I’ve been there—when your political party has told you that America will be lost if a certain presidential candidate doesn’t win the election. Not only does that candidate lose, but the other party now controls the House and Senate, as well. America is still here, and you’re figuring out what to do next. 2008 was that kind of year for me.

Shortly thereafter, I was working in the House of Representatives for a member of the Ways and Means Committee when Democrats shoved the Affordable Care Act right down our throats. There wasn’t a dang thing we could do about it, either.

If any of that feels at all familiar to you at the moment, let me offer a few tips:

  1. Your protests probably aren’t as awesome as you think they are.

First, Republicans generally don’t speak the language of protest. That’s not how we’re wired. I’ve watched the various progressive demonstrations and political fits over the last few weeks. They don’t connect with Americans on the right—at all.

In truth, I’m not sure they’re designed to sway anyone. They’re more like self-affirming yell parties at a time when Democrats are trying to figure out what’s happening in national politics.

For about half the country, the heavily dramatic protests had all the impact of MSNBC being on mute in the background at the office. In truth, the fever pitch of the liberal outrage machine is—if anything—satisfying to Trump’s audience. If the liberals are losing it, Trump must be doing something right. It also pushes away folks in the middle that might actually agree with you on some issues. Been there, done that, circa 2008.

  1. If you oppose virtually everything, your opposition is a lot easier to ignore.

So far we’ve seen that that Democrats hate virtually everything that Trump has done. This should sound familiar, as it’s basically the posture Republicans took toward President Obama.

That move really made us easier to ignore when we were actually right. As it turned out, Americans weren’t able to keep their plans under the Affordable Care Act. Republicans were correct about that. But they also opposed the Independent Payment Advisory Board as a “death panel.” In the best case, it was extreme hyperbole. At the moment, Democrats aren’t being particular selective in their opposition at all. When you oppose almost anything, your opposition means nothing.

I recognize the difficulty in saying anything nice about the other political camp, but Trump gives Democrats a perfect space to do that: trade. Last time I checked, most Democrats loved union-favored trade ideas. Ironically, trade is the same point where Obama and many Republicans found common ground toward the end of his second term.

  1. You’re not going to be able to sustain focused political outrage as easily as you think.

Negative feelings wear people out. It is really hard to be hyperemotional about politics for an extended period of time. Outrage is a drug. Each subsequent use requires a bit more to have the same impact. That might not seem difficult at the moment, but we don’t have a major election right now either.

Republicans had a critical timing advantage on this front. The emotional peak of outrage directed at Obama happened during the 2010 elections—a significant year because of the census. Republicans used the emotional bump to win at a time when they were able to take advantage of redistricting. At this rate, Democrats won’t even carry the emotion into the 2018 midterms that favor Republicans. Feel free to be outraged over the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd; just remember that four years is a long time to stay keyed up about absolutely everything.

  1. Most of you aren’t going to like defending your extreme progressive fringe.

Democrats didn’t lose because they weren’t enough like the destructive student protesters at the University of California at Berkeley. Most Democrats likely fancy themselves as sensible people who happen to be left-of-center politically. It’s going to be a rude awakening when they’re suddenly lumped in with the protesters who torched an Islamic immigrant’s limo in D.C. Just remember that Republicans are being asked to defend the president’s Twitter account at the same time. That should make it a bit easier.

It wasn’t much fun being in the political position Democrats now find themselves, but my voice in the minority was no less important to our republic than Democrats’ today. Political majorities shouldn’t go unchecked. There’s no divine right attached to electoral victory that guarantees certain policy outcomes and judicial determinations. That said, operating from the minority means you’re going to be flattened in most political battles. It is truly a shocking reality after eight years of at least having the president say things you agree with.

Based on my experience, that’s my two cents for surviving the next couple of years. I recognize that I can’t be trusted as a member of the opposition, so I’ll understand if you ignore me. In fact, plenty of Republicans are counting on you to do just that.

Image by Cory Seamer

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