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?