Never more in my lifetime have we needed strong, aggressive, innovative, strategic leadership from the Democratic Party and the progressive movement that fuels it. Donald Trump will be no ordinary President. Rather than helping him protect the country, we must protect the country from the new President. This is uncharted territory. -- Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz)There has been a lot written lately -- far too belatedly -- about the normalizing of the utter outrageousness of Donald Trump's ascendance to the presidency. Let's start with the now undisputed fact that the Russian government interfered with the election, as the NSA director stated, by directing "the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations." How this isn't getting more traction from the media than Hillary Clinton's use of an un-hacked email server is baffling. Add the tantalizing story that the Russian government was in direct contact with the Trump campaign prior to the election and Trump's refusal to disclose his financial relationships with Russian officials, banks and oligarchs, and we have a scandal that truly could be more explosive than Watergate. It is not even a front page story.
With Trump's failure to release his tax returns or provide details of his myriad business holdings here and abroad, the potential for conflict of interest is beyond anything ever contemplated by an incoming president. Jimmy Carter put his peanut farm in a blind trust. Trump's solution, to allow his children -- who are playing key roles in the transition -- to handle his business affairs -- would be laughable if not so dangerously unethical.
Then there's Trump's selection of Steve Bannon as chief strategist -- a man who is not merely a divisive outsider as much of the mainstream press is portraying him. Bannon is a white nationalist who has admittedly given a "platform" to the racist, nativist, anti-Islam, anti-Semitic and misogynist voices of the alt-right.
Beyond the normalizing of Trump by the press, what is most disturbing is the response from our leaders in the opposition party, which for the most part has been cringe-worthy, treating this as they would any normal transition of power -- with polite words, well wishes, and calls for cooperation and accommodation. Quite a contrast from how the Republican Party responded to Obama's election -- with unprecedented obstruction to every policy proposal and breaking with the basic norms of governance by attempting to shut down the government, holding the debt ceiling limits hostage and, most extraordinarily, refusing to advise and consent on a Supreme Court nomination.
Democrats, having learned nothing from the last eight years, appear to be scrambling to find common cause with the president-elect on select issues, according to an article in the New York Times, such as infrastructure spending -- which, all of a sudden, Republicans agree is necessary to create jobs and spur the economy. This would be infuriating in normal times. But these are not normal times.
Harry Reid, the outgoing minority leader of the Senate, has been on fire lately in his criticism of Trump, most recently in demanding that he rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon, who he referred to as a "champion of white supremacists": “As long as a champion of racial division is a step away from the Oval Office, it will be impossible to take Trump’s efforts to heal the nation seriously.” Other Democratic Senators have condemned Bannon, and 169 Democrats in the House sent a letter asking Trump to reconsider Bannon's appointment.
But a Harry Reid rant and a strongly-worded letter is not enough. Democrats must refuse to work with Trump and his Party until he gets rid of Bannon, provides his tax returns, discloses his Russian connections and resolves his business holdings in an ethical manner. This should not be negotiable.
The Democratic leadership needs to follow the lead of Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego, who made the case for opposition not accommodation on the House floor. He noted his obligation and that of his colleagues "to tell the truth about Donald Trump" and to not "treat him like any other politician, or even like any other Republican, because he is not."
He represents something much more dangerous. And while none of us want this to be the case, we have a duty to treat him like the threat he is – a threat to our values, a threat to our people, and a threat to our national identityGallego went on to describe Trump -- accurately -- as a sexual predator, a demagogue, a bigot, a liar, and a con-artist. He noted how "millions of Americans are living in fear because he has threatened them. Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, women, the disabled, the LGBT community, and more." And he persuasively argued that Democrats in Congress "must oppose his agenda. We must oppose his efforts to build up his power. Anything that makes Trump more powerful, makes him more dangerous."
Gallego expressed his alarm that "senior leaders from both the progressive and centrist wings of the party" stated their "openness to working with Donald Trump on infrastructure." But, as Gallego understands, "Donald Trump is not an ordinary politician. He is a con-artist. He has refused to give the American people reason to believe that he is not in this to enrich himself. In fact, he has bucked tradition by maintaining his family's interest in a private corporation. And, unfortunately, his infrastructure plan is really a privatization scheme, rife with graft and corruption, whose real purpose is to enrich the Trump family and his supporters. He is not reaching out. He is reaching his hand into America's pockets, just as he has his whole career. And we must not let him do it."
Representative Gallego is absolutely right -- Congress "cannot afford to give him the benefit of the doubt. We must not lift a finger to help him scam our country. We must instead put every effort into stopping him."