Why are Senate Democrats rolling over for Trump?
Senate Democrats are acting like a bunch of spineless jellyfish.
Several of President Trump's Cabinet nominees — James Mattis for defense, John Kelly for homeland security, Mike Pompeo for CIA director, and Nikki Haley for ambassador to the United Nations — have been confirmed. And after the most hawkish members of the Senate Republican caucus — John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Marco Rubio — overcame their initial skepticism to offer support for Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, it seems all but certain that basically all of Trump's controversial nominees are going to be confirmed sooner rather than later.
Incredibly, Democrats — despite having no obligation to do so — are actually voting for these people. The only Democratic holdout across the first three confirmations, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, voted for Haley; the South Carolina Republican sailed through 96-4. Previously, Gillibrand had been the only senator to vote against Mattis; she and 10 other Democrats voted against Kelly; and Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul joined dozens of Democrats to oppose Pompeo.
That might sound like solid opposition, at least in Pompeo's case, but 14 Democratic senators still backed him. Those who voted for Pompeo crossed ideological lines; conservative West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, up for re-election in 2018 in a state that went heavily for Trump, supported Pompeo; so did liberal California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who tried for two years to get the CIA to declassify the complete torture report, and was called "narcissistic" by Pompeo for her efforts. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and 2016 vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine also voted for Pompeo.
Some Democrats, like Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, wrongly believe that some of Trump's picks are more "reasonable" than others. But in what world is Pompeo one of those picks? He's a notorious fan of torture and wants Edward Snowden to face the death penalty. As CIA director, he will be all of the worst things about the Bush administration — and more.
This isn't just typical Democratic deference to Republicans on defense, either. After all, Ben Carson's nomination passed the Senate Banking Committee in a voice vote on Tuesday.
Carson wants to reduce the federal government to rubble. He's also aggressively ignorant of what the agency he'll run even does. He's never had any experience in the field, argued against desegregation because he thinks government programs are "failed socialist experiments," and has accused the agency he now seeks to lead of "social engineering." At his confirmation hearing, he refused to give a firm answer to Sen. Elizabeth Warren's question of whether or not he'd approve grants favorable to Trump's businesses.
But Warren and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, another top progressive on the committee, are supporting Carson because, among other reasons, he said he'd "aggressively defend the fair housing rights of all Americans." Carson also assured Brown he'd "address" lead hazards. Okay then.
Millions of working-class people either directly or indirectly depend on HUD. Having someone at the helm who doesn't know the first thing about housing is unconscionable. It's a recipe for chaos and corruption. HUD is important; that one of Trump's very first actions after being sworn in was to eliminate a planned FHA cut in mortgage premiums underscores that fact.
It's difficult to understand why Democrats would go along with this. Perhaps they're trying to "save their ammo" for a bigger, more winnable fight — like foreclosure machine Steven Mnuchin for treasury and privatization nightmare Betsy DeVos for education. But this isn't a situation where Democrats have limited ammo they must ration; they have no ammo, and they might as well go down with some iota of resistance to a president who wants to destroy public services.
Democrats have got to give some kind of indication to the majority of the country that didn't vote for Trump that they're in complete opposition to our president, and that their hands are washed clean of whatever havoc this new government is about to wreak on America. Whether it's a known quantity of badness like Pompeo or Jeff Sessions, a wildcard like Carson, or an establishment Republican like Chao, the people Trump picked to implement his agenda were chosen for a reason: They're not going to put up much of a fight to his agenda. On that metric alone, none of these people should get a single Democratic vote.
Saturday's Women's March showed that the American left is ready to fight like hell. If Senate Democrats want to join them and start winning back some of the people they've lost over the past eight years, putting up a united front against Trump and his Cabinet would be a damn good start.