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Monday, February 27, 2017

Judd Gregg: The self-marginalizing minority

Judd Gregg: The self-marginalizing minority
By Judd Gregg - 02-27-17 06:00 AM EST

One often-voiced opinion these days is that President Trump is marginalizing himself by pursuing initiative after initiative aimed at the lowest common denominator among his supporters.

This may be true. But there is a certain resilience built into the office of president. It can give its occupants a lot of second chances and considerable lift.

The American people - at least those who do not read and believe as gospel the viewpoint of The New York Times or the babble of the Harvard and Hollywood elites - will allow Trump a great deal of running room. They will accept a considerable number of missteps.

The opposition party is not granted any such deference.

People want the party out of power to offer up rational, useful ideas that pass the common-sense test. They must speak to the concerns of everyday citizens and offer a plausible alternative to the policies put forth by the president.

The American people have the innate ability to see through stupid or insipid ideas. They ask for concepts that actually will improve their own lives or the broader life of the nation.

If they have a president who seems to be straying from the path they deem necessary to improve things, they expect the opposition party to offer up some viable options. If this does not occur, they generally disengage and become restless about politics as a whole.

The Democratic Party is well on the way to marginalizing itself as an effective opposition party.

Its leaders and followers have marched in lockstep to delay, oppose and vilify Trump's nominees for major cabinet positions.

It is not unusual to question the credentials of cabinet nominees. But historically, presidents have been allowed to pick the people they wish to have on their team. Those people have, for the most part, been confirmed in a prompt and bipartisan manner.

In my eighteen years in the Senate, I cannot recall voting against a cabinet nominee put forward by either President Clinton or President Obama. My Republican colleagues and I may not have agreed with them - but one could not deny the right of a president to pick his own people.

To be fair, past Democratic Party leaderships adopted a similar approach when dealing with nominees from President Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush.

Today, however, the Democratic leadership's goal is not to test the credentials of the various cabinet nominees. It is stop them from participating in the government. It is also, in some instances, to vilify them at the behest of interest groups like the teachers' unions.

Equally irresponsible is the approach of the Democratic senators to the nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch. It is incredible that a responsible opposition party in America would suggest that it might intend to allow a Supreme Court seat to remain vacant for the entire term of a president. This, however, is the position of Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and it appears to be backed by his caucus.

In addition, although as recently as last summer numerous congressional Democrats had talked of a bipartisan approach to the big policy issues facing our nation, that discussion has stopped. It has been replaced by a commitment to accomplish nothing and to oppose everything.

The Democratic Party, and particularly its congressional leadership, has become an opposition without the slightest interest in governing. Theirs is a scorched earth approach to all things that have a scent of Trump.

Their standard-bearers are people like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

These are folks who shout from the corners. They speak of socialism as a viable course for America. They believe without a shadow of doubt that because they are smarter than most in America, they should be in charge of all in America. Their elitism is unbounded but their desire to actually participate in governing is non-existent.

It is as if the Democratic leadership has decided that the anarchistic approach of Occupy Wall Street provides a viable template to communicate with Main Street America.

There is no question that Trump's approach has sparked significant dissent. But those dissenting views need to be put forth in a constructive way if they are to have traction. This is not happening today.

The Republican Party has its hands full following the tangents of Trump and the responsibilities of being the governing party. It is clearly a time of challenge but also, hopefully, opportunity.

The Democratic Party's response is a gift to Republicans.

In marginalizing themselves, the Democrats have given the president and the Congressional Republicans some much-needed running room as they sort out this new exercise called "governing."

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill. 

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