U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz says it’s time for Democrats to fight back with a progressive movement that’s fueled by authentic grassroots sentiments that haven’t been manufactured by Beltway consultants, pollsters and political strategists.

And he’s looking to his colleague, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, for inspiration.

Schatz, like many other liberal Democrats, was shaken by the unexpected rise of Republican businessman Donald Trump to the presidency. The senator has described Trump’s campaign rhetoric as racist, extreme and even dangerous, particularly when it comes to climate change, foreign policy and immigration.

Senator Brian Schatz Editorial Board, Thursday May 5, 2016.
Sen. Brian Schatz was elected to his first six-year term Tuesday. He says he’s ready to take on Republicans and the Trump administration. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

“We need a progressive counter-revolution,” Schatz said. “We need more, not less, of the people on the streets that we’ve seen over the last couple of days. We need more, not less, of the people who believed in Bernie Sanders’ revolution. We need the kind of enthusiasm that comes from a movement.”

The reference to Sanders is interesting because Schatz endorsed Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination during the primaries when she was running against Sanders. Schatz said his comments should not be considered a repudiation of Clinton.

Democrats already have their eye on the 2018 midterm elections. Two years of President Trump, who already had historically low favorability ratings leading up to Tuesday’s election, coupled with a Republican majority in Congress could result in voter backlash.

“If we fight like hell for the people, they’ll fight like hell for us.” — Sen. Brian Schatz

But it won’t be easy, especially in the Senate, where Democrats now control 48 of 100 seats. Twenty-five of those Democratic seats will be on the ballot in 2018, and five are in deep red states. Only eight Senate seats held by Republicans are up for election in 2018.

“I think we all need to recalibrate and rethink,” Schatz said. “My own instinct right now is that anybody who claims to have an analysis about this election is moving too quickly. This is a time now to reflect on a deeper level of what went wrong as opposed to figuring out the strategies and tactics that went wrong and the personality questions. That’s not what this is about.”

But then Schatz added his own brief takeaway from Tuesday:

“The reason that voters didn’t go for Democrats, and this includes the Senate races, is that I feel that they didn’t believe us,” Schatz said. “They agree with us, but they don’t believe that we mean what we say. So I think we have to find our own passion.”

He said there will be some opportunity to work with Republicans, who will soon control the White House and both chambers of Congress. But he said Democrats in the Senate must also be prepared to push back.

“Where there’s an opportunity to collaborate, we do that, and where there’s a fight we fight like hell,” Schatz said. “If we fight like hell for the people, they’ll fight like hell for us.”

About the Author