senate democrats

Dear Senate Democrats: Any Chance Of You Growing a Spine?

The Democratic Party has increasingly proven, through the onset of the Trumpocalypse, that it lacks the courage, commitment and conviction to be the party of the people that it purports to be. While the Republicans manufactured outrage even without popular support and blockaded President Obama over and over, Senate Democrats seem willing to roll over and dutifully allow every blow to the people inflicted by the new administration. Four of Trump’s nominations—Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, John Kelly and James Mattis—have been confirmed by the Senate. They have faced little to no opposition from Democrats.

Mike Pompeo, who was confirmed as the new director of the CIA, is open to torture. Despite being slammed by international human rights organizations, fourteen Senate Democrats thought he was okay, and proved themselves less principled than even Rand Paul.  James Mattis, America’s new Secretary of Defense, has gone on about how it’s a “hell of a lot of fun to shoot [men in Afghanistan]” and defended for military strikes that murdered civilians attending a wedding party in Iraq. The new Defense Secretary shrugged off the incident with the words, “bad things happen,” which is presumably how the ninety eight senators who confirmed him feel about killing 42 people, too.

Nikki Haley, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, where the United States has ratified multiple human rights treaties disavowing discrimination, still embraces soft, old-school, coded racism. She won the nomination by 96 votes to 4.  John Kelly, touted as Trump’s more moderate pick, has said a border wall alone won’t be enough. He also oversaw Guantanamo Bay, defended torture and force-feeding, and is a fan of the war on drugs. He was confirmed as the head of the Department of Homeland Security by 88 votes to 11.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has remained the only Democrat to hold out against Trump’s nominations. Liberal “heroes” such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders meanwhile assented to some of Trump’s nominations, if not all. Elizabeth Warren even backed Ben Carson for the secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

The Democrats may insist that their concessions are strategic, and perhaps they are. They may be planning ahead to 2020, or voting in the more “moderating” influences on Trump’s cabinet of right wing horrors, or hoping to not antagonize the Republicans further. It’s entirely possible that the Democrats have a plan. It is also entirely possible they are guileless and hapless, as the disintegration and lack of clear leadership in the party post November’s losses are apparent.

But here’s the thing: it isn’t the place of constituents to sit back in blind trust of their elected representatives and let them play politics, while each nomination puts marginalized bodies on the line. It isn’t the duty of the people to sit back and shut up because they don’t understand politics, or don’t know the bargaining that goes on for the exchange of votes in DC. It isn’t the imperative of you, or I, or anybody outside the capital, to clamp our hands over our mouths and stay silent because we aren’t hip to the power plays or games played in Washington.

Political commentators, staffers, and politicians will try and tell you otherwise. But Democrats are supposed to work for their voters—not patronize, overrule, or straight up ignore them. Despite protests and popular support for blocking nominations, Democrats have callously ignored the cries of their constituents. And each of these decisions have very real costs. Each strategic move your senator makes may pave the way for someone to come into power that’s going to build a wall, dismantle public education, strip people of healthcare, register Muslims holocaust style, torture prisoners, and decimate any progressive vision of the country. There are lines, and it isn’t upon your senator, or your party, to decide where the lines are on behalf of all of us.  Democrats’ strategies have imploded spectacularly in the past six months, and their cautious moderatism has made them lose every single battle they’ve fought this election cycle. They have done little to earn our trust, and in the coming months, they have a lot to do and a lot to answer for.

Trump’s most horrifying nominations have still to be voted on. Democrats have a slim chance of blockading most, but the chance is nonexistent if they don’t strategize, mobilize and at the very least try. Relentless obstructionism worked for the GOP against a President who was far more popularly supported than Trump. Dogged ideological commitment and unity to the party’s cause has proven far more successful in American politics than hand-wringing and concession.

For far too long, Democrats have held their constituents hostage with the threat that if we don’t go along with their strategic and cautious choices, things will get worse. This threat though—when things are already life or death—rings increasingly hollow. A fascist is in power in the United States and in less than a week, has already begun acting on the worst of his unconstitutional and violent campaign promises.  It’s time Democrats start speaking for the people. If not now, then it may well be never at all.


Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

Read more about Meg

Join the Conversation