Heck of a job Barack.
Reduced to their weakest state in a generation, Democratic Party leaders will gather in two cities this weekend to plot strategy and select a new national chairman with the daunting task of rebuilding the party’s depleted organization. But senior Democratic officials concede that the blueprint has already been chosen for them — by an incensed army of liberals demanding no less than total war against President Trump.
Immediately after the November election, Democrats were divided over how to handle Mr. Trump, with one camp favoring all-out confrontation and another backing a seemingly less risky approach of coaxing him to the center with offers of compromise.
Now, spurred by explosive protests and a torrent of angry phone calls and emails from constituents — and outraged themselves by Mr. Trump’s swift moves to enact a hard-line agenda — Democrats have all but cast aside any notion of conciliation with the White House. Instead, they are mimicking the Republican approach of the last eight years — the “party of no” — and wagering that brash obstruction will pay similar dividends.
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, vice chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said there had been a “tornado of support” for wall-to-wall resistance to Mr. Trump. Mr. Inslee, who backed a lawsuit against the president’s executive order banning refugee admissions and travel from seven majority-Muslim countries, said Democrats intended to send a stern message to Mr. Trump during a conference of governors in the nation’s capital.
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“My belief is, we have to resist every way and everywhere, every time we can,” when Mr. Trump offends core American values, Mr. Inslee said. By undermining Mr. Trump across the board, he said, Democrats hope to split Republicans away from a president of their own party.
Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, a middle-of-the-road Democrat up for re-election in 2018, cautioned that loathing Mr. Trump, on its own, was not a governing strategy. He said he still hoped for compromise with Republicans on infrastructure funding and perhaps on a plan to improve or “repair” the Affordable Care Act.
“There is this vitriol and dislike for our new president,” Mr. Carper said. “The challenge for us is to harness it in a productive way and a constructive way, and I think we will.”
Among rank-and-file Democrats, however, it is far from clear that the rhetoric of heated opposition is unwelcome. A survey published on Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found nearly three-quarters of Democrats said they were concerned the party would not do enough to oppose Mr. Trump; only 20 percent were concerned Democrats would go too far in opposition.
A handful of liberal groups have already sprung up threatening to wage primary challenges against incumbent Democrats who they see as insufficiently militant against Mr. Trump, raising the prospect of the same internecine wars that plagued Republicans during President Barack Obama’s administration.
In the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, which concludes with a vote in Atlanta on Saturday, the restive mood of liberal activists has buoyed a pair of insurgents, Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., against the perceived front-runner, Thomas E. Perez.
Mr. Perez, who was Mr. Obama’s labor secretary, is still seen as a favorite in the race, and he has been backed by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. But he has struggled to dispel the impression that he is an anointed favorite of Washington power brokers.
And Mr. Ellison and Mr. Buttigieg have continued to collect high-profile endorsements: Mr. Ellison won the support of Representative John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights leader, on Tuesday, and Mr. Buttigieg was endorsed Wednesday by Howard Dean, the former party chairman who remains admired on the left.
In a sign of how little heed Democrats are paying to traditional forces, Mr. Ellison remains viable despite being bluntly attacked as “an anti-Semite” by Haim Saban, one of the most prolific donors to the party and its candidates.
Christine C. Quinn, a vice chairwoman of the New York State Democratic Committee who was a prominent surrogate for Hillary Clinton last year, said she backed Mr. Ellison, who was the first Muslim elected to Congress, in part because of the forcefulness of his criticism of the White House.
“This is not a normal Republican president and these are not normal times,” said Ms. Quinn, a former speaker of the New York City Council. “This isn’t a time for polite parties anymore. This is a time to take a different posture of true aggressiveness.”
Nowhere is it more clear, however, that the protesters are leading the politicians than on Capitol Hill.
Senate Democratic leaders had hoped to capitalize on Mr. Trump’s nomination of Tom Price as health secretary by assailing Republicans for wanting to trim Medicare, an issue Democrats aim to run on in 2018. But Mr. Price was vastly overshadowed by the nomination of Ms. DeVos, who galvanized the new activists like no other cabinet pick.
“Part of what I think the Bernie campaign taught us, even the Trump campaign taught us, and now the resistance is teaching us, is just ditch the consultants and consult with your conscience and constituents first,” said Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, warning his fellow Democrats that “it’s a fool’s errand to try to plan this out like it’s a traditional political operation.”
The fear factor is real, said Adam Jentleson, a former Senate Democratic aide. Images of angry constituents jeering Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a reliable liberal from Rhode Island, at a town hall-style meeting in late January for supporting the selection of Mike Pompeo as C.I.A. director quickly circulated among other Democratic senators, he said.
“It was eye-opening,” Mr. Jentleson said, “because it made clear that the base is not going to let them off the hook.”
Well, we’ll see. Resist or we’ll find someone who will.