This likely will not be the last time that Trump and his sharpest liberal detractors turn out to be mirror images of each other. And in this case, their common instincts about how to approach the broader public point to a problem they share: Both wish to understand themselves as intensely popular, but both are in fact distinguished by a marked lack of popularity.The point is not who is right or wrong, but who is more popular, and right now neither Trump nor the left is very popular in America. This ought to make liberals in particular reconsider their methods, because a lot of liberal positions are very popular: subsidized health insurance for everyone, protecting Social Security, avoiding foreign wars, etc. But liberals are not popular. This is partly just tribal rancor, but it is also because millions of Americans see liberals as snobs who get more excited when a new book comes out about Gay Muslim Furries (yes, it was actually featured on Slate) than about providing jobs for working folks in Kentucky or Michigan. If our response to Trump's victory is to double down on the "all Trump voters are racists" rhetoric and keep talking more about trans rights than the economic devastation of whole swaths of the country, we're just going to keep losing.
Trump enters office as the least popular new president since the invention of polling. Yet he insists, and maybe he believes, that he has ridden into Washington on the back of a mass movement the likes of which America has never seen. The activist Left enters this era having managed to lose a national election to Donald Trump. Yet it behaves as though it takes itself to be the obviously rightful voice of both reason and the masses. Both seem persuaded that they would be even more popular if only they were more like what they already are.
They would both be wiser to consider how to broaden their appeal, rather than doubling down on what has limited that appeal and searching for ways to flaunt its reach. Yet both have acted in these opening days of the Trump era in ways likely to intensify the allegiance of those who are already committed and to diminish the chances of drawing more supporters.
The only way to succeed in politics is to get more votes; saying "but I don't like the voters" is not going to help.