Being smart for the party

Despite Donald Trump’s constant beratement of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, his real threat comes from Republicans. Although his hold on the rank and file is solid, he still has to finesse the Congressional leaders and the old “base.” As an example, in his overtures to North Korea, Trump received a warning from Mitch McConnell, who also weighed in on tariffs.

On this particularly thorny issue of placing an extra fee on imports, the GOP can get awfully sore. Forget school shootings, casual invasions of countries and general indignation regarding change, the Ben Sasses, Lindsay Grahams and Jeff Flakes get worked up about tariffs. Everything else in the world may be coming apart but on this particular issue –anger all around. Particularly Paul Ryan and Sasse, who regard any tinkering of the supposed “Free Market” as an act of heresy. What would Ayn do? (Rand of course.)

Ironic it is that some Democrats, such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio, are in step with the president on this issue. Unlike the Congressional Republicans whose fealty to the Club for Growth or devotion to the Koch brothers automatically rule out any flexibility on this front. Same with their views on negotiations with North Korea –follow the John Bolton line to the letter. Mike Pompeo — despite being a hawk — is not like the rigid Bolton. But there are pitfalls aplenty for “base” Democratic voters. Since when has the party become a neo-Conservative bastion? The anti-Russian rhetoric brings to mind Harry Truman’s knee-jerk response to the Soviet Union. Also, there is no taking responsibility for the reckless overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Add on to that the hankering for a war in Syria. Fair enough, most GOP leaders backed that, but Democrats should have shown better judgment.

To be reflexively anti-Trump is not smart for the party. Opposing the Republicans is a different matter than simply aiming at Trump. To react to every tweet or outrageous statement is folly. Leave the nitpicking to the GOP that has decided to manipulate Trump since the Cleveland convention. As time passes, Trump becomes more the candidate he was in 2016, less aggressive in foreign policy and more creative domestically.

You need not go any farther than West Virginia to see how cleverness can get most of what you want. Jim Justice quit the Democrats to please Trump — outrageous, maybe. But he also got a highway bill passed and a 5 percent raise for teachers and state employees.

In essence, Justice became the most progressive governor in 20 years. Can you say Trojan horse? Meanwhile, a number of tea partiers lost their positions in Charleston. So what if Justice calls himself Republican, he governs like a progressive.

When parties are out of power they can learn from their mistakes, not compound them. If the Democrats are to win, they must hone a message that reflects its history and expands its base. It must be patient, and be kind enough to allow its opponents to destroy themselves.