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What the Latest Trump Attack Means for Democrats

By Herb Bowie

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Arrows Pointing Toward A Confrontation

By now I’m sure you’ve heard of Trump’s recent attacks on four Democratic congressional representatives, all women of color, urging them to “go back … to the crime-infested places from which they came.”

The signaling here is clear:

  1. Trump is more than happy to drive a wedge into any fissures that emerge within the Democratic party. Here, he was playing on a much-reported division between older, more traditional party leadership (Nancy Pelosi) and four of the newest, and more progressive, House members.
  2. Trump wants to double down on immigration as a core issue. This issue appeals to him because it is so deeply symbolic. Whether you are a white nationalist, or someone concerned about the sanctity of our borders, or someone concerned about crime, or someone worried about preserving American cultural traditions, this is an issue that strikes home.
  3. Trump wants to goad his opponents into unification around its more liberal members, making it easier for Trump to characterize the entire party as “radical Democrats.”
  4. Trump is still not finished in his quest to continuously strike new lows in the level of political discourse in this country. He’s in his element in the gutter and in the playground, and there’s nothing you will find there that he will avoid.

So, how should Democrats respond?

Here are the sorts of positions I’d like to hear them articulate.

  1. We recognize that the United States is a big, diverse country, and we seek to represent and serve the legitimate interests of all American citizens: north and south, east and west, young and old, black and brown and white, men and women, gay and straight, urban and rural and suburban, rich and poor, college graduates, kindergarten graduates, and everything in between.
  2. We want to vigorously combat crime wherever we find it, including illegal immigration across our borders. At the same time, we respect the rights of all legal immigrants, no matter the color of their skin, no matter where their family trees started. After all, America is primarily a country of immigrants, and our culture has been immeasurably enriched by contributions from those whose family origins can be traced to all four corners of the earth.
  3. We believe in progress, and we believe that Americans make the most progress when we all work together, everyone learning, everyone encouraged to do what they do best, everyone contributing to the common good, everyone benefitting, everyone putting their shoulder to the wheel. This is not communism, and it’s not socialism. It’s called Americanism, and its roots go all the way back to the very beginnings of our great country.
  4. As Democrats we sometimes have honest disagreements about the best way to move forward. This is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. This doesn’t mean we disagree about our core values, or that we disrespect each other: it means that we believe the way to find the best path forward is to give everyone a voice, and to listen to all points of view, and then to make the best decisions we can to serve our shared and several interests.

This is not a long or complicated platform. But it’s clear and honest and forthright and solid. If Democrats want to survive Trump’s attacks, then it’s not enough to attack him – they need to present a clear and compelling picture of who they really are, to compete with the image that Trump is painting.

If Democrats across the country can come together behind these four positions, and stick to them, then it’s hard to see how Trump and his cronies – and attacks like these recent ones – will gain much traction with voters in the coming elections.

Published 2019 Jul 16

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