There are two media memes that you annoyingly hear and see on a regular basis and both of them are totally false on multiple levels but, unsurprisingly, damaging to Democrats.
The first of these memes is that “Democrats need a message that’s more than just running against Trump for the midterms”. You hear this from both the left and, predictably, right media environments. I swear I must hear this from Chuck Todd at least three times a week on MTP daily or elsewhere.
This theme is so bogus on two distinct levels. First, have any of the people saying this paid any detailed attention to the special and regular elections over the last year? In Alabama, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and elsewhere, not one Democratic candidate has run with opposing Trump as their major campaign promise. In fact, besides focusing on the needs of the people they hope to represent, the predominant theme among virtually all these Democratic candidates is increasing access to health care and instituting some reasonable gun control laws. Most of them have said they will be happy to work with Trump if his policies will help their state/district and oppose him when they don’t.
But the “need a message” analysis is also wrong on another level. The reality is that Trump will be the determinative issue in the fall campaign. For whatever reason, even though polls show that most voters prefer unified government, the reality is that divided government seems to be our predominate state. From the end of World War II until 2016, Americans had elected a divided government 62% of the time. That means that providing a check on Trump is at least part of what is driving suburban Republican voters, especially women, to abandon Republicans in these most recent elections. Whether Democrats openly say opposing Trump is important or not, it will be overriding context of these midterms.
Even more bizarrely, the last people to run on a message primarily opposing the presumed President were the Republicans in 2016. John McCain ran an ad in his Senate race saying “If Hillary Clinton is elected president, Arizona will need a senator who will act as a check, not a rubber stamp, for the White House.” In upstate New York, Republican Claudia Tenney won an open seat by claiming she would “stand up to Hillary Clinton.” Lindsey Graham was equally explicit, saying, “If there’s ever a time for a check-and-balance argument, it’s now.” That turned out to be a reasonably successful strategy for the GOP.
Now, I will admit that the Democrats will certainly need a message for the 2020 presidential campaign. But again, have any of these pundits being paying attention? The majority of the presumptive Democratic contenders are all behind some version of Medicare for all. Sanders is floating a guaranteed jobs program. Booker and Sanders support legalizing marijuana. Gillibrand is proposing a national postal bank. You can be sure that increased education funding will also be a theme for every Democrat. Democrats have plenty of original, progressive ideas and will have no problem crafting a message for 2020 far beyond just opposing Trump.
Just for kicks, let’s contrast that with what is going on in the GOP. Their fraudulent wonk, Paul Ryan, is retiring. Most of their candidates are specifically running on an almost blind support for Trump. GOP Senate hopeful Todd Rokita illustrated the Republican’s depth of policy ideas by saying the way to solve the opioid crisis was more tax cuts because people will then have a better life and not want to do drugs. The plan to run on the popularity of the tax cuts had to be abandoned because it is so unpopular. Perhaps the reality is that it is the Republicans who really need a message.
The second annoying and bogus meme is that the Democrats should stop talking about impeachment because it will only solidify Republican support for Trump. And again, this comes from both the left and the right. And, again, have any of these pundits been focused on what Democrats are really saying? Last year, there were a handful of Democrats in the House who were pushing impeachment. And, yes, Tom Steyer is out there banging that drum, but even he has moved beyond it. So far this year, you hardly hear that word coming out of mouths of any Democratic candidates at all, even when discussing the potential firing of Mueller.
In fact, the people talking the most about impeachment are Republicans. Orrin Hatch brought up the “I” word just a few days ago in regards to Trump firing Mueller. A handful of prominent, conservative House Republicans want to impeach Rod Rosenstein. In Pennsylvania, Republicans are trying to impeach the State Supreme Court members who rules the state’s districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered.
The GOP has an interest in talking up the threat of impeachment in order to motivate their base. Having pundits pushing the meme of that mythical threat only helps their cause. Yes, a large part of the Democratic base would like to see Trump impeached. And that’s probably true of a majority of their candidates. But that’s not going to happen with a Republican House and Senate so any talk of impeachment is entirely premature. There is no indication that impeachment will become a litmus test for the Democrats in the primaries and, even if it does, it is easily deflected by the fact that, with the map the way it is, Democrats will never get the 66 votes they need in the Senate to convict. Democrats realize impeachment is a dead end that will only fire up the GOP base which is why they are specifically avoiding talking about it.
Most Democratic supporters realize that the way forward is to at least win the House in this cycle. With that platform, they can then use the investigative and subpoena power they have to pursue the ever-present Trump administration scandals. That tactic has worked exceedingly well for Republicans over the years and is actually far more effective than a failed impeachment in terms of weakening Trump and the Republicans in 2020.
These two annoying and false media memes represent the inherent, traditional views of a large segment of the mainstream media. The “messaging” meme is reflective of the long-standing “Democrats in disarray” story line that can be always trotted out when a party with as many diverse interests as the Democratic party shows any internal discord. It is also reflective of a theme that took hold back in the Reagan era that somehow the Republicans were “the party of ideas”. Forty years later, the same two ideas, unfunded tax cuts and screwing the poor, keep on get trotted out but the moniker still manages to stick.
The “no impeachment” meme again represents the idea that the Democrats always, and I mean always, must be the adults in the room. Let’s face it, based on the evidence already out there, there is no doubt that Trump has engaged in impeachable offenses. Certainly, the obstruction of justice case against him is a slam dunk. And virtually everyone assumes that any peak inside Trump’s businesses will uncover some criminality. And that’s not even considering the case for collusion and the dozens of contacts the Trump campaign had with the Russians, a number unprecedented in modern electoral history, never reported to the FBI, and continually lied about.
Yes, impeachment is a political process, not a criminal one. But the ever-present desire for “centrist solutions” by the pundit class means that the minority 46% of the populace that voted for Trump must have their will respected despite everything we see and know. I also have no doubt that, if the shoe were on the other foot, we would be hearing the same pundits who are critical of the Democrats today saying that Republicans have a pretty good case for impeachment based on what we already know.
Originally published at tidalsoundings.blogspot.com on April 28, 2018.