In all of the great stories of our lives and our planet, it's always darkest before the storm and the dawn. And the fight is never even. The good guys are far outnumbered, way outgunned and — hardest of all — handicapped by a conscience.
So it is in 2017, when a ragtag team of Democrats must rise to save our world.
In the coming age of Trump, the rebels will hold the thinnest veneer of political power — the minority 48 seats in the Senate.
But they can still have influence. Just remember that tiny group that called itself the Tea Party back in 2009 and 2010 — before its members organized themselves into the formidable hard right that now holds Congress on a short leash.
To make this ragtag Democrat influence count, we must be passionate, disciplined, organized. Perhaps above all, we must act with more single-minded determination — think cut-throatiness, to coin a term in the style of Stephen Colbert. In other words, we will have to play more like Republicans than Democrats.
And in listening to new Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., we may be ready — with one difference. More on that difference later.
In a 23-minute address to Congress on Tuesday, Schumer put the GOP and President Elect Donald Trump on notice.
"Many Americans are afraid, Mr. President-elect, that instead of rolling up your sleeves and forging serious policies for you, Twitter suffices."
Tweet-bragging about 800 jobs saved at the Carrier plant in Indiana (it really wasn't that many) "doesn't solve the underlying problem," Schumer said. It's not a re-manufacturing policy, and it's not an economic policy.
Democrats are "going to hold the President-elect accountable," Schumer promised. And the GOP Congress, too, he later told MSNBC. "We're going after their nominees. All of them."
He pointedly talked about Trump's pledge not to go after Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, but his Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Price "made his career" on cutting and/or privatizing all of those services that taxpayers self-fund."
The minority leader acknowledges that Republicans will win more often than not, but the ragtag band of Democrats will "raise our voices" and "rally the American people" to hold Trump accountable for his wild promises — 5 percent to 6 percent a year economic growth, lower unemployment, new jobs, smarter trade and foreign policy advances.
Frankly, Trump's already at a disadvantage, with big shoes to fill — and not with water drained from the swamp.
It is completely unclear how Trump's proposals — repealing Obamacare, giving tax cuts to the wealthy and gutting government offices and programs — will help those in hard-hit rust-belt states who put him in office. Consider the reality of what he must best:
From Barack Obama's first month in office through late 2016, stock markets rose 180 percent, corporate profits rose 112 percent, auto sales rose 85 percent, consumer sentiment rose 60 percent, home prices rose 24 percent, real G.D.P. (economic growth) climbed 15 percent, job growth rose 8 percent — and no that wasn't just population growth. The unemployment rate fell from 7.8 percent to 4.6 percent. The number of uninsured Americans dropped by 39 percent. The national debt rose 88 percent but — BUT — the federal deficit dropped by a whopping 58 percent.
Democrats also have a secret weapon. Bernie Sanders. The king of organizers is the new Outreach Chair for Senate Democrats. In other words, he'll be taking the message to the people and bringing the people back to the table.
"To stop Trump [from pushing policies that will hurt Americans] we have to have an-out-of-the-beltway strategy. We have to get out and organize the people" to come together and tell the Republicans they are not hearing the ordinary citizens they represent, Sanders told MSNBC on Tuesday night.
But the big question is do the Dems have the discipline to do this. Do they have the discipline to stifle the better angels on their shoulders and act like the Republicans who for the better part of a decade made themselves say Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi in three sets of 10 every hour on the hour?
We've believed for years now that when people say "Washington is broken," it really means "Congress is broken."
Last week's House ethics dust-up brought this fact home yet again. Today, it looks like 2017 will be the year for a new chant: "Washington's swamp drain is broken." Given the look of Trump's cabinet picks, the drain is being cemented shut.
Actually, all of this swamp talk is probably unfair. It give swamps a bad name. But seriously — you've got to know it's a bad day in D.C. when a Donald Trump tweet borders on being a voice of reason to back House GOP members away from an effort to gut the office of ethics that keeps them on the straight and narrow.
What the the ragtag truth fighters must always remember is that in all of the great stories of our lives, the good guys overcome the odds that threaten them without giving up their souls.
In this parable, that means Democrats will be able to fight, resist and overcome without losing their gut instinct to do what elected leaders are supposed to do: Govern.
Democrats — in this story, at least — will walk the tight rope of fighting Trump tooth and nail, yet not become like the Republicans who bloodied the Obama administration. Our good guys, we hope, will not become the party of "no."