in the game Mr. Trump offered them in his speech.


There’s no telling what the politically eclectic Mr. Trump might concede the Democrats. He’ll insist that his tax bill include Ivanka’s child-care proposals. The Tax Foundation estimates they’d cause a revenue loss of $500 billion. Democrats might ask for a tax to pay for it, like the Obama “Medicare surcharge” on the 1%.


Not to worry. More likely is that the Schumer-Warren Democrats will spend two years listening to the resurrected voice from their past: “Hell no, we won’t go.”


Daniel Henninger is an American journalist. He serves as the Deputy Editorial Page Director of The Wall Street Journal and a Fox News contributor.