Liberals are taking their eyes off the ball — here are 3 things they should do instead


Liberals realised until just a few days ago that Jill Stein was a spoiler and an impediment to liberal policymaking.

Now, a bunch of you have given her more money than she raised during her whole campaign because you have been eager to buy into a conspiracy theory about Donald Trump benefitting from the rigging of voting machines, and Stein indulged the theory and offered to seek a recount if you would pay for it.

Well done, everybody — good job, good effort.

In other fantasy news, electors are never going to strip Trump of the presidency over concerns about the Emoluments Clause. And if they did (which they won’t), they would be creating a grave democratic crisis by substituting their judgment for that of the voters.

This is not an idea worth discussing. But liberals are discussing it because it makes them feel good to think maybe Trump won’t have to be president.

This is the beginning of a descent into an information bubble of the sort that drove conservatives insane over the last eight years, and that led to them sending money to candidates like Ben Carson.

I suspect some enterprising grifters are looking at Stein’s fundraising success and wondering whether scam PACs shouldn’t be just for conservatives anymore. The diversion of liberal money and energy down blind alleys would not be a positive development in the era of Trump, when an effective opposition will be more necessary than ever.

Channel your grief usefully

I get it. It is appropriate to feel grief over Donald Trump’s election — and to wish this weren’t happening.

But it is happening. He won — what you have to do now is to figure out what to do about it.

So here are three places Trump opponents can productively focus their energy:

  1. The Louisiana Senate race. Congressional elections aren’t quite over yet, because Louisiana will elect a senator in a runoff election on December 10. This race will determine whether Republicans have 51 or 52 seats in the next Senate. Yes, Democrats are very unlikely to win this election, but they’re more likely to win it than Trump is to lose through recounts or Electoral College shenanigans, so on a relative basis it’s less of a waste of liberals’ energy and money. More importantly, if Democrats are going to beat back Republican majorities in Congress in 2018 and 2020, they’re going to have to start campaigning and winning in places they haven’t been winning lately. Louisiana’s runoff offers the first opportunity to practice.
  2. Cabinet confirmations. The Republican majority in the Senate will be narrow, and Trump will need to hold nearly all Republicans together to confirm controversial picks for jobs that require confirmation. Organised efforts to lobby senators could help stop Trump from creating the Cabinet of your nightmares. But it will be best to focus your opposition on his stranger, more Trumpian picks. Liberals have good reasons to be upset about the choice of Betsy DeVos to lead the Department of Education. But she’s the sort of pick you might have also seen in a Jeb Bush administration, and it’s unlikely any Republicans can be convinced to oppose her. But if Trump follows through on nominating Ben Carson to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development or Rudy Giuliani to be Secretary of State …
  3. Medicare. One of Paul Ryan’s longstanding goals has been to transform federal entitlement programs in a way that reduces the generosity of their benefits, including by transforming Medicare so that it would (ironically) look a lot more like the Affordable Care Act, with seniors receiving a fixed subsidy toward the purchase of a private insurance plan. Some Republicans in Congress are signalling an intention to move forward early with a transformation of Medicare. This would be very unpopular, and Trump insisted through the campaign that he doesn’t want to cut Medicare, in part because it would be very unpopular. This is an issue where Democrats can apply political pressure that will divide Republicans and push them into infighting — perhaps ending with a Trump veto of a Republican Medicare reform bill. There are lots of good reasons to dislike Steve Bannon, but on this issue Democrats may be able to capitalise on Bannon’s desire to punish and humiliate Ryan.

Eyes on the ball, everyone. This is important.

This is an editorial. The opinions and conclusions expressed above are those of the author.

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