Let’s not party like it’s 2001Posted: 2016-12-31
Looking back on it now, the result of the election is even more unfathomable than when media outlets first called the race.
Thanks to a strong economy, the two-term Democratic president enjoyed an approval rating well over 50 percent—with good reason. Despite near-total Republican opposition to his health care and stimulus plans and dire GOP warnings about “job-crushing” tax increases that would “kill the current recovery,” the Democrat presided over the creation of millions of new jobs and a falling unemployment rate which dropped below 5 percent. Though U.S. troops were still in the field protecting Muslim populations, Republican attacks that the American military had “deteriorated badly” and had two Army divisions “not ready for duty, sir” were simply untrue. At a time of relative peace and prosperity, the president’s obvious successor and the clear choice of the Democratic establishment should have won a comfortable victory.
But it didn’t work out that way. The Democrat’s mistake-filled campaign could not escape an immovable media narrative that the candidate was inauthentic, aloof, calculating, and corrupt. Despite the impossible math behind his massive tax cuts for the rich, the CEO-turned-Republican nominee was instead portrayed as the guy voters wanted to have a beer with. And despite America’s clear popular vote victory for the Democrat, mere thousands of votes across key states enabled the GOP’s man to win the Electoral College and so become president of the United States. Nevertheless, in the run-up to their inauguration, the president-elect insisted he had a mandate to govern as he sees fit. As his running mate put it:
“[He] ran on a particular platform that was very carefully developed. It’s his program, it’s his agenda, and we have no intention at all of backing off of it. It’s why we got elected.”
And in 2001, Democrats let George W. Bush pretty much get away with all of it.
Sixteen years later, their response to Donald Trump must be “not this time and never again.” It’s not just that President-elect Trump’s policies are predicted now, as Bush’s were then, to be disastrous for the country. When Democrats regained control of the White House and Congress in 2009, they were met by Republicans with an unprecedented campaign of obstruction designed to undermine not just the norms of American politics, but America itself. And then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t merely proclaim “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” but sought to sabotage the 44th president to ensure that Republicans would not “have co-ownership of a bad economy.” As a result, Democrats should feel liberated to strike back at the times and places of their choosing with any of the tactics Republicans didn’t hesitate to use during the past eight years.