Tuesday

January 24th, 2017

Insight

The Democratic hangover is on the way

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published Dec. 16, 2016

The Democratic hangover is on the way

Like it or not, the Democrats will have to come off their crying jag after the inauguration. Some of them will need safe spaces for a little while longer, with calming videos of puppies and kittens. But some senior members of the party understand that soon even Democrats still deep in an endless drunk will have to sober up to deal with cold and unforgiving reality.

It won't be easy, because Scotch and vodka (no 15-year-old bourbon for these worthies), pouting and hysteria, can be addictive. Every new scheme to trash the Electoral College invites another, and there's always someone eager to "keep the dream alive," to make sure "the dream will never die," and nourish other great dreaming moments in the party's past.

One of the dreamers, who may have been imbibing something stronger than vodka, is Larry Lessig, a law professor at Harvard, who says, as if he knows what he's talking about, that 20 Republicans are lined up in the Electoral College to vote against Donald Trump when the college meets on Monday.

The professor leaves himself lots of room to wiggle. "Obviously," he says, "whether an elector ultimately votes for his or her conscience will depend on whether there are enough others doing the same. We now believe there are more than half the number needed to change the result seriously considering that vote." There "may" be 20, or there may not, and they "may" be seriously considering flipping their vote, or they may not. Wiggle, wiggle.

Prof. Lessig even offers "free legal counsel" to any elector considering casting a faithless vote against the Donald, and any faithless elector taking the free legal counsel must hope the professor knows more about the law than he does about politics.

The Democratic dead-enders, sore of head and aft, might dream of blowing up the Electoral College, like Guy Fawkes dreaming of blowing up the British parliament 500 years ago, but alas for them, there's no actual Electoral College to blow up. There's no Student Union as a place for a professor to practice seduction skills on impressionable young students, not even a football team to aspire to one of the 42 bowl games. The electors meet only in their state capitals to cast their ballots.

Once the agony of a world-class hangover arrives, the Democrats will have to consider the damage of the drunk. The party of Andrew Jackson, Pocahontas and Hillary Clinton will be adrift in the swirl and dash of Donald Trump's first hundred days, with no one to speak its version of truth to power.

"It's a very serious concern," Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico and a candidate for president in the Democratic primaries of 2008, told Politico the other day. "We need something right now. [Mr.] Trump every day is doing something outrageous. What do we do? Criticize everything he does? Hold back a bit? I know we need to develop an economic message, but that's long term. We need something now. Most of the Democrats I talk to are down, and they're asking who's in charge?"

Nobody's in charge, and the only Democratic message out there is the message Hillary Clinton couldn't sell in the only places it mattered. Bill Richardson recalls that he went on both Fox and MSNBC in a single day to talk about the Donald's Cabinet choices, and without a coherent Democratic message, "I just winged it."

The Donald is a formidable opponent on any day, leading with a quip, wisecrack or restored bromide, eager to control the conversation. Given a vacuum of reasoned argument and debate, he's ready now with a waltz. Other Democrats, some of them senior senators on Capitol Hill, complain to advocacy groups that there's no source of opposition research and they're reduced to taking help from the likes of David Brock and other hysterical red-hots.

Sober Democrats keep looking back and they see something gaining on them. "The importance of these first few weeks [after the election] is illustrated by my memory of the first few months of the Reagan administration," says R.T. Rybak, the vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee. "Radical change came so fast that it was difficult for [Democrats] to know where to fight, which battles to pick . . . how to reposition, how to be the party we need to be."

The party won't choose a new chairman until late winter, and it's likely to be a Muslim (not that there's anything wrong with that) who learned his craft as a protege of Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam (and there may be a lot wrong with that).

Now, clearly, is the time for every Democrat, preferably sober, to come to the aid of the party.
 

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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