This might be regarded as a sequel to my piece, from last weekend, Why I Don’t Trust the Democrats to Run the Right Campaign for the Age of Trump.
My writings over the past 14 years show it clearly: I’m a worrier.
Back in 2004, I worried that something dark and destructive was rising on the right, embodied in the Bush administration.
In the next couple of years, I worried that what we were seeing, risen on the right, was a coherent and consistent force of brokenness that – if unchecked – would dismantle everything that’s best about America.
Before the end of 2009, I worried that President Obama was failing to stand up against that same force – now taking new form in the Republican opposition – and was losing his power to lead America and be the transformational President he aspired to be.
In the spring of 2016, I worried that this failure to stand up to the Republicans had reached the point that it was forfeiting the ability of the Democratic Party, and its President, to gain its rightful majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.
And now, mid-spring of 2018, I’m worrying anew — at this extremely fraught and dangerous moment, with Donald Trump wielding the powers of the President of the United States – that Liberal America is once again failing to fight the necessary battle with all the strength and boldness this crisis requires.
And here’s one clear and troubling sign of that failure: public opinion on the Mueller probe has lately been moving in the wrong direction.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported (in an article titled “The number of people who say the Mueller investigation should continue is shrinking”):
The Monmouth University poll finds 54 percent of Americans saying the special counsel’s investigation should continue, with support down from 60 percent in March and 62 percent in July. A 43 percent minority says the investigation should end, up six points since March and 10 points since last summer.
To those of us who know without any doubt that the Mueller investigation is of utmost importance to the preservation of our system of government and the rule of law, this movement of 6-10 percent of the American people away from support of this essential work should be quite sufficient to prove that more must be done to reach the American people with that essential truth.
Consider how perverse this erosion of support is!
The Mueller investigation is one of the most impressive performances we’ve ever witnessed. Historians of the future will almost surely regard the work of this prosecutorial Dream Team as a class act. This investigation has been steadily and impressively proceeding step-by-step to expose more and more criminality surrounding Donald Trump and his campaign.
But despite this ever-richer picture of many-dimensional criminality, or likely criminality, and despite the visible tightening of the net ever closer to the President himself, a number of our fellow citizens are concluding that the investigation should end.
Why would they think that?
Another still more recent poll provides a clue. As a Vox article reports:
A majority of Americans — 59 percent — say in a new survey that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia and the 2016 campaign has not yet uncovered evidence of any crimes, even though in reality, Mueller has already obtained five guilty pleas and 17 criminal indictments.
Whose fault is that?
Surely we can find responsibility among those citizens who, despite all the big “Breaking News” announced almost daily, remain ignorant. But to paraphrase former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, we don’t get to fight our political battles with the electorate we want, but are forced to campaign for support with the American people we’ve got. No point in dwelling on the shortcomings of the people, real though they may be.
In part, the fault lies in an asymmetry I wrote about several months ago: while Trump and his accomplices (in the Republican Congress and the right-wing media) shout their lies from the rooftops, Mueller and his team of investigators and prosecutors are compelled to be silent. Except through court-filings and the indictments they bring, the Mueller investigation must –by tradition and norm – remain mute.
This asymmetry dictates that to the extent that the public gets informed by the loudest and most sensational voices, they will be more influenced by Trump and his fellow-liars and less by the side that is ferreting out the truth.
But just because Mueller and company cannot stand toe-to-toe with the Trumpians in our ongoing national discourse doesn’t mean that those on Mueller’s side have no way to correct that asymmetry.
Our leaders who care about the rule of law cannot just stand on the sidelines cheering on Robert Mueller as the hero for the anti-Trump forces. He has his role to play but –because his role is mute– others must step up to voice powerfully what he cannot voice for himself.
Indeed, there are already many excellent voices speaking in support of the Mueller investigation. One hears truly outstanding people speaking on those informative and analytic programs on MSNBC. They are reaching the audience for those shows, but they are obviously not being heard by that 59% majority who believe the investigation has failed to discover any crimes.
Of course, the President has the bully pulpit to amplify his lies. But that just means that the countervailing voices – Democrats as well as those lamentably few reality-based Republicans – must raise their voices louder. They must raise their voices however much louder it takes to reach — and hopefully bring back — those people who have migrated over to the dark side in recent months.
None of which is to claim that this will be easy. But can anyone seriously claim that the leaders best in a position to oppose the President have raised the hue and cry as powerfully as can be done?
And don’t these poll numbers prove that at present the battle has turned in favor of the forces of lawlessness and the lie?
Our goal should not be just to stem the erosion, nor just to gain back the territory recently lost, but to bring as many Americans as possible to the point where they support the investigation– and will regard its findings as credible.
After those who lately turned in the wrong direction have been retrieved, we should take aim at the still-more hard-core supporters of this President, i.e. the 75% of Republicans who (according to a poll conducted by the Economist and YouGov) believe that this investigation is a “witch hunt.”
What seems incontrovertible — in view of these polls showing declining support for the investigation, ignorance of how much it has already uncovered, and a substantial proportion of the American electorate regarding all these revelations as “fake news” — is this: the anti-Trump side is losing ground in this battle, and needs urgently to intensify its battle for the hearts and minds of the American people.