The Anti-Trump Party: How The Democratic Party Has Lost Its Defining Values In The Obsession With Trump

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the evolution of the Democratic Party under the Trump Administration.

Here is the column:

Washington has long been a stranger to principle other than the principle of self advancement. Yet, something new seems to be emerging across the country. Politicians have long felt the need to disguise raw political agendas in the pretense of principle. That pretense has disappeared.

In this age of rage, voters seem to have no patience, let alone need, for leaders speaking of abstract principles. They want immediate unequivocal action in supporting or opposing President Trump. For Democrats, that all consuming purpose has led to the abandonment of core unifying values, including many that first drew me to the Democratic Party. While they would vehemently deny it, Trump is remaking the party in his inverse image. This past month shows how far that transformation has gone.

The remaking of the Democratic Party was evident last week with the reaction to the decision to withdraw troops from Syria. There was a time when a sizable number of Democrats opposed undeclared wars and unending military campaigns. Now, they are appalled that Trump would not continue a war in one of the myriad countries with American troops engaged in combat operations. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the withdrawal a “Christmas gift to Vladimir Putin,” while Tim KaineDavid Cicilline, and other Democrats called it “irresponsible” or “hasty.”

Of course, this “hasty” move is after seven years of intervention in the civil war, including personnel on the ground since 2012. Our military also has been in Iraq since 2003 and in Afghanistan since 2001. One study estimated the costs of the wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan at $5.6 trillion. More importantly, thousands of military personnel have been killed and tens of thousands have been wounded. Yet, Democrats now espouse the same lines denounced during the Bush administration.

Popular cable programs with Democratic and liberal viewers are equally full of recriminations over withdrawing from these wars. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow criticized the plan to withdraw troops as merely an effort to distract the public, despite Trump campaigning in 2016 on promises to withdraw from such wars. “Morning Joe” host and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough denounced the president as a “quivering coward” who failed to understand that we must fight “enemies like ISIS abroad, so we do not have to fight them in our own schools, churches and airports.” Liberals once rejected the premise that we should engage in continual wars in other countries or face terrorism on our streets at home.

Democrats are now defined by Trump the way that antimatter is defined by matter, with each particle of matter corresponding to an antiparticle. Take the secrecy. Democrats once were the party that fought against the misuse of secret classification laws by the FBI and other agencies. They demanded greater transparency from the executive branch, which is a position that I have readily supported. Yet, when oversight committees sought documents related to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation of Trump associates, Democrats denounced the very thought that Republicans would question the judgment of the FBI that any such disclosures would be tantamount to jeopardizing national security.

Democratic Party leaders including Pelosi declared that the oversight committees had moved beyond “dangerous irresponsibility and disregard for our national security” and “disregarded the warnings of the Justice Department and the FBI.” Likewise, House Intelligence Committee ranking minority member Adam Schiff expressed shock that the FBI was not given deference in withholding the information in the surveillance investigation.

Yet, when the information was finally forced out of the FBI, including the disclosure of previously redacted material, it was clear that the FBI had engaged in overclassification to shield not national security but to shield the bureau itself from criticism. It included discussion of the roles of high ranking FBI officials and their reliance on such sources as the Christopher Steele dossier, which were already publicly known. Democratic House members like Schiff presumably knew what was in the redactions and, nevertheless, wanted deference to the classification decisions of the FBI.

In supporting the investigation of Trump, Democrats have embraced expanding definitions of crimes like obstruction, conspiracy, and the like. Historically, Democrats have resisted such efforts to stretch the criminal code to criminalize broader and broader areas of conduct. During the Trump administration, Democrats sound like legal hawks in demanding criminal charges for conduct long treated as civil matters, such as campaign finance violations and foreign agent registration violations.

In pursuing Trump, Democrats have also adopted a type of “red scare” mindset. While Republicans long pumped up the Russian menace as a political Cold War narrative, Democrats are now adopting the same type of rhetoric over the Russian attempt to interfere with the 2016 president election. Democrats for the past two years speak about how Russians “stole” the election or destroyed the legitimacy of the results, with little empirical data to support such irresponsible and unfounded claims.

