Monday, May 21, 2018

Walking and Chewing Gum at the Same Time


Michael Tomasky wasn't pulling any punches in his latest piece in The Daily Beast. In fact, he cut right to the chase. If Democrats don't get "much tougher" on Trump and his scandals, they are going to lose the midterms. He explains,
Imagine that Hillary Clinton were president and the Republicans were investigating the Clinton Foundation, and she ordered an investigation into that investigation, charging, based on no evidence whatsoever, that the FBI had improperly infiltrated the foundation. And no, this professor is not “proof” of “infiltration.” And anyway, if the FBI has credible reason to believe a crime may have been committed, isn’t infiltration of the enterprise suspected of criminality…their job? 
Or imagine that Barack Obama had ordered an investigation into any of the various investigations of the Benghazi consular attack. Or for that matter that George W. Bush had ordered an investigation into the investigation into the Valerie Plame outing
In any of those cases, Washington would have exploded. But now this president—who, it is documented, has spent 40 years lying to and defrauding people in business, and who lies nearly every time he speaks—and his apologists have so corrupted our system that some people are discussing Trump’s move as if it’s legitimate. Just another interesting twist and turn in Donald Trump’s Washington, ha ha.
Tomasky's argument is that Democrats are ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the White House because they're worried about how they might look. Meanwhile, were the shoe on the other foot, the Republicans would be coming at them with pitchforks in hand. Such a strategy could backfire on them in the fall. He further writes,
Candidates campaigning in districts can talk about prescription drugs and other matters all they want. This will happen well below the radar of cable news shows, but voters will hear them. Meanwhile, the national party has to talk about Trump. If a narrative develops between now and November that the Democrats want to be “careful” about how they speak of Trump, core Democratic voters will be demoralized and disgusted.
I have to say Tomasky has a point. I've been thinking a lot about this lately. On the one hand, using the "I" word (impeachment) could be just the thing that motivates the GOP base to show up at the polls; on the other hand, throwing cold water on the Democratic base's hopes of removing Trump could turn the 2018 midterms into a repeat of the 2014 midterms. If you'll recall that was the year progressives decided to beam themselves up to the mothership and circle the planet while the party lost the Senate. In fact, lost would the understatement of the year. Think Little Big Horn, only bloodier.

So, how do Democrats thread this needle? And trust me, this is one helluva needle. Here's how: by walking and chewing gum at the same time. The game plan calls for Democratic candidates to mention Trump as much as possible, but avoid impeachment talk like the plague. Instead they will concentrate on the corruption within the administration and, by extension, the GOP. If this sounds familiar, it should. Democrats employed the same strategy in 2006 when they took both houses of Congress.

In a press conference Monday along with her fellow Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi said, "President Trump has become the swamp and Americans are paying the price. The American people deserve better." Chuck Schumer added his two cents, "The swamp has never been more foul than under this president."

Okay, not bad. You got the swamp word in there a couple of times. Trump promised during his campaign to drain it. Instead, he's filled it with alligators. And rather than removing Trump, Democrats will use their majority as a check on his excesses. No, it doesn't sound as sexy as an impeachment, and there's always the possibility that it will not satisfy the Tom Steyer wing of the party, who aren't just looking for red meat, they're looking for the whole damn lion. But let's face it: even if Democrats take back the House and actually impeach Trump, no way they'll get 67 votes in the Senate to convict. Like it or not, even with a Mueller indictment, they and we are stuck with Trump till at least 2021. Hence plan B.

But while they're busy pointing out how corrupt this administration is to the American electorate, it wouldn't exactly kill them to lay out an alternative vision for the country. Like for instance, why is it that Republicans have barely mentioned their singular legislative achievement: the tax law? Could it be that maybe they know that a good chuck of the middle class is going to get hosed when they do their taxes next year? Democrats would do well to hammer the GOP on this issue. Another issue they can hammer them on is healthcare, where Republicans efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act have hurt millions of people.

Look, not everyone is following the Russia investigation as closely as the pundits in Washington D.C. On Main Street, America, people's needs are much more immediate. As James Carville famously said, it's about the economy stupid. And even in an economy as strong as this, there are still people who've been left behind. Trump promised he'd take care of them. He clearly lied. Democrats have to drive that point home by hook or crook.

I've never subscribed to the theory that you put all your eggs in one basket. Democrats have an enormous opportunity to retake the House; perhaps even the Senate. To do that will take a two-pronged approach: Hit this president and his party where they live and then give voters a real choice in the midterms. It's up to them whether they punch the football into the end zone or they fumble it on the one-yard line.

History suggests the latter, but, hey, you never know. They did it once, they can do it again. Even the Cubs managed to win a World Series.

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