It’s too late for House of Cards. Donald Trump and his minority of right-wing Republicans have already staged their coup. They showed us how a campaign of disinformation, lies, and smears, combined with Russian meddling, a compliant FBI, and the deep pockets of the billionaires could take it all for a rapacious minority. It helps if you are shameless and immoral – but, I mean really, how clever they were. Suddenly it’s “Strike three!” Suddenly the Democrats, the majority party are looking bewildered, wondering what happened. So what now? Can the Democrats be clever?
My assignment for you today is to watch Borgen, the superb Danish political drama. Denmark, like most of the modern European nations, has a parliamentary, multi-party, system. The ruling government is formed by a majority of the Folketing, the unicameral national parliament. Since many of those countries have more than two parties, forming a government can require backroom negotiations between the parties to determine who has a governing majority. That negotiation, and those intrigues, form the basis for Borgen. It is fascinating stuff. Borgen is a primer on the art of political deals. Still, thinking about deal-making across parties is foreign to American partisan political pundits and junkies. That needs to change.
This year provides a most unusual opportunity for deal making. Just consider how Donald Trump belittled his opponents in the Republican primaries. Little Marco, lying Cruz. Senator McCain is “no hero”. Forming Trump’s cabinet, Trump has given all of the positions to the extreme right – nominees intent on dismantling their respective agencies. The coming administration is, in fact, a nihilistic body of destruction. The administration aim to repeal Obamacare is dismantling what was, in origin, a moderate Republican plan, instituted by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Repealing Obamacare without adequate replacement will cause thousands of deaths, deaths that will be on Republican hands. Here’s the point – there still exists a substantial body of relatively moderate Republicans, honorable men and women who have been belittled and marginalized by the right-wing coup. I worked with moderate Republicans for over twenty years in our state legislature – they were often among the best educated and conscientious representatives. And I tell you today, that they are tearing their hair out, their party in the thralls of radicals who disrespect our most basic institutions, traditions, and morality. The moderates don’t deny climate change, they don’t want to cozy up to Russian dictators. They don’t want to destroy the press or elevate disinformation. No. And they are in plain site, with nowhere to go. Get it?
If the Democratic leadership can step back for a moment, and think outside the box, they should be able to strike deals with enough moderate Republicans to retake control of Congress. It would require deal-making. The moderate Republicans have to get something, some committee chairmanships, and assistance with pet programs. That’s why you negotiate. But the point is that the Democrats and moderate Republicans are much closer in interests than the moderate Republicans are to the loonies on the right. Of course, we do not have a parliamentary system and regaining control of Congress does not assure that we regain full control of the government. But it does assure that the rabid Trump nominations are not approved, that the Supreme Court vacancy is filled by a responsible judge with intellectual integrity, and that attacks by Trump and his administration on the press and on civil rights cannot succeed. It assures that nominees are properly vetted. And if cause is shown, it assures that Trump is held accountable for conflicts of interest and disregard of the Constitution. A lot better than nothing – or than what it looks like we are going to get.
In the meantime, the inauguration is on Friday. It is an opportunity for us to demonstrate and protest. A chance for Congressmen to show courage and join John Lewis in boycotting the ceremony. A chance to show the world that we do not approve this travesty. We are better than this.