SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats Should Run on Impeachment

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Democrats are already counting their electoral chickens for the midterms — but their unwillingness to lay out a clear agenda may be about to hand the party their second devastating defeat in two years.

Everyone is playing the Special Election Game.

Tealeaf readers are obsessed. Does last November’s Democratic win in the Virginia governor’s race presage a Blue Wave or was it simply a reflection of ongoing red-to-purple demographics? Should we be surprised that Alabama sent a Democrat (albeit a conservative one) to the Senate — or that he nearly lost to an alleged pedophile? What about the latest contest in Pennsylvania — would a Democratic upset in a GOP congressional district spell the beginning of the end for Donald Trump? Or nothing much at all?

Every midterm election is characterized as a referendum on the incumbent president. But the polarization vortex that is this unique president has raised the stakes far beyond the usual handicapping parlor game.

The rising suspicion that special counsel Robert Mueller may not be able to build enough of a Russia collusion and/or corruption case to bring down the president himself, only some of his associates, has Democrats terrified and appalled. For those who believe that Trump represents an existential threat to democracy and its replacement by a permanent new American authoritarianism, the republic’s last, only, best hope before It Does Happen Here is impeachment — but that would only be possible if and after Democrats have retaken control of Congress next year. Only a few Democrats have implied — though not promised — that they might impeach the president if voters put them back in charge. For Trump-hating Democrats, everything hangs upon winning back Congress and hoping their newly elected officials do the right thing.

70% of Democrats say they want the House of Representatives to hold impeachment hearings.

Democratic strategists are counting on a favorable enthusiasm gap this November, driven in large part by liberals who despise Trump. They pointed to another tealeaf: Texas’s early primary voting, where Democratic turnout was double that of 2014. Republican turnout was lower.

But then came election day. Never mind early voting; Republican voters flooded the polls when and where it mattered, on March 6th — by a three-to-two margin. Democrats lost.

Republicans remain fiercely loyal to Trump, with as many as 90% approving of the president’s job performance. (Trump can only claim the support of 9% of Democrats.) The greater the likelihood of a Democratic sweep, the more GOP voters will back up Trump if for no other reason than to deny liberals the satisfaction of removing a Republican president.

“Most conservatives consume pro-Trump media, which will downplay or distort virtually anything Mueller or the mainstream press discovers,” Peter Beinart wrote in The Atlantic in December. “And the more aggressively Democrats push for Trump’s removal, the easier it will be for Breitbart and Sean Hannity to rally Republicans against a ‘left-wing coup.’”

The problem for those who’d like to see Trump legislatively hobbled after 2018 is that, as Musa al-Gharbi noted in The New York Times, Democrats are divided into two camps. There are establishment “Hillary voters” who reliably support any Democratic nominee, and rebellious pro-Bernie Sanders left populists who only show up to vote when the Democratic candidate is credibly progressive. Anti-Trumpism is widespread and evokes passionate responses among Democrats yet its motivational power is effectively canceled out by the party’s disunity. As a result, “There does not seem to be an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans.”

The solution for Democrats seems evident: increase the enthusiasm gap by shoring up their left populist base.

First, Democrats should nationalize the midterm elections the way Newt Gingrich did with his “Contract for America” in 1994.

Conservatives vote Republican because they think Democrats favor redistributionist policies like a more progressive tax system, a single-payer healthcare system and a robust minimum wage. Progressives don’t show up at general elections because Democratic politicians don’t actually push for those things. There’s much to gain and little to lose by laying out an unapologetically liberal series of campaign promises focused on addressing the problems of the poor and middle class, as well as such scandalously neglected crises as the opioid epidemic, excessive military spending and out-of-control college tuition costs.

Democrats could also steal some of Trump’s nationalist thunder by promising to prioritize labor and the environment in international trade agreements.

Party leaders are understandably reluctant to stamp a one-size-fits-all platform across an ideologically diverse series of contests, including many where conservative Democrats have to run in red districts. But they can’t avoid it. As they did in 2014 and 2010, Republicans will nationalize the midterms by framing their opponents as lapdogs of a radical “San Francisco liberal” — House minority leader Nancy Pelosi — and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, a slick New Yorker. Democrats had might as well own it.

Similarly, Republicans will say that Democrats are coming to take away their guns, their freedoms and their president — so they must defend him. Who cares if Pelosi says impeachment is “not someplace that I think we should go” if Democrats take back the majority? No one who listens to Rush Limbaugh will ever hear her.

Since they won’t lose any swing voters by doing so, but they would generate enthusiasm among their currently weak progressive left flank, Democrats had might as well own impeachment too.

Everyone already knows that November is all about impeaching Trump. If the Democrats really want to win, the first promise in their national platform for the 2018 midterms ought to be a clear, unequivocal pledge to get rid of the president.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

6 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats Should Run on Impeachment

  1. Nah dude, I’m not feeling it. It’s not necessary, we can win without campaigning on that, and it gives his base a boost. It’s the policies that do it for our side. But we’ve got to go big. Universal Income, Universal Healthcare, and Universal Education are the bedrock three, with all the other extra goodies we can cook up.

    Big promises have to be made and real change has to come. Some of that 1%er wealth has got to flow to the people, as it should have and would have been doing, if only wages had kept up with productivity over the last 40 odd years.

