Home National Politics Asking: How Should the Dems Run this Year?

Asking: How Should the Dems Run this Year?


This is really to pose the question. I am going to frame the question with a few thoughts to frame it, but my purpose is to elicit the thoughts of others.

To begin the frame, let me just postulate what might be obvious: that the goal of the Democratic strategy should be to maximize the power that Democrats will have in the new Congress next year. (Perhaps there is also a secondary goal of moving public opinion and understanding in ways that will help the American future even after the election– but I wouldn’t sacrifice any electoral success for that.)

And to continue the framing, I’ll assert that the central political facts of our times is that we have a monstrous president, and that the political Party that nominated and elected him has fully aligned itself with this dangerous monstrosity.

(Indeed, most of Trump’s atrocious qualities have been manifested by the Republican Party for some years, but just not so blatantly.)

But it does not necessarily follow that these central facts — which the history of this era will doubtless highlight — should be the focus of the Democrats running this year. That’s one of the central questions:

How much should the Democrats run against Trump and the Republicans? (And it what ways?) And how much should they run on the issues they’d seek to advance if they had the power? (And what issues?)

(The answers might differ from circumstance to circumstance: e.g., what should be the approach in a blue district, in a swing district, and in a district which is judged unwinnable for Democrats might all differ?)

One of the major contributors to the developing Blue Wave has been the enthusiasm gap: Democrats have been coming out in droves in the various elections held since Trump became President, while Republicans have not (perhaps showing signs of discouragement).

A Democratic strategy should surely seek to maintain that gap.

A propos of the need to maintain that gap: It is arguable that maintaining that gap means that Democrats should steer clear of mentioning impeachment — even though there is every reason to believe that this President warrants impeachment more than anyone who has ever held the office.

Trump has seized on the impeachment issue, apparently believing that talk of impeachment will gin up his otherwise not-so-motivated base. Nancy Pelosi seems to have made a similar calculation about the effects of discussing it, for she has sought to discourage Democrats from such talk for many months. And the Democrats who have won recent elections have not focused on impeachment.

Should we conclude that Democrats should refrain from impeachment talk?

I imagine so, but I’m not sure. (I do recall that Pelosi declared impeachment “off the table” back when W was President, and my belief is that this was one more manifestation of the Democratic weakness — the reluctance to do battle — that has enabled the dark force that has taken over the Republican Party to gain in power over the past generation.)

But if there is eventually to be talk of impeachment, it perhaps should await the disclosure of the findings of the Mueller investigation. To me, there is more than enough evidence already in hand to warrant an impeachment process. But the polling indicates that more Americans oppose such talk than welcome it. (My guess is that most of those people know rather little of the myriad pieces that point toward impeachable offenses. I hope that such ignorance will eventually prove remediable.)

Then there’s the question: Are there other ways that the Democrats should focus their fire on Trump, without broaching the I-word. For example, would it be useful to stress the narrative of Trump’s apparent betrayal of the nation in service of a hostile power (Russia)? Or to talk about the pervasive pattern of corruption that is emerging from the investigations by the press and by the prosecutors? Or concerns about basic competence?

A related question: Can the Democrats leave it to the daily news to keep energizing the Democratic base to show up and vote on the basis of their strong anti-Trump sentiment, without requiring any fanning of those flames by the Democratic candidates? Can Democrats win by staying clear of the central political facts of our times, just riding the activation of their voters by the regular offensive sight of what Trump and his gang are doing to the nation?

I must say, I’m a bit leery of having the Democrats wage a campaign that skirts the full-blown crisis in the nation. That’s what the Democrats did in 2014 — failing to focus the election on the Republicans indefensible across-the-board obstructionism — and it was a disaster.

Again, maybe talking up the “issues” — health care seems like one of the most effective these days — is the best strategy. Many argue for that approach. But are voters thinking in terms of issues? And if everyone’s thinking about Trump — which our national discourse seems to indicate — will a campaign that points away from him have any resonance in voters’ minds?

How should the Democrats run this year? And how optimistic are you that the Democratic Party — as a whole — will come up with the right approach?

  • Henry Howell

    Run on universal healthcare as a human right, $15
    minimum wage, college debt relief, and gun violence reform. No Democrat need mention Trump’s name. He’s baked in now.
    Focus on the specific Republican opponent, not Trump.

