Rahm to Democrats: Get ready for a lot of losing

“Winning is everything,” Rahm Emanuel told a Stanford University audience in discussing the current political situation — and his frustration with fellow Democrats. “If you don’t win, you can’t make public policy.” And, Emanuel tells Democrats, they should plan to be in the wilderness for a while — perhaps quite a while. “It ain’t gonna happen in 2018. Take a chill pill”:


Aaron Blake at the Washington Post wonders whether Democrats can take Emanuel’s advice:

President Trump has promised so much winning that people will get tired of it.

But for Democrats, the question is whether they can stomach the amount of losing they’re in store for.

Despite the party base digging in for fights on Cabinet nominations and Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation, they’ve come up empty. And it’s looking more and more like the fight just may not be in Senate Democrats — or at least, not to the extent the base is looking for. …

Part of it is undoubtedly that reality set in. Democrats have a weak hand in Washington — even weaker than the one Republicans had when they were in the minority and after Democrats partly dismantled the filibuster in 2013. And as I’ve written, an unprecedented Supreme Court filibuster against a clearly qualified and likable nominee would just give Republicans a good excuse to do away with the rest of the filibuster. This would only further weaken Democrats’ ability to stop Trump, stripping them of their last real lever of power.

And even worse for Democrats is that the path back to congressional majorities isn’t apparent, no matter what they do today. Despite Trump’s historically bad image for a new president, the 2018 electoral map is a daunting one for Democrats, with very few good opportunities to win the three Senate seats they need and plenty of tough seats to defend. The GOP also retains its big advantage on the House map, which would require a huge Democratic wave to sweep Republicans out of power.

Right now, Democrats and the Left are on the express train to exhaustion, both politically and physically. There are only so many rallies one can attend to protest the result of an election, so many times one can turn the knob to 11 on outrage, before it just becomes noise. Emanuel warns Democrats about that, too:

“You’ve got to pick which ones you’re going to fight about; not every pitch has to be swung at,” Emanuel said. “We don’t have the power to swing at everything. So you have to pick what is essential.”

Right now they’re swinging and missing on everything, in part because they didn’t pick their spots. Had Senate Democrats not settled on near-total obstruction, they might have moved a third Republican by focusing on DeVos, rather than make the whole Cabinet a test of wills. They lost an election and now their credibility is dissipating into a kind of self-perpetuating hysteria.

Republicans should understand that this won’t last forever. In fact, Emanuel offers Democrats some keen advice that Republicans should heed:

Wedge. Wherever there is a disagreement among Republicans, I’m for one of those disagreements. [Laughter] I’m all for it. Okay? President’s for Russia? I’m with John McCain and Lindsay Graham, I’m for Russia. Why? Wedge. Wedges — schisms have to be wedges. Wedges have to be divides, divisions.

Republicans don’t have to march in total lockstep over the next couple of years — that’s in part what doomed Democrats, marching in lockstep behind what turned out to be an unpopular hard-progressive agenda. But Republicans and the Right do have to keep disagreements and different approaches from becoming schismatic. At some point, Democrats might actually take Rahm Emanuel’s advice … when they’ve stopped shrieking long enough to hear it.