    And don’t give me that “The Market” and “The Economy” and “World Events – Oh My!” crap.

    It’s greed. They could have paid us more. But they didn’t. They took it for themselves.

    And now, the wheel is turning.

    • «Universal Income, Universal Healthcare, and Universal Education are the bedrock three, with all the other extra goodies we can cook up.» DNC Democrats running on such a platform, Aaron ? I’ll believe when I see it – and after having my eyesight thoroughly examined. From what I see now, they’re more into «Hope and Change», which doesn’t cost anything – more than a few thousand million in campaign expenses – to peddle….

      Henri

      • Not yet they aren’t; that’s the point, that’s why I’m trying to reach out to a thought leader like Ted.

  2. «Since they won’t lose any swing voters by doing so, but they would generate enthusiasm among their currently weak progressive left flank, Democrats had might as well own impeachment too.» Well, Ted, you’re there at ground zero and I, thankfully, am not, but the impression I get from daily reading journals like the New York Times and the Washington Post is that the people most interested in impeaching Mr Trump are not the «weak progressive left flank» (to the degree that such exists) of the Democratic Party, but the DNC types. (I realise that Ms Pelosi has advised against pursuing impeachment and that it’s hard to get more DNC than that, but that, I submit, is because she recognises the obstacles to impeachment, some of which have been pointed out by falco below….)

    Besides, while both DNC types and progressives would, I’m sure, be glad to see Mr Trump go, I suspect it would be difficult to waken much enthusiasm for Michael Richard Pence as US president – or, in the event that the steely-eyed one were also to be brought down in the general debacle, Paul Davis Ryan («Progressives for Ryan» would indeed be cool, but I understand that post-modernism is on its way out)….

    Would it not be better for progressives to run and support candidates on the politics – further tax cuts for the rich, the abolition of programmes to support the poor and to at least hinder the further destruction of the environment, etc, etc, which are not merely the signature of Mr Trump and his administration, but of the Republican Party as a whole ? How about making net neutrality an issue, which would certainly engage at least some of Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum’s more libertarian enthusiasts (not that I imagine that your pals of the type «American Teacher» would abandon Mr Trump for so minor an issue as free speech ; they are obviously far more concerned with (an odd interpretation of) the US Constitution’s Second Amendment than with its First) ?…

    By all means, if Mr Trump can be found guilty of the «treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors» mentioned in Article 2, Section 4 of the US Constitution, then get rid of him, but running on a promise of an impeachment seems to me to be a chimera, which will act to discourage, rather than enthuse, all but the most DNC faithful….

    Henri

  3. 1) IT has ALREADY happened here … and I don’t mean His Hairness but the terminal societal malady that, straight-faced, gave us the “choice” of Herr Hair (R-Corporate Swamp) v. HRC (D-Goldman Sachs).

    2) Even IF the Dems miraculously took back the House, given proven, historical spinelessness (but with actual, valid articles of impeachment), nothing is guaranteed but lame excuses and sanctimonious “pledges” to “work with the president.”

    3) Impeachment is a indictment. His Hairness can only be removed from office by 67 votes from the senate that is the jury for the trial based on any such House indictment.

    4) The Dems have 47 seats in the senate. They can only pick up 10 seats (8 GOP, 2 Indep) in the 2018 mid-term elections. All the rest of the 33 seats up for re-election belong to Dems. 
To expect 10 Republicans to vote to convict a Republican president is as much a flight of fantasy as insisting that Rootin’ Tootin’ Putin manipulated the Dem convention to nominate US modern history’s second least popular presidential candidate … THEN made the HRC campaign forget about the concept of the electoral college. (Of course with the chronic presence among the Dem senate “caucus,” of 12-15 essential Republicans, to reasonably expect a conviction vote, a Dem majority of 79-82 seats would be needed.)

    5) Therefore, for the Dems to run on impeachment of His Hairness would only prove, yet again, that the Dems hold their voters in utter contempt.

    6) Despite 1-5, above, I DO agree that the Dems SHOULD run on impeachment for the 2018 mid-terms: that is, impeachment of each and every one, of the considerable number of ardent and vigorous suckers of corporate ass among THEIR OWN CAUCUS !!!

  4. > Democrats Should Run on Impeachment

    What an interesting proposal from a column which routinely defends the POTUS. If I understand correctly: Democrats should run on impeachment while studiously ignoring the most impeachablest offense possible: conspiring with an unfriendly state to undermine the very foundation of democracy.

    OTOH…

    One could take a page out of Salamander Greengrinch’s playbook and capitalize on the Prez’s sexual misconduct. Except that those who were most offended by Clinton’s peccadillo have already given Komrade Trumpinov a free pass on much bigger offenses.

    Or one could try to convict him on charges of financial misconduct. Except that he’s been financially misconducting himself for decades without ever being convicted of anything serious.

    Or one could turn him over to the ICC for war crimes. Except that we’ve overlooked such crimes when committed by several of the last few presidents.

    Profiteering? We let President Dick (“Dick”) Cheney walk free on far more flagrant violations.

    Or, yeah, y’know, we could try the new approach which actually has some traction.

    Personally, I think his taste in interior decorating should be an impeachable offense, but nobody listens to me. 😉

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