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IRELAND: Democrats can make America great again

January 14, 2017

Ireland
In the past year, I have railed at media outlets for their disconnect with the nation’s heartland, skewered Secretary Clinton for less-than-presidential language, and even targeted several in my own party for a lack of political courage. Alas, I want to extend an olive branch to my friends across the aisle. As the holiday season gives way to the new year, it must be said that Democrats, too, can help, well, “Making America great again.”

In a near-two-century tradition, the United Kingdom’s House of Commons refers to the minority party as “Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition.” More than a quippy moniker, this title echoes the popular idea that both major political parties have a place at the table. As our new Congress begins, I encourage those of the liberal persuasion to balance the august nature of their office and the political priorities of their party.

Now, I do not ask for compromise for the sake of compromise but for a hard-fought contest between differing world views. Rather than turning to the destructive political chicanery all too familiar in Washington, both parties would be prudent to engage in a constructive rivalry. My advice is simple: Fight hard, but fight clean. Anything less sells millions of Americans short in their due representation.

The president-elect for his part often speaks of a willingness to work with Republicans and Democrats alike. Perhaps an allusion to a life before the hubbub of the campaign trail, he recognizes the importance of cooperativerelationships in fostering successes.

Likewise, Sen. Chuck Schumer, the recently crowned Senate minority leader, holds the potential to lead a culture change in a way few Democrats have this past decade. Principled but persuadable and relatable without being a dilettante, Schumer has notably returned similar overtures to the new administration.

To put it bluntly, Democrats are at their weakest numerically and politically in decades. Poised to lose additional seats in 2018, now more than ever, their leaders sit on a precipice. If the minority chooses obstructionism—a sin committed by both parties in recent years—they can all but guarantee further relegation. Worse still, this will do little to help make progress on shared goals like corporate tax reform and reinvestment in American infrastructure.

Alternatively, a Democratic Party that embraces its role as the American people’s loyal opposition stands to alleviate losses in the short term and curry civic favor in the future. Surely, too, in a more lofty sense, such a path provides the best outcome for the nation. At minimum, this choice would help ensure the regular business of our government is conducted.

Republicans also stand to benefit from such a counterweight. Lawmakers across the aisle will successfully block select legislation. However, this can serve to strengthen Republican political resolve or even at times spare the country from unpopular legislation. This, after all, is a hallmark of our political system.

Despite popular belief, politics is not a zero-sum game. There is a shared responsibility to promote effective governance, and arguably the greatest burden to ensure this falls on the congressional minority. How Democrats react to their latest November routing remains to be seen, but I hold out hope that they will look to their better angels.

Wisdom, after all, shows no affinity to parties just as no world view holds a monopoly on the solutions to our nation’s problems. To truly make America great again, there must be vigorous debate and hard-won battles. Looking ahead, two parties in effective competition will serve to guarantee our greater success, not stifle it.•

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