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Congressional Democrats Owe Us A Strategy

By Leslie D. Stenull  | Our Voice Contributor

Everyone I know has heeded the call to register protest against the more egregious excesses of President Trump and his administration. We have dutifully knitted hats, showed up to get in line, signed petitions and called our various representatives.

Many of us are new at most of these forms of civic protest, but we are undertaking them out of an extreme sense of unease to outright fear. We are fearful that the America that we believe in and work for is in jeopardy in the hands of a President with a limited mandate, but a full house of party machinery.

The atmosphere everywhere we turn is replete with rancor and vitriol, and every effort we make is met with a standard retort, “You lost, get over it.” These are not standards times. We accept that Donald Trump is President of the United States, even if we don’t like it.

We do not, however, accept the implication that his win comes with autocratic authority, or that we no longer have a place in our government. The United States remains a democracy where all opinions matter. They cannot all prevail, but they must all matter.

President Trump has shown no interest in including the voices of progressives in his cabinet, Supreme Court selection or policy making. He has, in fact, taken great effort to show that he will govern without our input, consent or agreement, and the Republicans in Congress are trouncing on precedent and principle to enable his narrow ideology. Many of us would like to expect a greater regard for systemic cooperation and consultation in government, but we have lost hope for that outcome.

Many of us are depressed and fatigued, and we are not even six months into the new administration! The fear is genuine. We have seen Republican Presidents before, and we did not like them either. But we lived our lives and waited for the next election with President Reagan and Presidents Bush. No one I know saw them as an existential danger to democracy in the US and peace and security beyond.

This situation is different, and our reaction to it is commensurately different.

We are trying and fighting with all we know, but there are limits to our lawful opposition.

We cannot demonstrate President Trump and the Republican Congress into recognizing our concerns in a time of “alternative facts.” Many of us feel virtually helpless, even as we’re showing up and showing out with all we’ve got. We need action within the ranks of government to bolster our efforts. We will continue to do the things we’re doing, but we will not – and indeed cannot – leave our elected Democratic representatives to their pattern of platitudes before capitulation. If we are sacrificing, they must sacrifice too.

In the wake of millions of marchers and innumerable phones calls, petitions and social media posts, the Democratic Party is fully on notice that we demand action. This is the reason they serve. We do not elect them to build their personal power_bases or secure career fortunes. We elect them to faithfully and diligently advance the collective well_being of our communities, and so it is time to serve with conviction and purpose.

We understand the structural constraints brought on by the 2016 election, and we expect there to be limitations. We also expect there to be extraordinary measures to assure us that they are protecting our values to the very limits of their abilities.

The seminal action that would lead us forward would be an articulation of a strategy for confronting these unusual conditions. A strategy should set forth steps that represent their best efforts to honor and support the work we have already started, and it would outline accountabilities.

We need action, and we need it now!