It’s easy to be gloomy right now if you’re a Democrat. It’s easy to throw up your hands and say, “Enough of this. I’m done.” It’s easy to curl up into the fetal position, to bury your head in the sand and tune out until the next election. It’s a little harder to dig down, to find the strength to fight back. To say, “I will fight Republicans tooth and nail for the next four years.” To stand unwavering in your convictions and refuse to give an inch when pressed.
And it’s the hardest to look at a triumphant political opponent and say, “What can I do to help him succeed?”
We have seen what eight straight years of total opposition does. It causes frustration and resentment, it expands partisan division, and it spawns hateful and hurtful rhetoric at all levels of society.
We have seen what happens when Republicans aren’t in control. They refuse to compromise while arguing that the other side never reaches out. They prioritize political success over national success. This has been the doctrine of the party in opposition for the last six years.
Now, for the first time in ten years, they have total control over the executive and legislative branches. In a few months, they will likely take control of the judicial branch as well. They have achieved political success. Democrats are in opposition, and they hold next to no legislative power as Republicans will almost surely make moves to lessen the impact of the filibuster (if not remove it altogether).
Somehow, I feel strangely optimistic.
Some small part of me has wondered if this might actually be the best path forward in our country: Republicans in power, Democrats in opposition. We’ve already seen with our last two Democratic presidents that Republicans absolutely cannot stand playing second fiddle, and will grind the government to a complete halt until they get their way.
Democrats, in eight years under George W. Bush (or six, if you discount the final years with a Democratic legislative majority), have actually made a legitimate effort to work with the other side. And, when Republicans are in power, there are some who are less determined to hold ranks, and will work with Democrats on occasion. Now, Democrats have the opportunity to show that their word is good, that they will, indeed, put country over party when the time to submit legislation comes around again (once they replace all the unused ink that has congealed). They have an opportunity to show what a party in opposition should look like, though they’ll have to grit their teeth and try not to engage in political gamesmanship and obstructionism purely out of revenge for the last eight years.
The Tea Party has had a death grip on the GOP, and after plugging their ears and screaming for six years straight they finally have everything they could have hoped for. No doubt the first thing on their list will be to repeal Obamacare (more as a knee-jerk reaction than a thought-out endeavor), but now as they must look at how they will replace it, perhaps they will actually stop and come up with a plan that works. Perhaps they will simply stick to the same old Republican strategy of increased privatization and removing restrictions on insurance companies, but perhaps, now that they actually have to put together a plan, they will seriously consider all the avenues.
I’m not so naïve as to think the Republican Party will meaningfully shift left, but I can certainly see them slow their sprint to the right. Perhaps this election will finally give them the jumpstart they needed to work toward a solution to our country’s many problems, rather than simply seeking to stop whatever the Democrats put forward. And I genuinely believe there will be plenty of Democrats who will seek to have a positive voice in that solution.
The next couple of years will be tough – no amount of optimism on my part will erase the pure hatred that has been exposed this election season. But for all of his bombast, I sincerely believe that Donald Trump seeks to make the country a better place for everyone. I think his overtures toward minorities (especially black Americans) are extremely poorly executed but probably well-intended. His overtures toward women are another matter entirely, but at least I don’t see him actively seeking to harm women’s rights without some Cheney-level influence from his vice president.
Is he the only person capable of fixing America? Of course not. But he is our future president, and to seek anything less than his absolute success is to root against the interests of America.
Congratulations, President-elect Trump, and good luck.