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OMDAHL: An open letter to the Democratic Congress

By Staff | Jan 11, 2019

When President Donald Trump demeaned Viet Nam Hero John McCain, Republicans rolled their eyes and said nothing. Democrats demonstrated political rage.

When Trump talked about sexually assaulting women, Republicans rolled their eyes and said nothing. Trump dismissed it as “locker room banter.” Democrats demonstrated more political rage.

Trump has repeatedly attacked individuals and groups while bullying them into silence with his scepter. He has done his best to destroy civil discourse and has succeeded. The Republicans have rolled their eyes a lot.

Then you took over the House of Representatives in 2018 because people throughout the country were fed up with the President’s abuse of privilege and power.

And it was not issues that beat the President. The economy was booming and in a booming economy the sitting president gets loads of credit. He should have increased his majority in the House but instead was handed a shellacking.

The people had enough of his behavior.

Among your new members is Rashida Tlaib from Michigan who said to a group of super liberals that “we’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the mother——.”

Without regard to his own track record, Trump said that she “dishonored herself, and I think she dishonored her family.” He was right.

Not only did she dishonor herself but she dishonored her office, your Democratic majority and the whole House of Representatives. And she demonstrates no remorse.

This time, the Republicans are demonstrating political outrage and the Democrats are rolling their eyes.

Like the Republicans, they are downplaying this contribution to the incivility that is eroding decent discourse.

One Democrat brought up Trump’s assault on women. Another said that her comment wasn’t as bad as Trump’s remarks about Senator McCain. Most of the comments have compared Trump’s remarks to those of Representative Tlaib. That’s not good enough.

During the campaign, you argued that Democrats could be better. The people believed you and the first challenge is the need to discipline a new member. She should be required to apologize on the House floor.

This is the time to be better and do better. It isn’t good enough to do the same as Trump.

You need to keep in mind that you have a 2-year lease that will have to be renewed in 2020. If you don’t distinguish yourself in statesmanship, civility, decency, compassion and fairness, it is highly likely that you will lose your lease and be back on the street.

Your sweep in the 2018 election was fabulous. But 2020 does not bode well for you. Big sweeps have their backsweeps that take out many of the beneficiaries of the first wave. You are going to lose at least 20 seats in 2020 unless you prove worthy of another two years.

First, the size of the independent block in elections has been increasing. While more independents lean Democratic than Republican, they are still independents and will be important in judging your performance.

Second, history confirms the ups and downs in the political cycle.

In my memory, the best example of this can be found in the 1964-66 elections when Lyndon Johnson brought new majorities in Congress and states all across the country. North Dakota Democrats won about 45 seats, giving you a clear majority in the state house. Rolland Redlin was elected to Congress.

Then came 1966. Most of these new Democrats lost their seats and the Democrats ended up worse off than before the landslide. In spite of a record of solid achievements (Medicare, Medicaid) Redlin was defeated.

It is time to rise to the challenge. If you think you are better, be better.

Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor and former political science professor at UND.

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