Democrats fear they’re the wet-rag party

A belief in one’s own virtue feels good. Losing a battle that could shape the American political landscape for decades feels bad. The tension between the two left some Democrats grappling anew this weekend with the implications: Maybe they really are the Wet Rag Party.

“They are more ruthless,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who over a quarter-century has served as a top aide to Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. “And I don’t want to be like them. … The answer can’t be for Democrats to be just as cynical.”

This is more or less the Michelle Obama Doctrine, as articulated at the 2016 Democratic convention, just a few weeks before Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump: “When they go low, we go high.” Post-Kavanaugh Democrats interviewed this weekend aren’t exactly repudiating this idea—but they are qualifying it in important ways. As they articulate it, their answer is to be more realistic about what they see as Republicans’ strategy to disregard principle and process in their pursuit of power—as they argue the GOP did in ramming through Kavanaugh despite accusations of sexual assault—and more disciplined in a long-term way in fighting back.