The Politics of Opposition and The Future of the Democratic Party

 /  Dec. 19, 2016, 8:59 p.m.


There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Over the course of the last month, those of us who voted for Hillary Clinton have been forced to grieve for what could have been. Compounding our problems was that not long after the election, we were told that we should go and talk to the supporters of Donald Trump and see why they supported him. We have been told that we are in our own self-righteous bubble and that this bubble was the reason for our defeat. But this is a faulty framework for shaping the direction of the country in the future. Rather than seeking to work with Trump and his supporters, Democrats must reaffirm and embrace their commitment to principles.

The Democrats should not lift a finger to help the new president. The Republicans now have control over the executive and legislative branches and will soon control the judiciary. They have large majorities in many statehouses and control most governorships. How did the Republicans accomplish this over the last eight years? Was it their ideas? No. It was their ability to blame everybody else (i.e., those in power, immigrants, etc.) for every single problem that energized their voters. Acceptance of reality does not mean that we must capitulate or cede any ground to Donald Trump. We should fight tooth and nail.

Before the election, people said that there was no chance that something like Brexit could happen in the US because we are too “diverse.” In the Obama era of elections, perhaps we could delude ourselves about the diversity of our country. But today, we must come to terms with the fact that there were enough white people in America to elect this man.  

Just think about whom Donald Trump has maligned and/or targeted throughout this presidential campaign:

African Americans.



People with disabilities.


Trump has denigrated minorities and has demeaned those who have held less power than him in his heterosexual-male-dominant mindset. In the face of such bigotry, we cannot adopt a wait-and-see mentality. To tell people that they should wait and see if he will target people, even after he said he would and has done so in the past, is foolish.

As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” You might think you have not. You might believe that you will rise up to oppose any bigoted policies that Trump begins to implement. However, if a snake has been let into the garden and you know it is there, you should not wait and see if it’s going to act. You should take action immediately. This wait-and-see strategy is a morally bankrupt position: it is tantamount to facilitating discrimination.

Moreover, the talk-it-out position is just as vacuous because it demands that victims of discrimination talk to someone who supportsdirectly or indirectlytheir own targeting and discrimination. This is just as fundamentally wrong as the wait-and-see strategy.

Therefore, we must take action now.

As former secretary of state Colin Powell states, “Have a vision. Be demanding.” Democrats must craft a vision for our country’s future and then be unyielding in pushing for it. Democrats should no longer be stuck in a mushy middle of deference and compromise. No more middle ground. If we believe that government is a tool for the good, we should not be shy in proclaiming its value. If we believe that government should protect and help the lowest among us, we should proudly assert that our refusal to set limits on who deserves our love and protection is something to be proud of. We should not attempt to add caveats to our ideals or beliefs. We must paint with bold strokes.

Today and in the coming years, we have an opportunity to forge that vision. We can make the Democratic Party inclusive, based on lifting up the lowest and least fortunate among us. We must go further than the Democratic Party has gone in the past in proudly affirming our liberal beliefs. As Hillary Clinton said in her Wellesley commencement speech, politics should be “the art of making what appears to be impossible possible.”

So Democrats, while we've had great disappointment, we have the great opportunity to revamp our message. Buck up. Get tough. And make the impossible possible.

The image featured in this article is licensed under Creative Commons. The original image can be found here.

Daniel Jellins


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