A celebration for Dems? Not so fast.
© Getty Images

Suddenly, it’s nice to be a Democrat again.

Trump is as low as it gets in polls. Federal judges have blocked the travel ban (again). The White House’s Russia problems seemingly have no end. And the GOP’s anointed savior, Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTo cut poverty and solve the labor shortage, enhance the Earned Income Tax Credit Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump MORE, just did a swan dive into the healthcare pool and discovered there was no water.

Ah, yes. Finally, after months of utter despondency, it feels like it’s time to celebrate.


But let’s calm down a bit. I would remind my party that we have been here before, and it has not turned out well. The Republicans may be losing — but that doesn’t mean we’re winning. To win, we have to improve our own image, not just tear down the other guy. In other words, we need to govern.


Let me take you back to late October 2016. The Access Hollywood tape was on every screen in America, Trump was rated as the most disliked presidential candidate of all-time, and The Donald had just thoroughly embarrassed himself in the final presidential debate.

A few weeks later, Trump was president. Why? Republicans rallied behind their candidate everywhere while disaffected Democrats stayed home in key areas or even voted for Trump.

Even though the Democrats spent all their time and energy during the campaign making sure every last American knew how dangerous and reprehensible Trump was, it wasn’t enough. Republicans voted in lock-step for their party, not their candidate, because the GOP brand is bulletproof: low taxes, small government, strong military.

Meanwhile, what did Democrats stand for? Unfortunately, we stood for four more years of a Democratic agenda that, right or wrong, many Americans did not think matched their sense of concern about the direction of the country. But, mainly, we stood against Donald TrumpDonald TrumpMajority of Americans in new poll say it would be bad for the country if Trump ran in 2024 ,800 bottle of whiskey given to Pompeo by Japan is missing Liz Cheney says her father is 'deeply troubled' about the state of the Republican Party MORE. Then we lost.

Yet here we are again. “No” is the war cry of the Democrats. Many think “resistance” can rile up our party this time. That’s not completely wrong. There is no doubt that we are more energetic and engaged than we were last year because we have things to fight. These are things that matter. And resist we must.

But, as we learned last year, “no” isn’t enough.

A recent CBS survey showed that “resisters” to Trump and his agenda make up a solid third of the country. That is the Democratic base, more or less. But while polling shows these Americans and other Democrats are ready to dump Trump, there is a significant segment of Democrats that is still lukewarm to the Democratic Party and its representatives in Congress. In fact, less than half of “resisters” think Democrats are effective in Congress.

Many Democrats say that obstructionism worked for the Republicans, and we should follow suit. That’s half true. But we’re missing a step. Republicans obstructed, then offered an easily understandable (however deceptively dishonest) alternative. And, importantly, the alternative — a tax-cutting, government-hating, war-monger — was on message with the Republican brand. That’s how they won.

So we should at least be proposing real alternatives to the GOP agenda that make us known as the party of popular ideas and competent governing — and aren’t just the status quo. And even maybe (gasp!) work with Republicans to get them done.

Imagine, for instance, that we came back at the GOP with our plan on how to improve ObamaCare, instead of just spiking the ball and high-fiving? We acknowledge changes to the Affordable Healthcare Act are necessary, and it would be a good opportunity to marginalize the real threat: staunch conservatives in Congress.

The nomination fight over Neil Gorsuch is another important opportunity to prove we are more prudent than political. Gorsuch is certainly not the candidate Dems would have chosen — and there are real questions about his seemingly ideological support for corporations over people. But he is, overall, center-right and not right-right. In other words, he is the justice a Republican Congress and president chooses.

Democrats filibustering Gorsuch’s nomination will do nothing to improve our brand at a critical moment when we need to — and have the opportunity to — look like the adults in Washington. In fact, blocking Gorsuch could hurt us with the people we need to persuade to our side at the polls.

Unfortunately, that is not the prevailing opinion among Democrats. Party leaders feel the momentum is with us and we have to keep beating the other side to keep it going.

But the next four years of Democratic messaging can’t be about what Trump and the Republicans are or aren’t doing — or how we’re stopping them. They have to be about what we’re getting done.

Evan Thies is a Democratic political consultant and co-founder of Pythia Public Affairs.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.