Donald Trump, precisely because his behavior is so outlandish and unpredictable, has dominated the news coverage. It’s unreality TV, and the media can’t stop covering it.
The benefit is that Trump’s sheer craziness gets a lot of scrutiny. But the downside is that Democratic critics have trouble getting much airtime.
If this were a parliamentary democracy, there would be a leader of the opposition, and a whole “front bench” of opposition spokespeople, issue by issue ― a kind of Shadow Cabinet.
Leading Democrats could both hold Trump accountable for his bizarre positions (and those of his Republican allies in Congress), and the Democrats could also offer more attractive alternatives.
They could also show up Trump’s sheer ignorance of the issues, and his crazy inconsistency, and hold him accountable, item by item.
Once a week, the Democratic front bench could hold its own press briefing; and particular spokespeople could be the ones to whom the media would turn. The press would have to cover this, much as they cover Sean Spicer’s zany White House briefings—and the contrast would be startling. The bizarre versus the normal. Fact versus fantasy.
So… time to think outside the box. Here’s the idea: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate leader Chuck Schumer and the new Democratic National Committee chair, Tom Perez, should put their heads together and appoint a Shadow Cabinet.
They would need to confer with colleagues to accommodate egos, of course. And there would be some jockeying for position. But this is a national emergency. I don’t think this would be all that hard.
The Trump/Republican policies are so crazy ― that the more that Democrats are able to expose them and pose alternatives, the more the sheer unpopularity of Trump’s agenda will be evident.
Even better would be if a leading Democrat put herself forward now, as the presidential candidate for 2020. That way, there would be head-to-head comparisons and challenges, as well as almost equal coverage.
Well, that’s probably too much to hope for. The next Democratic candidate is not going to be nominated by acclamation. Also, Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown, two likely Democratic standard bearers, first need to get re-elected in 2018, Brown in Ohio and Warren in Massachusetts.
Of course, if she declared for president now, Warren could explain to Massachusetts voters that she is running for re-election to the Senate not just to represent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but to position herself to rid the country of Trump.
In normal times, that would seem arrogant or opportunist. But these are not normal times.
What better way to serve the citizens of Massachusetts than to oust Trump? That would be one terrific speech, and would win plaudits for sheer gumption.
Okay, I get that this is a long shot. I’d settle for a Shadow Cabinet with regular press briefings. What about it, Dems?
Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect and professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School. His latest book is Debtors’ Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility.
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