Sen. john Tester (AP)

The “Eh, Sure, Why Not” caucus: Why are some Senate Democrats already talking about working with President Trump?

Senators preemptively telling constituents they're taking a “wait and see” attitude towards Trump is beyond silly

Gary Legum
May 19, 2016 8:01PM (UTC)

One of the only hilarious bright spots of this execrable election has been watching Republicans come to grips with the fact that their party has nominated as its presidential candidate a googly-eyed racist yam by the name of Donald Trump. From his former opponents in the primary to legislators in tough races this fall to the GOP’s propaganda channel to the head of the Republican National Committee, much of the party has fallen in line, apparently having decided that while Trump might be a know-nothing demagogue with fascist tendencies unseen in a major Western leader since Benito Mussolini was finally cut down from that meat hook, at least he’s no Hillary Clinton.

It is all fine and good for the Republican Party to lash itself to the mast of the S.S. Trump as it steers into a typhoon. But with Trump’s historically high unfavorables and his continued avowals to undo every liberal gain of the last eight years, there is no need for even the most moderate Democrat to so much as book passage on the ship. Even if they are running for re-election this fall, and especially if they are not.


Which is why it is so irritating, if unsurprising, to see a handful of moderate Democratic senators this week tell Politico that they could work with President Trump, should the American public lose its collective mind and elect him to the presidency in November.

“The people will have a chance to vote. If Donald Trump is elected president there will be a great opportunity to sit down and have a conversation about what that agenda looks like,” explained Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who has long backed Hillary Clinton. “If he’s president, we’re going to have disagreement. But we’d better all figure out how to come up with an agenda for the American people.” […]

Heitkamp was joined by Jon Tester, of Montana, and Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, in what I guess we could call the Dems’ “Eh, Sure, Why Not” caucus. The Senate may be legendary for the alleged comity among its members, but preemptively telling your constituents that you’re taking a “wait and see” attitude towards the most ridiculous and dangerous nominee from a major party in history is beyond silly.


Yes, these three senators are moderates from rural states that Trump is likely to win in November. So in any other year it might make sense that they want to protect their right flanks. But this is not any other year.

For starters, there is a better-than-even chance that Democrats will regain the Senate majority in November. The possibility of a Democratic Senate working with a Democratic president again is something that the party’s voters should very much want. It will be tough enough to get legislation passed without a super-majority, and with Mitch McConnell still leading the Republican caucus. There is no need to give voters reason to think that a President Trump would be anything other than a huge impediment to progressive goals.

This is especially appalling from Tester, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, because, as Politico puts it, his “job description calls for retaking the Senate by relentlessly linking incumbent Republicans to Trump in purple and blue states this year.” Senator, your Republican colleagues have had a tough enough time reversing their earlier opposition to Trump in order to embrace him. There is no need for you to make the job easier for them.


Besides which, none of these three Democrats is up for re-election until 2018. Sure, there is always the chance of a primary challenge from the right if they look like avowed enemies of President Trump, and the map is set up in such a way that there is a good chance of a Republican wave taking back the Senate in two years. But that is down the road. The focus for anyone in the party should be on this November. Jump off the 2018 bridge when you get to it.

But most appalling of the comments from these three senators is that anyone from the Democratic Party is participating in normalizing Donald Trump in time for the general election. It is bad enough that the GOP and some of the media long ago started accepting his racism, misogyny, and xenophobia as being acceptable within the bounds of public discourse. There is no reason for a single Democrat to participate in that process.

Gary Legum

MORE FROM Gary Legum

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Election 2016 Heidi Heitkamp Joe Manchin Jon Tester

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