Someday, Donald Trump will be gone. Someday could be months away, if God willing, Bob Mueller finds the President committed criminal acts. It could be January 20th, 2021, if God willing, the Democrats don’t nominate a crazy. We could have six more years though, or worse yet, he could get an heir elected. Because of the uncertainty, we don’t like to talk about what will happen then- be it to the country, the Democratic Party, or to ourselves individually. Instead of being motivated by a brighter future, the Democratic Party is very reactionary right now. When I talk to Democratic voters, their number one motivation is fear. I hear it from women, Latinos, the LGBT community, African-Americans, and millennials. Trump is rolling back each of their rights in the judiciary. His tariffs could destroy our economy. His tax scam could leave us with no ability to pay for a better future too. When I talk to Muslims, they wonder out loud if this is still their country, when the Supreme Court openly upholds Trump’s Muslim travel ban. When I talk to Jewish people, they raise the alarm about so many Revelations fans and “rapture fanatics” setting our foreign policy. More than anything though, I hear people on the Left alarmed by people looking like me– white, straight, Christian males- at the Trump rallies chanting along in his ridiculous road show, glorifying hate and bigotry. People are terrified, and they actually should be.
The damage the imbecile in the White House is doing is real. The damage to marginalized groups of people is happening as we speak. You can’t undo the damage of removing small children from their parents. The codification of voter suppression and gerrymandering in our states and in our courts will change politics for decades. The damage to our standing in the world is real, and it will take time for our allies to trust that we won’t ever do this again. All of this, and a lot more, is very serious- and Kavanaugh and Gorsuch haven’t even over-turned Roe v. Wade and Griswold yet. The magnitude of the damage and pain isn’t even clear to us yet, even those of us who accept that it’s coming.
We don’t like to talk about it right now, but there will be a day after Trump. It feels wrong to consider while he hurts people, but we must. It’s not unlike the day after Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, JFK, Nixon, Reagan, or even Obama. While the impact may be felt for the rest of our lives, there will be a day not unlike the day after Hitler, Khan, Stalin, or any other historic strong man. Donald Trump is a fat man who hates exercise, loves indulging his desires, and spray tans too much- he won’t live forever. We will wake up in a world after Trump, God willing. We will have to move forward.
When we reach that day, the politics will change. Just 75 years after World War II, Germany is arguably the leader of the Western Alliance now, standing shoulder to shoulder with France. That would be the same France who’s Presidential runner-up was a hardline nationalist that reminds us all of Nazis. Japan, who we nuked in that war, is now a very close allied nation. That’s all slow moving stuff though. Bill Clinton won Arkansas, Tennessee, and West Virginia, but 20 years later his wife was uncompetitive in any of them. In 2006, anti-Bush sentiment swept in a wave of suburban Democrats, who were all swept out in a hurry by 2010- and some of those districts became the backbone of Trump’s 2016 win. It might happen quickly, it might take decades, but the political alignment that shapes us now will change. Our history tells us that it will happen fast- and we may already be into the next re-alignment.
Part of the road to Trumpism is paved in a lack of emotional satisfaction some voters felt in the Obama age. In just two years since Trump’s election, we are seeing white collar suburban women put districts in play for Democrats that they haven’t won in a very long time. The Democratic Party is changing rapidly, even more so than the Republicans now, and trying to pump the breaks didn’t do much for leadership figures like Joe Crowley. While Trump’s GOP’s white nationalistic base is more middle aged and late Baby Boomers, the Democrats’ more ideological base is younger, and will be around for much longer. Many Democrats assume that is good- they’ll tell you “demographics are destiny,” but are they? The 2016 electorate was 70% white, and it will probably be 30-40 years before white voters are a minority. Even then, Democrats will have to deal with the issue of partisan sorting, where most of our voters are packed into deep blue, urban area districts that simply can’t build a majority in Congress. I’m not even considering the anti-voting rights court we’re likely to have for decades to come. Besides all of that- we’re assuming the current demographic voting trends will hold. Republicans were winning African-Americans 60 years ago. Latinos could be driven away from Democrats by abortion and other social issue differences, or even by some of their opposition to Socialism, which Democrats of some stripes are embracing. The Democratic Party is not likely to look the same in 2040 as it did in 2012, both demographically and policy wise. One could argue it already doesn’t.
It has been suggested by some folks that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the future face of the Democratic Party, even more so than a fellow young face like Joe Kennedy. Obviously there is a demographic case to be had on that account, but there’s an even bigger argument to be had on policy and on rhetoric. Ocasio calls herself a “Democratic Socialist,” while Kennedy’s grandfather made his reputation on Capitol Hill opposing them. No, she isn’t a Bolshevik Communist like the ones RFK opposed, but her embrace of the term Socialism suggests a more aggressive leftist ideology than the Democrats have had before. Ocasio is something radical, new, and different from the party’s history.
None of this can or should matter in 2018. We don’t have time for a fight between serious Democrats and radicals during an election cycle in which we’re quite literally fighting for the future of a huge cross-section of America. Some quixotic fight to stop Ocasio from winning is both a waste of time and counter-productive in that it takes resources away from swing-districts that we have to win. I guess that means we’ll have to endure her crazy tweets attacking Joe Crowley and Senator Duckworth, campaigning against great candidates in Kansas, and attacking incumbent Senators in Delaware with voting records that basically match their state. There is no time or energy that is currently available to contend with her or those who follow her- we don’t have resources to waste on vanity fights.
Some day soon though, these fights are going to be important though. Some day soon, the modus operandi of the Democratic Party will not be fighting Donald Trump, because he will be gone. The Democratic Party, not unlike in post-Bush 2009, will be left to pick up the broken pieces of a country that has been driven off a cliff by ignorant, irresponsible leadership. What that party looks like, sounds like, and behaves like will matter. If that party sounds like a rigid party of ideological nuts, we will have dramatically different results than if it doesn’t. Regardless of what Democrats would like to believe, all of the demographic and political shifts happening in our party are happening in less than ten states, and are not likely to be broad enough to change Congress or the electoral college for at least another generation, if not two. If we don’t understand that soon, and react accordingly, we are likely to face a similar situation to the Obama years, where our governing majority is short lived, and ends up being replaced by a far-right radical government.
We’re going to out-live the terrible Trump years. How well we do after that is pretty much entirely dependent on our ability to walk and chew gum now, so that we don’t fall victim to becoming a radical, out-of-step political movement when America does give us a chance to govern again. Frankly, that’s mighty inconvenient, and may even leave some folks on the outside, looking in.