Ten Democratic senators will face re-election fights next year in states where Trump won; of those, five hail from states where he won by double digits. But with their party base screaming for blood, those incumbents could find themselves swimming against the partisan tide in both directions, torn between working with Trump or denouncing him.That's not a bad stance for any Member of Congress to take, whether in the majority party or the president's party. Might be particularly useful for Democrats, working with normals in Real America, if they have any hope of escaping their marginalization to the coasts. But doing the right thing isn't what Democrats do, not these days.
In a meeting at the White House earlier this month, one of those vulnerable Democrats, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, explained his compromise approach to the president. “I will work with you when I can,” Tester said, according to a Montana NBC affiliate, “and I will hold you accountable when I must.”
Democrats have firmly rejected Trump from the outset — with protests and angry constituents at town-hall meetings harkening back to the Tea Party movement in 2009 and 2010, which propelled Republicans to historic gains in Congress.In Illinois, Senator Durbin recognizes that his, too, is a rump coastal party, in his case that uneasy coalition of privilege and the third world we know as Chicago.
For red-state Democrats like [West Virginia senator Joe] Manchin, the challenge will be to find the “common denominator between the agenda of the grassroots organizations and all the voters in the state, including the Trump voters,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this election cycle.
“My view is that these senators are going to be reaching out to all the people in their state, progressives and others, and making the best decision,” Van Hollen added.
“I live in a blue island in a big red sea,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, who hails from Illinois, “and a lot of these folks are not that lucky politically.”But the Leading Lights among the Democrats have gone from Bipartisan Consensus to Beyond Principled Opposition in ein Augenblick.
Even then, Durbin faces acute pressure from his party’s base that he cannot always satisfy. “There are people in my state that want me to vote ‘no’ on everything,” the Democratic whip said. “They’re mad at me because I voted for some of Trump’s nominees.”
The art of politics is often a delicate balance between stoking partisan fire and then containing it. But recent political trends have seemed to incentivize burning everything down. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a leading face of the Democratic opposition to Trump, has promoted such an unyielding approach.That might be why Senator McConnell went to the trouble of making Fauxahontas a Martyr to the Cause. Another preachy, sanctimonious scold in a pantsuit? Bring it, he might be suggesting.
“It's not an either-or choice, and Democrats who are making it out to be aren't doing their colleagues in tough races any favors,” said one Democratic strategist who works on Senate campaigns.