While many of us support the Mueller investigation and the need for sanctions against Russia for its interference, Democrats now routinely refer to Russia as our “enemy” and accuse any people with alleged connections to Russians as “traitors.” Special counsel Robert Mueller may have more to reveal on Russian hacking, but there is little evidence that either the trolling operation or leaked emails of the Hillary Clinton campaign had a material impact on the 2016 presidential election.

In building up the Russian menace, Democrats ignore that we have not only hacked the emails of our enemies but of our allies as well for years. Moreover, we have routinely intervened in or influenced foreign elections. Likewise, other nations from Israel to Mexico to China and many more, have long tried to influence our elections. Still, Democrats are escalating their calls for greater action against Russia, including criticism of being too dovish in not confronting Russian military elements around the world.

A party requires more than hatred for an individual. A party has to stand for something that transcends the immediate or the visceral. Yet, in the age of Trump, the public is not interested in nuance or niceties. The watchword is “resist” and that means to push back at all costs, even against our core values. So the question is not what the Democratic Party will do but what it will be after Donald Trump eventually leaves office.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

201 thoughts on “The Anti-Trump Party: How The Democratic Party Has Lost Its Defining Values In The Obsession With Trump”

  1. This is perfect!

    It’s important in politics to be consistent. That’s why I’m always consistent in criticizing Trump no matter what he does.

    I’ll criticize Trump for not doing what I want. And then when he does what I said I wanted, I’ll still criticize him. Some smaller minds might call this hypocrisy, but there is no hypocrisy, because I’m sticking to the core principle that Trump is dumb and bad. Even when Trump does exactly what I want, he’s still doing it as Trump, which makes whatever it is now stupid and wrong.

    For instance, the other week I railed against Trump for not visiting the troops at Christmas. And when I learned that he secretly went over to visit the troops, I criticized him for how unhelpful his visit was. That’s because he didn’t just visit the troops as president—he visited them as President Trump. Furthermore, he started pulling troops out of the Middle East—something I’ve been demanding forever—but he’s doing it in a Trump way, and now it seems like the most wrong thing ever.

    It’s like that time he visited a farmer’s market, and one farmer gave him two apples and then another gave him two more apples and Trump said “I now have four apples!” And I made fun of him for adding two plus two and getting four. Yes, mathematically that seemed right before, but out of his mouth it just sounded like something only a racist moron would believe.

    It’s clear that Trump can’t do anything right because he will stubbornly insist on being Trump while doing it. That’s why he must resign—though I will then criticize him for abandoning the country in our time of need.

      1. 🙂 If one has the Babylon Bee aligning with their beliefs, then they need to seriously examine the insanity of those beliefs.

    1. ₮ħϵᴦϵ їṩ α ḉϵᴦţαїƞ ƒᴦϵϵđѳӎ ѳƒ ħαⱴїƞǥ đϵţᴦαḉţѳᴦṩ ḉᴦїţїḉїƶϵ ϵⱴϵᴦƴţħїƞǥ ƴѳự ṩαƴ, ѡᴦїţϵ, ѳᴦ đѳ. Ṩїḉƞḉϵ ţħϵƴ αᴦϵ ǥѳїƞǥ ţѳ αłѡαƴṩ Ƀϵ αƞǥᴦƴ αţ ƴѳự ƞѳ ӎαţţϵᴦ ѡħαţ, ƴѳự ḉѳӎϵ ţѳ ᴦϵαłїƶϵ ţħαţ їţ їṩ ᴘѳїƞţłϵṩṩ їƞ ţᴦƴїƞǥ ţѳ ᴘłϵαṩϵ ţħϵӎ.