    • Kenneth Ferland

      Well put Henry, I tell democrats to be FOR something not just against Trump. Out voters come out to vote FOR our candidates and issues, not to vote against the opposition.

  • Henry Howell

    Running on populist issues creates the potential for a perceived mandate. Running against Trump does not further our causes at a moment when the Blue Wave can lift up people whom the Republicans have crippled and ignored.

  • Laura Lee

    And legalizing pot

  • RobertColgan

    Campaign promises are the usual pie-in-the-sky that wins over the easily-duped voters whose FEARS ARE ASSUAGED by candidates claiming they are going to be tough on crime, tough on illegal immigration, tough on foreign terrorism, tough on domestic spending, tough on holding elected officials to higher ethics, tough on keeping America safe, tough on crime, tough on illegal immigration, tough on terrorism, tough on ——-

    Whether they are Republican or Democrat, voters tend to vote for the person who promises the above, couched one way or another in their own voice. One of the reasons women have had a difficult time getting elected is the long-held notion that women are not as tough as men on the “important issues” . . . that electorate attitude, as well as covert racist attitudes are still creating an uphill slog for female candidates, though it is slowly changing and promises to change even more as women start to wake up to their need to have a say.

    I don’t care what candidates promise…….
    so long as once they get in office they start working immediately to re-institute the social and environmental safety nets dismantled by the Trump wrecking crew, fight for legitimate egalitarian justice that penalizes wrongdoers, fight for gender equality, sane gun restrictions, sane defense spending, don’t buy into the bullshit arguments that we HAVE to defend the Mideast by occupying and threatening, fight for a singlePayer MedicareForAll healthcare, and begin to focus on eliminating the terrible inequities of plutocratic oversight.

    Unfortunately……….. the track record of electing Corey Stewarts in America is a long and sordid history.

  • Keith Hubbard

    The ‘blue wave’ of 2017 discussion is not going to happen. Anger and frustration can’t be sustained for years on end. The very voters we need to create the wave will not show up on Election Day ’18. And as much as I hate to say it, you best be girding your loins for Trump in the WH until January, 2025.

    • notjohnsmosby

      Anger and frustration was sustained for four years 2005-2008. 2005 saw Democrats elect Tim Kaine and took some Delegate and Senate seats, 2006 was Webb over Allen, 2007 Dems retook the state Senate and got a bunch more Delegates elecfed, 2008 saw three House pickups and Obama taking Virginia.

      So, with that fairly recent history, why do you think it wont’ happen again? Dems are far more fired up now against Trump than they ever were against Bush, and the blowback against Bush was pretty intense.

      • I agree 100% on this with notjohnmosby; from 2005 to 2008, Democratic anger against the Iraq war, Bush, etc. was intense, and we went on a huge winning streak. Not sure why it would be any less intense this time, with the heinous Trump in the White House.

      • Keith Hubbard

        Let’s be honest, the last statistic you sited was ten years ago, and that is ancient history in the world of politics. If you have checked out Nate Silver’s 538.com you will see that ‘the Donald’ is at his highest approval rating to date in his Presidency. The ‘blue wave’ has been stemmed before it even started. If Dems pick up the 10th that will be a great day for us in the Commonwealth. No other seat in Virginia will flip in this cycle.

        • notjohnsmosby

          Trump is in the low 40s, about where he has been for a year.

          I’m not guaranteeing a repeat of 2005-2008, but it’s a far likelier chance of happening then Dems and Independents saying fuck it and letting Republicans do what they want for the next six years. Every data point, including the primaries 5 days ago, continue to point to a very good year for Dems.

          Just because Trumpers out in the sticks where you live continue to support the baboon doesn’t mean that he’s getting more popular. It just means you live around a bunch of Republicans who are trying to dig in the best they can. What little support Trump had in places like NoVA is fading pretty quickly.

          • Agreed, particularly on the point of Dems and Independents saying “f*** it and letting Republicans do what they want for the next six years.” No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

  • Henry Howell

    Go Robert.

  • Roger Miller

    Republicans have 2 religions. Pro-life and 2nd Amendment. Pro-life households get replenished every Sunday morning. Solid voting unit. On the other hand, 2nd Amendment households are fragmentable. There are votes to be had within these households if every Dem espouses reasonable gun safety positions (“Moms … whatever”). As long as Mr. Testosterone doesn’t go all Carlton Heston because of something he heard some Dem say, there are mothers and daughters who could swing our way. Just need to keep the decibels down.