Memo to Democrats: If Everything is an Outrage, Nothing Is

Congressional Democrats are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, as Seattle Mayor Ed Murray told Politico, the party is attempting to understand “how far left their base has careened in just the past few weeks.” But on the other hand, they’re attempting to save the 10 Senate Democrats running for reelection in states won by Donald Trump (five of which he won by double digits).

Catering to the leftist elements of your party while also allowing members to prove their moderate bona fides is a difficult line to walk. And right now Democrats have appeared to be drunkenly stumbling around trying their best to even find the line. Doyle McManus writes for the LA Times:

Democrats in Congress began the year less defiant, with a more tentative, case-by-case approach to an untested new president. They were ready to work with Trump, they said, if he met them halfway. Democratic senators confirmed a few of Trump’s Cabinet nominees without much fuss.

Then their base erupted.

Thousands of pink-hatted demonstrators poured into the streets to renounce the president and all his works. Democratic senators’ switchboards lit up with demands that they stop voting for Trump’s nominees. Outside the Capitol, demonstrators crashed a speech by the Senate Democratic leader, Charles E. Schumer of New York, chanting “Do your job.” In Brooklyn, demonstrators gathered outside Schumer’s home, chanting “Resist or resign.”

Last week, Democrats showed they had heard the message. They walked out of committee hearings to advance Cabinet nominees, and Schumer threatened a possible filibuster against the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch. That takes care of the Democrats’ immediate problem: They’re restyling themselves in Congress as the party of no.

But Democrats have gone well beyond merely saying “no.” They’ve been running around with their hair on fire attempting to get every American to believe that President Trump is a lazy, soulless toddler who can barely control his own emotions, much less those of Steve Bannon. But when every action—even a White House screening of Finding Dory—is protested with extreme and apocalyptic rhetoric, then eventually voters will tune out.

“If they cry wolf every 12 hours, will the effect of their urgency wane over time?” asked U.S. News’ David Catanese. “Instead of presenting an alternative vision, will they end up looking simply like a party of outrage?”

Yes, is the short answer. And one need look no further than the reaction to the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to see how fast Democrats dove off the deep end of outrage.

“[I]t’s a very hostile appointment,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi. “Lovely family, I’m sure, but as far as your family is concerned, and all of us, if you breathe air, drink water, eat food, take medicine, or in any other way, interact with the courts, this is a very bad decision. Well outside the mainstream of American legal thought, not committed to Supreme Court precedents.”

Those words will certainly fire up the base. To what good end? The small, but vocal, smattering of Democrats who want their leaders to fight on every front, to die on every hill, and scorch every inch of earth in their wake, will be happy, even if they lose. But the majority of voters who have been demanding progress regardless of party, the same voters with the ability to see Gorsuch for what he is—a qualified, capable candidate with an immaculate jurisprudential record—will be outraged.

Sure, obstinance will provide a small victory for a base that cares little about the Supreme Court. But for that would they risk ten Senate seats – enough to give Republicans a filibuster-proof majority? If Democrats are truly going to go down swinging, one would hope they’d at least identify a fight worth fighting.