When President Pence is inaugurated will Chuck Schumer wipe a tear from his eye and announce in a trembling voice that “our long national nightmare is over?”
That’s a joke of course, but there’s a serious point and it is the obvious one. When Pence takes office following Trump’s eventual impeachment or resignation he will be supported by congressional majorities in both houses, not to mention Republican dominance of all levels of the judiciary as well as the great majority of states where, under Obama, Democrats have lost over 900 offices. The nightmare, rather than coming to an end, will be just beginning. That’s the reality which no amount of triumphalism from Democratic Party operatives celebrating Trump’s demise should be allowed to obscure.
For what they will be celebrating will be a revitalized Republican brand setting the stage for subsequent victories in 2018 and 2020 and beyond.
If this scenario is not going to materialize the Democrats will need to show that they understand what should be known as Truman’s Law, one which the (admittedly problematic) Kansas City New Dealer formulated during an address to the national convention of the Americans for Democratic Action in 1952:
The record the Democratic Party has made in the last 20 years is the greatest political asset any party ever had in the history of the world. We would be foolish to throw it away. There is nothing our enemies would like better and nothing that would do more to help them win an election.
I’ve seen it happen time after time. When the Democratic candidate allows himself to be put on the defensive and starts apologizing for the New Deal and the fair Deal, and says he really doesn’t believe in them, he is sure to lose. The people don’t want a phony Democrat. If it’s a choice between a genuine Republican, and a Republican in Democratic clothing, the people will choose the genuine article, every time; that is, they will take a Republican before they will a phony Democrat, and I don’t want any phony Democratic candidates in this campaign.
But when a Democratic candidate goes out and explains what the New Deal and fair Deal really are–when he stands up like a man and puts the issues before the people–then Democrats can win, even in places where they have never won before. It has been proven time and again.
Truman’s Law is really a special case of the more general principle which is usually formulated as “you can’t beat something with nothing.” And nothing is the only word to describe the techno-meritocratic neoliberals the Democrats have marketed and sold to an unwilling and increasingly restive party base for three political generations. Most indications provided by the preparations for 2018, most crucially in the form of the candidates they are fielding (including in my own swing district in the Hudson Valley-more on this later) are, unfortunately, that they continue to need to learn this lesson.
It is our job to teach it to them.