Clare Foran: There’s been a lot of resistance from some of Trump's critics to the idea that he should be given a chance now that he has been elected. What do you think of that?
George Edwards: I think there’s actually not much of an option—you have to wait and see what he really does. We know that we’ve had incendiary rhetoric and proposals from Trump, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to have radical policies from him. We might. But his critics can’t just assume before he’s made a proposal that they are going to be as bad as they fear. Once Trump takes action, if it is as bad as his critics fear, then they should oppose it. But they will paint themselves into a corner if their opposition does not stem from concrete actions that Trump has taken.
Foran: Why do you think that kind of opposition would be ineffective?
Edwards: It’s not politically smart. If you express opposition to what you think is coming before it has actually happened, Trump can say ‘I haven’t even done that’ and then he is more likely to become a sympathetic figure. But if Trump’s opponents are civil and it turns out that Trump isn’t, or if they wait until he does something and then point out what they think is wrong or detrimental about it, then the comparison will be clear and it is far more likely to be in favor of his opponents than if they oppose him before he does anything.
Foran: Do you think it will be easier for Trump supporters to dismiss criticisms directed at Trump if they’re able to say to his opponents “well, you opposed him from day one”?
Edwards: Yes. I think that there is a lot of potential danger in a Donald Trump presidency for a lot of reasons, and one I think is that he doesn’t know anything about governing. But if it looks like you’re trying to undermine him before he takes office, then it will be harder to argue that if things go wrong under Trump that he alone is to blame for that. It may obscure the accountability for any problems that emerge.
Foran: What else do you think Democrats need to do if they want to win back the political power they lost as a result of the election?
Edwards: People who opposed Trump in the election need to reach out to other people to increase their coalition. They will have to take some of the people who supported Trump and bring them to their side. And they won't be able to do that if they alienate those people from the start.
Once Trump has taken concrete actions, Democrats should start reaching out to people who supported Trump to try to show them that the consequences of his policies will be very bad from their point of view.
Foran: When we talk about the need to increase the Democratic coalition, what about the fact that Clinton leads in the popular vote, even if Trump won the election?
Edwards: The coalition still isn't big enough. Clinton’s lead in the popular wasn’t enough to elect her president, and this isn’t just about the presidency either. The Democrats at the state level are in the worst position they’ve been since the 1920s. They’re a minority in the House and the Senate, and they are very vulnerable in the mid-term elections since they have to defend 25 Democratic senators, and a good number of those are in states Trump won. Democrats will have to bring some of the people who voted for Trump over to their side if they want to win going forward.