Having been gobsmacked not once but twice by Donald Trump, Democrats at last are moving beyond “resistance” to confront their core challenge—reviving the party’s competitiveness across middle America.
First, Democrats were flabbergasted by how easily Trump wrested the Republican presidential nomination from a least a dozen more qualified contenders, even though he was not really a Republican, a conservative, or a politician. The second and deeper shock came when Trump stole a victory in the Electoral College despite trailing Hillary Clinton badly in the popular vote.
Democrats braced for the worst, hunkering down to stop a demagogic assault on constitutional democracy. Despite the GOP’s shameless complicity in Trump’s political vandalism, the nation’s political and civic institutions—yes, including a free press—thus far have held up pretty well. Trump’s failure to engineer an Obamacare repeal or get traction in Congress on any of his other top priorities has reinforced the sense that he may not be able to inflict as much damage as originally feared. Things could change—especially on foreign policy, where Trump isn’t so constrained—but his administration is beginning to look more shambolic than sinister.
Still, the Trump scare has concentrated Democrats’ minds in useful ways. It’s brought home the realization that the party must expand its appeal geographically as well as demographically to contest Republican dominance of national and state politics. Democrats need to start winning in the red zone.
That will require reaching beyond core partisans and making new arguments to moderates, independents, and disaffected Republicans. One thing Democrats agree on, left to center, is that the party needs to offer voters a positive case for change, not just complaints about GOP extremism.
Read Will’s Full Op-Ed in The Daily Beast.