“They need to wake up and pay attention to what people actually want,” Ms. Conner said of Democratic leaders. “There are so many progressive policies that have widespread support that mainstream Democrats are not picking up on, or putting that stuff down and saying, ‘That wouldn’t really work.’”
.. Energized to take on President Trump, these voters are also seeking to remake their own party as a ferocious — and ferociously liberal — opposition force. And many appear as focused on forcing progressive policies into the midterm debate as they are on defeating Republicans.
.. Fifty-three of the 305 candidates have been endorsed by the Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party, the Progressive Change Campaign and Our Revolution, organizations that have helped propel challenges to Democratic incumbents.
.. Mr. Brewer, who backs Gretchen Whitmer, a former State Senate leader and the Democratic front-runner for governor, said Michigan Democrats were an ideologically diverse bunch and the party could not expect to win simply by running far to the left.
“There are a lot of moderate and even conservative Democrats in Michigan,” Mr. Brewer cautioned. “It’s always been a challenge for Democrats to hold that coalition together in the general election.”
.. The pressure from a new generation of confrontational progressives has put Democrats at the precipice of a sweeping transition, away from not only the centrist ethos of the Bill Clinton years but also, perhaps, from the consensus-oriented liberalism of Barack Obama. Less than a decade ago, Mr. Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, derided the “professional left” for making what he suggested were preposterous demands — like pressing for “Canadian health care.”.. urged Democrats to recognize the intensity of “anger, fear and disappointment from people in our own party,” especially those new to the political process.
“They’re young, and a lot of them are folks that weren’t around or weren’t engaged when Obama ran for the first time,” Mr. Johnson, 36, said. “So this is their moment of: Let’s take our country back.”
.. primary voters have chosen candidates who seem to embody change — many of them women and minorities — but who have not necessarily endorsed positions like single-payer health care and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.
.. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, a left-of-center Democrat who ran for president in 2016, suggested the party wants “new leaders and fresh ideas” more than hard-left ideology.
“Sometimes that may be filled by a leader who calls herself a Democratic socialist, and sometimes it’s not,” said Mr. O’Malley, reflecting on the political convulsion that touched his home state. “Sometimes it’s with a young person. Sometimes it’s with a retiree. Sometimes it’s with a vet.”
.. avowedly moderate standard-bearers, such as Senator Doug Jones of Alabama and Representative Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania
.. among Democratic stalwarts, there is a sometimes-rueful recognition that a cultural gulf separates them from the party’s next generation, much of which inhabits a world of freewheeling social media and countercultural podcasts that are wholly unfamiliar to older Democrats.
.. But within deep-blue precincts where Democratic insurgency appears strongest, talk of accommodating the center is in short supply.
the broader dilemma for any political appointee in the age of Trump: Is it possible to serve both this president and the greater good? Is it better to be inside, attempting to mitigate the damage he is capable of causing? Or is that a sucker’s game, one that Trump, uncontainable, will always win, leaving subordinates stained in the process?
.. It is not best practice to let an interested party, even if that party is the president, dictate what potential misconduct to probe. But that accommodation may be, in the scheme of things, a reasonable one.
.. The meetings, which Justice and intelligence officials initially balked at, were conducted at the insistence of the White House, which should stay out of an investigation of the president, not meddle in it.
.. Democratic lawmakers were initially excluded — on the theory, as White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders put it, that it would be strange for Democrats to “consider themselves randomly invited to see something they never asked to.”.. No amount of capitulation will suffice. He is interested only in self-preservation, no matter what the cost to the rule of law... raises the risk of every deviation from ordinary practice — that it will set a dangerous precedent without achieving more than a temporary reprieve — even if it does not dictate where, exactly, to draw the line.
Mr. Trump is a uniquely dysfunctional chief executive. He contributed to this latest failure of governance with some characteristic misbehavior: erratic, contradictory commitments; confusing tweets; even blowing up a negotiating session by crudely insulting vast swaths of humanity.
As Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said last week, “As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.”
.. The problem Mr. Trump poses for the rest of the constitutional system is not that he is too strong and overbearing, but that he is too weak and fitful.
For Congress, such a problem might easily present an opportunity. A president unsure of what he wants could be a chance for the legislative branch to put itself in the driver’s seat.
That nothing of the sort has happened suggests that Mr. Trump is far from the whole story of contemporary Washington’s debilitation. His weakness has shed light on Congress’s weakness, and should force legislators to face some tough questions about the state of their own institution.
.. Conservatives are accustomed to blaming that on aggression by the other two branches — an overweening executive and administrative state and a hyperactive judiciary. There is surely truth to that indictment. But we should acknowledge, too, that the aggression of the other two branches has often been invited by the willful weakness of the Congress.
