In part 1 of my interview with Rep. Donald McEachin, we discussed his move from the Virginia General Assembly to the U.S. House of Representatives. Now, we turn to Rep. McEachin’s views on Donald Trump and the reaction to Trump by Democrats, liberals, progressives, etc.
Was there any reason for Democrats to have voted for any of Trump’s cabinet nominees? Rep. McEachin responded “none that I can see,” other than perhaps General Mattis (“I understand that vote”). Of course, McEachin added that he would “never tell other Democrats how to vote,” but that “other than General Mattis, I don’t believe I’d have voted for any of them [if I had been in the U.S. Senate].”
Should Democrats be cooperating at all with Trump or oppose him on everything? McEachin:
Well, Trump’s making it mighty easy to do that too…but it’s hard…it’s hard…because Democrats are people who at base believe that government should work, and so we send people into our legislatures with that attitude that we try to make government work. That’s why compromise is not a dirty word to us, right, it’s sort of in our DNA; where there are opportunities to work folks on the other side of aisle, I think we will do so. But you’ve seen time and time again just in what, the 14 days [Trump]’s been president or however long it’s been [I noted that it seems like an eternity and a recurring nightmare; McEachin responded, “doesn’t it?”]…he’s making it awfully easy to oppose him on just about everything he’s doing.
I argued that it’s basically asymmetric warfare, as Republicans vowed for eight years to “make Obama fail,” not only didn’t do its “advise and consent” duty on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee but instead saw Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell utterly refusing to even allow a vote on the Merrick Garland nomination. McEachin said he believes Democrats should filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court nominee because it was stolen.
More broadly, I asked Rep. McEachin why we have to “go high” when they “go low?” Should we meet them at their level? Rep. McEeachin responded:
I certainly understand the sentiment. I think we have to be selective in how we respond. I just don’t think we’re the Party that will ever have that meeting on the night of a President’s inaugural and say we’re going to deny them a second term…and part of the reason for that is that we represent a segment of people who can’t afford for the country to fail. We represent the middle class, the poor. If the country fails, it fails on their back. And Republicans, on the other hand, if the country fails, well they’ve got everything anyway, right? I mean they’ve got all the money, they’ve got all the assets. So if things go bad, they can weather the storm, where our people can’t.
I noted that many of Trump’s white working class supporters in places like West Virginia and Kentucky will definitely be hurt by things like repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Rep. McEachin predicted that Republicans will “absolutely run against Barack Obama for the next four years…Everything that’s wrong with government – no matter how long they’re in office – is going to be because of Barack Obama…And did you hear about the ‘Bowling Green massacre this morning? [McEachin laughs] They just make it up!”
I noted that Republicans have no respect for government, facts or even democracy. So, how do we fight them when they have no respect for the rules, legitimacy or anything and we do?
I think one of the ways we fight them is we don’t do things like try to help them fix their problems. For instance, if you want to tweak Obamacare, we all said during the course of the campaign…there are things that can be done to tweak the Affordable Care Act. But don’t come to us for…a replacement plan – nope, not going to do it; if you guys said you wanted to replace it, let’s see what you’ve got…In our caucus, nobody’s looking to help them; if you’ve got a plan, let’s see it.
I recounted the litany of Trump horrors in the first two weeks. Rep. McEachin said “it will be really interesting to see what happens with these investigations into how much the Trump campaign was involved in the Russian hacking.” As for the Trump Organization, Rep. McEachin said “it’s a mess.” He added that he (McEachin) has to give up his law practice, but Trump doesn’t have to give up the Trump Organization. Outrageous, huh?
