I know this sounds like an insane question coming from me, but give me a chance before you start questioning my commitment to all that is good and decent in the world. I mean the question sincerely, not in the sense of will he do the right thing, or will he improve the United States or the world, but I mean is he what we needed.
Why Would We Need A Trump?
If the stagnant Democratic voter turnout in the 2016 election is any sort of indicator, the left was inactive, un-enthused, and un-inspired. While many would counter that Hillary Clinton still won the popular vote by 3 million, we didn’t get those votes where it counted. African American turnout dropped, while white voter turnout surged. More voters who had not voted in 2012 were driven to the polls by Donald Trump’s polarizing message of white resentment and nationalist populism.
But why was the Democratic party stagnating? We had just had 8 years of an Obama presidency, with huge wins, including Obamacare. Perhaps it was that we no longer had a real foe? While congressional Republicans caused headaches and stymied a number of legislative efforts, none of them stood out as the real leader of the Republican party, and those who were attempting to take on the mantle of leadership had become more moderate, especially on the issue of immigration. The RNC’s “Autopsy” of the 2012 election called for adopting measures to bring in the growing hispanic population, accepting gay marriage, and other moderate changes.
And then came Donald Trump, the embodiment of all the dark thoughts of the worst Republicans. But still, we didn’t take him seriously, nobody thought he had even the slightest chance at winning, and in truth, he really didn’t until the final days of the election when the resurgence of Clinton’s email scandal helped drown out the access Hollywood tape issue and re-energized his base.
In short, Democrats were inactive, as evidenced by Republicans gaining control of the house in 2010 and the senate in 2014. In order to govern effectively and really push for change, you have to control congress, the branch of government which truly holds the most power, if they choose to use it. It goes beyond elections however, many Democrats had seemingly become complacent, during Obama’s Presidency. They had fallen prey to the illusion that having the first African American president had solved most of our problems, and that progress was inevitable. We thought that the growing Democratic coalition could not be stopped, and many of us became blinded to the growing threat from the far right, seeing them as more of a sideshow than a real political force.
So How Could Trump Be Helping Us?
Since the minute it became clear that Trump would be president, we have seen a massive increase in activism. The first real event after the inauguration was the massive Women’s March, where millions across the country showed solidarity and defiance to the misogynist in chief. We’ve seen massive marches for science, for immigration, for equality, the Democratic majority seems to have woken up from its slumber.
More importantly, however, the divergence from the norm seems to have created a desire for a return to normalcy. People crave a president who is, for lack of a better term, presidential. A return to decorum and normal order. John McCain, a Republican who campaigned on a repeal of Obamacare refused to vote for a repeal that wasn’t done in the proper way.
Trump has sown chaos in the Republican party, their chickens are finally coming home to roost, they must reap what their rhetoric has sown. The rise of the tea party, and republican pandering to the extreme elements of the right wing has led them to the very place they are now, and if all remains constant, they seem positioned for huge losses in the 2018 midterms and 2020 elections. Already, Democrats have won state legislative positions in highly red districts, despite losing more high profile seats in house special elections.
but beyond electoral politics, the social revolution inspired by Trump is powerful. The power of the people is what inspired Senator Murkowski and Collins to oppose the Obamacare repeal bills of the last few month. When the travel ban was issued, thousands flocked to airports across the country to offer legal aid and to protest the pointless ban. The “Hashtag resistance” is ensuring that we do not forget any of Trump’s scandals. In all, Democrats seem to be more engaged and active than they have been in a long time.
There is no denying that Trump is doing definite damage right now. Whether it be the travel ban, legislation he supports, the hatred he inspires for immigrants and refugees, or just his general divisiveness, the country seems to be near its breaking point, stretched like a shirt worn by our morbidly obese commander in chief. We’ve seen the nation snap at violent rallies across the country, the shooting of Steve Scalise, and Trump seems set on starting a war with North Korea.
The hope is, however, that we make it through this period intact, and that we are able to come out of it stronger and more emboldened than ever. I cannot make the counterfactual argument that without Trump we would not have such an inspired and active citizenry, but it seems unlikely that we would. We have the potential to take over the government of this country again, if we can keep the people engaged, and Trump seems to show no sign of slowing down giving us outrage after outrage to do so.
One word of caution, however, we remember the cautionary tale of the Tea Party and what they have done to the Republican Party. We cannot let hate drive our resurgence, we must focus on a positive message. We need to unite not divide, and to focus on why our policies are better, not just that there are different than those of the current regime. Otherwise we could end up sliding down the same rabbit hole through which they have gone, dividing our own party, and destroying our ability to push forward good change, and to reverse the damage they are currently doing.