What Democrats Owe the Country

crumbling-infrastructure

That’s the topic E.J. Dionne addresses this morning. He has many interesting things to say, but I find his overall message a little muddy—and understandably so.

Dionne argues that Democrats need relentlessly to oppose racists, racism, and Trump’s other nastiness. That is clear, and among people of good will there is no controversy about it.

But what if Trump proposes programs that might actually improve the economic lives of working class Americans—programs that would almost surely sew discord between the Trumpistas and the establishment Republicans?

Should Democrats work with Trump? Or should they adopt the same strategy that Mitch McConnell employed, and oppose him on all things, including the things they would endorse if the president were a Democrat?

Dionne doesn’t quite say it, but implies that if something Trump proposes actually does improve the economic position of the working class, he will grab all the credit for it and use his credit grab to further entrench his racist nonsense.

All understood. Democrats are indeed damned if they do cooperate and damned if they don’t. But I think they are damned to a lower portion of Hell If they don’t cooperate than if they do, because failure to cooperate will be presented, and understood by many, as cynicism trumping a desire to promote the public good.

Of course, the whole discussion is premised on the assumption that Trump might present proposals on infrastructure and health care that would actually help his base of supporters. Maybe he won’t. In which case E.J. Dionne and Chuck Schumer can breathe a sigh of relief, as they climb down from the horns of a dilemma.

Is Jonathan Chait Right about Democratic Cooperation on Infrastructure?

For some time now, I have found Jonathan Chait, who writes for New York magazine, one of our most insightful pundits. I adhere to that view, though I cannot agree with the thrust of two recent columns: How the Loyal Opposition Will Work in Trump’s America and Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi Have a Plan to Make President Trump Popular.

The question Chait addresses is whether Democrats ought to involve themselves with, and support, Trump’s plans for massive new spending on infrastructure. (That’s assuming the project as ultimately adopted is appropriate public policy—not fundamentally marred by poorly conceived efforts to involve private capital.)

Chait trenchantly expatiates on the hypocrisy of those who oppose public spend in Democratic administrations only to fall in love with inflationary deficit spending when Republicans take office. He enlarges on how Republican opposition to everything Obama proposed helped to keep their own constituents in poverty, and primed to vote for “change” in 2016. He eloquently argues that allowing a feeling of bipartisanship to grow could tend toward legitimizing that which ought to be illegitimate.

I believe these are all fair arguments, with much to commend them.

But, in the end, aren’t we all better if progressives just do the right thing?

If (and it may be a big if) Trump can live with an infrastructure proposal similar to that offered by Obama—and rejected by McConnell and his cynical posse—wouldn’t a mirror image cynicism on our part simply lead ever wider segments of the public to shout, “A plague on both your houses”?

Wouldn’t mirror image cynicism just reinforce whatever authoritarian tendencies Trump may exhibit?