Humility in victory
With victory comes responsibility and should engender some humility. Democrats have been given a second chance at controlling the House of Representatives. Certainly, it should not copy the tacky ascendance of Newt Gingrich’s triumph in 1994. The theatrics resembled a Latin American coup rather than an ordered transfer of power. Same for the Tea Party sweep in 2010 where Gadsden flags bedecked legislatures and congressional offices. They behaved with absolute partisanship in pursuit of complete dominance.
But the GOP is behaving with the same swaggering style, unconscious of appearance. In North Carolina, instead of acting with class –rerunning a congressional race –they insist on a new primary. Mulligan politics, attempt a steal, get caught and then insisting on a do-over –with probably another nominee.
In fairness, Democrats in the 1970s and 80s behaved in a similar fashion. Despite losing at a state level in Texas, it locked in, through gerrymandering, over 20 house seats, allowing Republicans four. In 1994, they paid for it when Republicans swept the state. In Minnesota in 1976, Wendell Anderson appointed himself U.S. Senator after Walter Mondale was elected vice president. In 1978, he lost and reignited Republican fortunes in Minnesota.
Both parties have tried to manipulate the system, but as the witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ said, “These things must be done delicately.” Republicans are so obsessed that other people are beginning to rise to prominence that they are becoming unhinged. Remember George W. Bush gained over 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004. But they are repeating the mistake they made in the 1960s. In 1956, Dwight Eisenhower gained 40 percent of the Afro-American vote but in 1964 they nominated Barry Goldwater who opposed the Civil Rights Act.
Because of such short-sightedness, the GOP has become increasingly a copy of the old Southern Democratic wing. The old GOP, the party of Abraham Lincoln, simply does not exist. Donald Trump led a coalition based on one principle — resentment and plenty of it. He succeeded where Huey Long and George Wallace came up short, managing to crystallize dissent in a way not seen at the federal level. His problem was that he had to put up with the Republican establishment. Now Trump has flexibility and Democrats may have an unexpected ally. If Trump fails to yield then it is his misfortune.
But Democrats should be wary of calls for impeachment. Vice President Mike Pence is a staunch conservative who is not inclined to deal. Trump, erratic as ever, might respond to friendly signals from the Democratic leadership — health care, infrastructure and shoring up the American social safety net. The Republicans can only offer him more resentment.
Democrats should take the reins of power gently, without acrimony and with generosity. Who knows — they could mold an economic agenda aimed toward Main Street and not Wall Street. But nothing can be accrued by excessive partisanship. Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems perfect for this task and will help govern with the public interest in mind.