Happy Thanksgiving? Bah, humbug, say a lot of Democrats.
Two weeks after a loss they didn’t see coming, they’re still sorting through four of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining and depression. The fifth and final stage, acceptance, is a ways off.
So let’s pause and calmly assess the situation.
Here’s some advice from a psychologist I know who’s struggling with his own feelings – “I’m trying not to let Trump rent out space in my head and ruin my life” – and counseling clients who are upset and even “terrified.”
Looking for the bright side, he notes, “I’m hoping that Trump’s narcissism somehow will work in our favor and that he’ll be so greedy about his image and his legacy and doing deals that he might even go against Republicans. He’ll go against anybody if it serves him. That could work to our benefit at some point, ironically.”
Plus, he adds, “Arrogance usually bites itself in the rear.”
I’m no psychologist, but here’s my political advice to Democrats.
First, rein in the over-the-top reaction to Trump. Don’t make it easy for him to paint his opponents as extreme and himself as mainstream.
The level of hype and hysteria that some Democrats show over anything and everything Trump does could help him by setting expectations so low he can’t help but exceed them: “Gee, Marge, we didn’t have a depression or a nuclear war or concentration camps after all. Let’s give Trump another four years.”
Second, criticize Trump all you want. But don’t attack his voters.
It’s no doubt true that a lot of racists voted for Trump. But it’s not true that all Trump voters are racist. For Democrats to say that is just as bad as Trump saying all Muslims are terrorists or all Mexicans are rapists and murderers.
Third, don’t howl with glee at every little fumble or stumble during the Trump transition. All transitions fumble and stumble. It’s impossible not to when you just finished one marathon and you have to gear up for another one.
Fourth and finally, face up to facts – good and bad.
The bad: Trump and the Republicans won. They own it all in Washington. They’re going to get their way. For a while.
But it’s like I told Carter in 2008, when Democrats won the White House, the Senate and the House: “Don’t worry. We’ll find a way to screw it up.”
They will too.
The good: Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote. For all her problems, she came within a few thousand votes in a handful of big states of winning. Democrats can and will win again.
More good: Roy Cooper won, Josh Stein won and Democrats picked up legislative seats here, despite the Trump tide. And we can and we will win here again.
So be thankful. And Happy Thanksgiving!