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Loyal Opposition Versus Resistance to Trump
Perhaps nothing has made modern progressivism look sillier than the often hysterical reaction to the election of Donald Trump. This has spanned everything from street protests, claims of Russian electoral manipulation and even reports of sudden weight gain and loss of sexual interest. Rather than become more introspective in the face of defeat, the bulk of left-leaning media and their intellectual allies have embraced the notion — even before the new president proposes anything — of following what UC Berkeley public policy professor and former U.S. labor secretary Robert Reich calls “the resistance agenda.”
The notion of modern progressives donning berets and fighting the modern-day version of Nazis is absurd. Donald Trump may be wrongheaded, and personally venal, but he is not Adolph Hitler, or even Benito Mussolini. Critically, he is not particularly popular, as were those demagogues. Trump’s election certainly was not a mandate, as many liberals correctly point out.
The election showed a still deeply divided nation. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but the GOP triumphed everywhere else, notably at the congressional level, where they won by 3.5 million votes, and it did even better at the state and local levels. Certainly, the progressives can get back into the game, but first they need to toss out the berets, stop talking civil disobedience and instead embrace the role of loyal opposition, using counter-arguments rather than histrionics.
Progressives still have wind at their backs
Democrats, time is still largely on your side. All the constituencies that backed Hillary Clinton — minorities, millennials, college-educated professionals — are demographically ascendant. Those that backed Trump, such as boomers, seniors and members of the white working class, are destined to fade.
To return to power in the short run, however, the Democrats need to appeal to parts of the largely white, older Trump base, many of them former Democrats. The meme, as seen in Slate’s assertion that the election proved “how racist, sexist and unjust America is,” does not seem the best way to win over these wavering voters. There are opportunities galore to do this.
Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, was published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class Conflict, The City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.