.. Not wishing to take responsibility for making hard choices, members of Congress (particularly when the president is of their party) have long been happy to enact vague legislation at best and to leave big decisions to the executive and judicial branches.
.. Is Congress’s purpose to
- implement the agenda of the majority party most effectively, or is its purpose to
- compel and enable accommodations in a divided country?
Today’s Congress does neither very well. But which failure is a bug and which is a feature?
.. Those two visions of Congress’s purpose (which the political scientist Daniel Stid labels “Wilsonian” and “Madisonian,” respectively) generally point in opposite directions when it comes to strengthening Congress,
.. The Wilsonian vision would have Congress function more like a European parliament, with stronger centralized leadership and fewer choke points and protections of minority prerogatives. It would enable the party that won a majority of seats to enact its agenda and see what voters make of it in the next election.
.. The Madisonian vision would recover the purpose of Congress in our larger constitutional system but would mean slow going, greater cacophony, less centralization and more opportunities for coalitions of strange bedfellows to form. It would have Congress serve as an arena for continuing bargaining and compromise, on the premise that greater social peace is better for the country than either party’s bright ideas.
A more parliamentary Congress has been the dream of progressive reformers for more than a century, but it is a poor fit not only for a system of divided powers but also for a polarized society. We need Congress to pursue and drive accommodations — in fact, as the political scientist Philip Wallach has recently argued, Congress is really the only institution in our system of government that could do that.
.. Too often, members in both parties seem to conceive of their work as performative rather than deliberative and use Congress as a platform to raise their profiles or build their personal brands before a larger audience, rather than letting Congress’s constitutional contours contain, reshape and channel their ambitions.
.. This is also how President Trump conceives of the presidency — and in some key respects how his predecessor did, too. It is how too many judges think of their work, and how too many journalists, professors and other professionals think of theirs. They think of institutions not as formative but as performative, not as molds that shape their character and actions but as platforms for displaying themselves and signaling their virtue.
Despite the fervor of President Trump’s Republican opponents, the president’s brand of hard-edge nationalism — with its gut-level cultural appeals and hard lines on trade and immigration — is taking root within his adopted party, and those uneasy with grievance politics are either giving in or giving up the fight.
.. The Grand Old Party risks a longer-term transformation into the Party of Trump.
“There is zero appetite for the ‘Never Trump’ movement in the Republican Party of today,” said Andy Surabian, an adviser to Great America Alliance, the “super PAC” that is aiding primary races against Republican incumbents. “This party is now defined by President Trump and his movement.”
.. Many of those who remain will have to accommodate the president to survive primaries from the pro-Trump right.
.. governor races in Virginia and New Jersey and a special Senate race in Alabama — Republican candidates are mirroring Mr. Trump’s racially tinged campaign tactics.
.. Many of their voters prefer the Trump way.
“We’re not an element,” said Laura Ingraham, a pro-Trump talk show host. “We’re the party.”
.. Ms. Ingraham .. the conservatism of market-oriented internationalism simply has little mass appeal.
“There’s no constituency for open borders, endless war and these international trade deals that are skewed against the United States,” she said.
.. As for the limited government pitch that defined Mr. Flake’s career, Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist, scoffed.
.. “It’s very nice. But it’s a theoretical exercise. It can’t win national elections.”
.. “We have a leader who has a personality disorder,” said former Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, “but he’s done what he actually told the people he was going to do, and they’re not going to abandon him.”
.. “I don’t think the rank-and-file Republican believes that corporations are people,” said Sam Nunberg, a former adviser to the Trump campaign who has also worked with Mr. Bannon.
.. For now, though, the vision for a more populist-nationalist party sketched out by Mr. Bannon is being won as much through intimidation as through actual purges in Republican primaries... “The message they’re sending is: The way to survive is by accommodating him, changing their tone and professing loyalty to Trump,” said William Kristol.. former Representative Tom Tancredo, who was shunned by the Bush-era Republican Party for his harsh anti-immigration views, is considering a comeback bid for governor in 2018.
.. Mr. Graham believes that the president is not as wedded to some of his nationalist policies as his supporters want to believe.
“The best thing that could happen to Trump and the future of the Republican Party is for Trump to fix a broken immigration system,” Mr. Graham said.
.. Establishment Republicans are attempting to convince Mr. Trump that “if you join with Bannon, you cut your own throat,” Mr. Graham said, because it could lead to an impeachment effort by a Democratic-controlled Congress.
But these arguments cause the early Trump enthusiasts only to roll their eyes. The party establishment, these Trump backers say, wants to govern as if the election never happened.
“They still think the election was about Trump’s personality,” Ms. Ingraham said. “It wasn’t. It was his ideas.”