Finally, I asked Rep. McEachin what lessons he drew from Trump’s election, how it was possible that an ignorant, unqualified, corrupt bigot could possibly win the presidency of the United States, particularly against someone as superbly qualified as Hillary Clinton? Also, how much of this was a failure by Democrats, including the DNC, the Clinton campaign and Democratic messaging, and how much was the result of other factors like Republican voter suppression efforts? Rep. McEachin responded:
I think there are elements of all that…there’s shared responsibility for the loss. I think certainly voter suppression had something to do with it. I think we certainly could have been better with our messaging. I think part of the challenge was [the Clinton campaign] tried to ‘expand the map’ instead of [locking down 270 electoral votes]. When I talk to my colleagues from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, they’re like, we were sending out flares and requests for help, and it just didn’t come. [I noted that the Clinton campaign was in states they didn’t really need, like Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio to get to 270 EVs, but we DID need Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan]. What this defeat is NOT is a repudiation of the fact that we are the party of the 21st century. The notion that somehow the coalition we put together that won the popular vote won’t win the next presidential election I think is a false narrative…What [Rep. Tim Ryan] wanted was for our party to have a different message. I think what we saw was a really bad reaction to the browning, blackening and gaying of America. And that’s not something our party’s going to turn its back on…Basically, the Obama coalition is going to come back together in the next election cycle.
I said I think Rep. McEachin’s right about the demographics and the Republican reaction to the “browning, blackening and gaying” – and also “feminizing” or whatever you want to call it – of America, but what I’m worried about is that Republicans will pass nasty voter suppression measures in state after state, like citizenship requirements or whatever. Rep. McEachin said we’re going to have to rely on the federal courts to fight back against Republican voter suppression. But ultimately, “we need to win some elections.” Also:
Trump’s election “is a call to the rest of us that we cannot take the gains that we made over the past eight years for granted; we can’t even take classical liberal democracy for granted. And I think if there’s a silver lining, it’s going to be that that’s the wakeup call that Americans hear, that all of these things we’ve taken for granted for so many years are being challenged and we really have to become a more activist society.
I asked Rep. McEachin about the concept that a “Tea Party of the left” (as much as dislike that expression, because the Tea Party was so nasty, hateful, etc.) is developing, with 40% of Americans now supporting the impeachment of Donald Trump, with millions marching across the country, etc. Rep. McEachin said “it remains to be seen whether [liberals, progressive, Democrats] will remain engaged – that’s the question; if they remain engaged, then yes, that’s what’s happening.” One positive sign is that in his office, they’re definitely getting “lots and lots of calls,” as is Sen. Kaine’s office. Do we NEED a “Tea Party of the Left?” Rep. McEachin:
I think we need to have a progressive movement within the party really catch hold and really be a force to be reckoned with. And the reason why I don’t want to compare it to the Tea Party is probably the same reason you don’t, which is the Tea Party has so much hate. And Progressives are at base the most hopeful people you’ll ever meet. [I noted that there’s tremendous anger and fear, and some hatred, against Trump right now]
In Virginia, Rep. McEachin says he believes Democrats will be energized in Virginia in 2017 by Trump’s victory. Rep. McEachin declared point blank, “the [2017 Virginia] Republican nominee is going to lose,” doesn’t even matter who it is. I asked if he had a favorite Republican to run against, and he responded Corey Stewart, “the most far-right-wing guy we can find.” [I noted that actually, Ed Gillespie could be weak as well, because he epitomizes “the swamp” of ethical corruption, Washington insider-ism, etc. that Trump voters – and most other voters – hate.]
As for Democrats mobilizing in 2017 in Virginia, Rep. McEachin believes that Democrats should not attack each other but should run positive primary campaigns, then after the nominees are decided, it’s “all hands on deck.” “If we can hold on to the Governor’s Mansion and have the Lt. Governor…we can control at least half of the Virginia government, and that will allow us to be a bulwark against Trumpism.” In Rep. McEachin’s view (and here he noted that while he likes Tom Perriello, he is supporting Ralph Northam for governor) the main themes for Democrats in 2017 need to be both positive – “what we want to do as Democrats” – and also pushing back hard against Trump. With that combination, and with the fact that – as Rep. McEachin believes – Virginia is a “blue state” (as exemplified by Virginia voters going for Hillary Clinton AND rejecting a “right to work” constitutional amendment).