Dear Dems: You Better Be Ready To Play Hardball

As the reality of a Donald Trump presidency and a Republican-controlled Congress sets in (like a toothache that turns out to require a root canal), it’s hard to watch Obama and top Democrats try to pave the way for a smooth transition, and even compromise. And while I understand the general move towards common purpose might make sense historically, we have just finished a new and unprecedented era of Republican obstructionism. An olive branch right now would only reward the GOP’s corrosive behavior, so guess what, Democrats? It’s time to play hardball.

The fire that’s been lit under me in particular is courtesy Dahlia Lithwick, who covers the Supreme Court for Slate, and who wrote a resounding HELL NO on the topic of Trump’s impending SCOTUS nomination. “The current Supreme Court vacancy is not Trump’s to fill. This was President Obama’s vacancy and President Obama’s nomination,” she wrote on Monday. “Do to them what they have done to us. Sometimes, when they go low, we need to go lower, to protect a thing of great value.”

Lithwick goes on to concede that any obstruction will most likely be a gesture, but it’s an important gesture nonetheless. “If Democrats can muster the energy to fight about nothing else, it should be this, because even if you believe the election was fair or fair enough, the loss of this Supreme Court seat was not.”


To put it another way: From my perspective, the Republicans have been jerks about the Supreme Court, and about Obama’s entire administration — can we please rewind the tape to Mitch McConnell talking about making Obama a one-term president? — and acting civilly towards them now will only reward their bad behavior.

Moreover, it would be a disservice to the 61.3 million people who cast their vote for the Democratic candidate (compared to the paltry 60.5 million who voted for Trump) for the Democrats to simply throw their hands up and rubber stamp the GOPs agenda. The Democrats should be ready to rail against the worst policies of the GOP and remind voters what fighting for progress looks like.

What does this look like? It definitely starts with the filibustering of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, even if that means that Mitch McConnell and the Republican-controlled Senate does away with the filibuster altogether.

But it also means more sit-ins, more demonstrations, running toward the left instead of running toward the center. The Republicans have been champions of theatrics for years — I believe it’s time the Democrats got a little dramatic, too.

Allison Shelley/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Obama may have been able win on a message of hope and compromise, but if there’s one overriding emotion coming out of 2016, it’s rage, and that’s OK. But the Democrats have to see that rage, feel it, and use it with concrete action. Here’s hoping they’re up to the task.