      ₮ħϵƴ ѡїłł αłѡαƴṩ Ƀϵ αƞǥᴦƴ, αƞđ ƴѳự ḉαƞ ħαⱴϵ ţħϵ ṩαţїṩƒαḉţїѳƞ ѳƒ ƞѳţ ѳƞłƴ đѳїƞǥ їţ ƴѳựᴦ ѡαƴ ϵⱴϵᴦƴ ţїӎϵ, Ƀựţ ţħϵƴ ḉαƞ ᴘᴦѳⱴїđϵ α łαựǥħ ѳᴦ ţѡѳ αţ ṩϵϵїƞǥ ţħϵӎ ṩѳ αƞǥᴦƴ αƞđ ựᴘṩϵţ αţ ţħϵ ѡѳᴦłđ. Ѧłł ƴѳự ħαⱴϵ ţѳ đѳ їṩ ṩαƴ αƞƴţħїƞǥ αƞđ ţħϵƴ ǥѳ Ƀαłłїṩţїḉ. ₮αłҟ αɃѳựţ ħαⱴїƞǥ ᴘѳѡϵᴦ ѳⱴϵᴦ ṩѳӎϵѳƞϵ.

      1. ₮αłҟ αɃѳựţ ħαⱴїƞǥ ᴘѳѡϵᴦ ѳⱴϵᴦ ṩѳӎϵѳƞϵ.

        That was my thought as well. The most obvious evidence demonstrating the Left’s opposition to President Trump is of the head and not the heart, is they have obstructed him on things they previously supported. The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded. Obi-Wan Kenobi.

  2. Thank you for this frank, and I daresay brave, article in our current political environment. I think you caught the current mood of the Democratic party very candidly. Personally I see this problem going back to at least the Gore campaign in the year 2000, where the Democrats started to habitually rely on what they are against, rather than what they are for, as the point on which to rally the party. Today it doesn’t really seem very important what a Democratic politician is actually for (at least if you listen to party activists), as long as they can establish they are very sincere about what they are against (which is course of Trump and only Trump, as all previous Democratic hot-button issues have been put on ice, as you documented, plus the extremely cynical-seeming rehabilitation of “torturer-in-chief”, George H.W. Bush).

    1. Good post. The problem they have is being for something exposes them to the possibility that President Trump puts a policy in place that gives them what they want. They can’t take the risk of appearing aligned with this President…on anything. So instead they take the politically safe route and oppose anything and everything he does. It really is impressive to see how deep a hole the Democrats are willing to dig simply to distance themselves from this President.

  3. So the question is not what the Democratic Party will do but what it will be after Donald Trump eventually leaves office.

    The question is what will both major political parties be when he leaves office. He’s currently manipulating the Democratic party to take some suicidal positions; open borders, sanctuary city/state, abortion-on-demand, presumption of guilt, no 1st or 2nd amendment rights, lawfare, endless wars, social justice, tiered justice. Once the Democrats have finished painting themselves into their insane corner, Trump should carve that brand of crazy out of the Democratic party and declare himself a Democrat for the 2020 election. That would be some serious political theater.

    1. That is a heck of an observation Olly. He has turned them into the muck-sucking bottom feeders of humanity who will have absolutely nothing left (well, except for Natacha…) when they have no more tabloid crap to spar on after Trump leaves office. It’s amazing the legacy he is painting for them, and they are just too horribly full of themselves to see it. I believe the repubs would love to give Trump the Julius Caesar treatment, so it would be hilarious if he walked in and took control of the Democratic party after 2024, because they will be absolutely nothing. Flip side is that maybe patience by more clear-minded and sane Democrats (all 2-3 of them???) can wait until the neolibs and commies have destroyed themselves. If the reasonable lot tried to speak up now, they’ll be thrown under the bus during this witch-hunt.

  4. It would take a power play from the moderates to reshape the Dem Party as the Post-Racial Party, meaning that the goal we are working toward and have achieved major inroads so far is a society where racial and ethnic characteristics are considered inconsequential, while matters of opportunity-seeking, character, purpose, dependability and charitability are the yardstick for viewing each individual.

    A post-racial society is frightening to radical multiculturalists because it eliminates race-based excuses and lowered-expectations, and takes away white-bashing as a means of demogogery to unite non-whites.

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