For members of the soon-to-be opposition, much consternation, hand-wringing and other assorted recrimination has accompanied the last few weeks. Those prognosticating the demise of the Democratic Party will indubitably be proven to be short-sighted, just as they predicted its destruction after the 2004 election, or how many pundits, including myself, could see the Republican Party’s disemboweling on the horizon just a few weeks ago.
Our two-party system is remarkably durable. The Democrats will win again. The question, thus, is what type of party those of us who identify with the jackass want to be in these wilderness years.
Pushing back against the presidential administration of Donald Trump is obviously high on the list. And as Trump lays out his plans, many of which include truly evil ideas, it will be the Democrats’ obligation to resist and block. But the opposition party must be about more than opposition. As Hillary Clinton’s loss has taught us, it is not enough to simply be against something. We must stand for something.
Democrats must continue to stand for the New Deal. My great-grandfather sold apples, so my grandfather could sell ties, so my father could wear them. It was not that the members of my family became innately more intelligent as time went on, but that social and economic factors within this country created new opportunities that did not exist before. A strong public school system, the wage-augmenting power of labor unions and social security — put together, the New Deal — were responsible.
The anachronistic family tale is that my grandfather, a lifelong Democrat who voted twice against President Eisenhower despite serving under his leadership during World War II, voted Democratic because, while Ike kept him safe in Europe, it was Franklin Roosevelt who kept his parents safe back home, safe from the fears of poverty in old age.
I have been extraordinarily lucky throughout my life. And that luck is a direct result of policies more than a half-century ago that allowed for upward mobility. It allowed for the Horwitz family to go from Russian peasant to lawyer in two generations. It allowed for a high-school dropout who did not learn English at home to raise his three children in the middle class.
Democrats should not wish to pull the ladder up after them. The New Deal, the so-called welfare state policies that conservatives from Hoover to Goldwater to Reagan to Trump have wished to dismantle, contributed immeasurably to my success and that of so many others. To now not be a steadfast defender of that system from which I have benefited would be the height of callous hypocrisy.
Defending and supporting the expansion of social programs is the legacy of Democrats. As House Speaker Paul Ryan will invariably attempt to privatize Medicare, it must be Democrats who step up, not only to defend it, but to strengthen and expand it. Democrats must be indefatigable advocates of programs that help the middle class and make upward mobility possible.
Merely attempting to obstruct and stymie will afford the Democrats no success in the long-run. They — we — must set out our own course, one that does not leave anyone behind.
Horwitz is a first-year law student from Houston. Follow him on twitter @NmHorwitz