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What Democrats Owe the Country

E.J. DIONNE JR. on

Senate Democrats think they can hold Donald Trump accountable by challenging him to deliver on issues where he has made populist noises.

Supporters of this strategy insist that offering to work with Trump where he shares Democratic goals is the best way to split the Republican Party or, alternatively, to expose Trump’s flimflam if he fails to deliver for working-class Americans whose cause he rhetorically championed.

In normal circumstances, this approach might be just the ticket. Unfortunately, this moment is anything but normal.

Millions feel vulnerable to Trump’s moves on immigration and doubt his commitment to equality before the law. We should be alarmed by his flouting of widely accepted norms governing conflicts of interest and the right to dissent. There is good reason to ask Democratic leaders to send unambiguous signals of resistance.

His selection of right-wing figures such as Stephen K. Bannon and Michael Flynn for White House posts and of longtime civil rights foe Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general only feed legitimate demands for a strong pushback.

It is not a form of paranoia to worry about our basic liberties under the rule of a thin-skinned and vindictive man who lashes out at even the restrained criticism issued by the “Hamilton” cast on Friday.

“This should not happen!” tweeted the birther who spent years questioning Barack Obama’s legal right to be president. Memo to Trump: Criticizing the president is everyone’s right in a democratic republic.

Charles E. Schumer, the incoming Senate Democratic leader, insists there will be no backing down when his party finds itself implacably opposed to Trump.

“Where he goes divisive, where he opposes our values,” Schumer said in a telephone interview, “we’ll oppose him with everything we have.” Opposition, he promises, will be unrelenting on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Wall Street reforms and in many other areas.

But the senator from New York defends the idea that Democrats should set tough standards on trade, infrastructure and other economic concerns and offer to work with Trump if he meets them.

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Copyright 2016 Washington Post Writers Group

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