By: Doktor. Prax Evad | Contributing AOJ journalist
Democrats are honestly not making a lot of headway in the whole effort to tie Trump to illegal activities and in doing so defeat him, at least not politically. This tactic isn’t paying dividends. Most Americans have a negative view of the Mueller investigation indicating Trump and his surrogates have successfully polarized this ongoing storm. Even though a series of indictments just landed on two individuals with ties to Trump, Manafort and Cohen, the threat to Trump is not as politically severe as many on the left seem inclined to believe. Perhaps legally, Trump could face serious problems if sufficient evidence arises, but even then, an impeachment process will appear politically motivated. Republicans will have no difficulty demonstrating political motive in any impeachment proceedings by simply pointing to efforts such as those undertaken by several Democrats in the House to invalidate the 2016 election results due to Russian Collusion before the Mueller investigation had even begun. According to Republicans impeachment has been the Democrats aim all along. Whether that is true, it won’t be hard to argue effectively, thus undercutting the legitimacy of any impeachment proceedings.
Now, I won’t even attempt to take a side on the Russian collusion debate, though, apart from the Russian collusion, I will say it seems true Trump has broken at least some laws based on Cohen’s plea deal. I doubt very much this will move the needle significantly though. Honestly, who didn’t already believe that Trump had extramarital affairs and sought to cover them up? As with Clinton in the 90s, most Americans probably don’t care and I don’t blame them. This information has little bearing on Trump’s ability to serve as president. You can argue it speaks ill of his character, but apparently many Americans weren’t bothered by Trump’s bullying tactics and name-calling during his campaign, so I doubt further character attacks on Trump will be particularly lasting or damaging. Those who voted for Trump in 2016 will likely not change their votes on this information. Hillary Clinton ran a campaign largely on the flaws of Trump’s character and managed to lose the election in spite of his flaws. You could argue that’s simply because Clinton had a ton of flaws and baggage herself, which is probably at least partially true, but even so, character attacks on Trump just don’t seem particularly effective.
Democrats have been attacking Trump relentlessly for the past 2 years and while it may have enthused the base, it appears there is a floor of support through which attacks on Trump seem impervious. That floor of support lies around 40% of voters. Trump’s approval rating has never fallen more than a few points below 40% and it seems, according to FiveThirtyEight’s polling aggregate, it has held around 40% since April of 2017 with several bumps, but consistently returning to around the same level of 40% approval. This is an issue for Democrats. Trump’s tenure in office hasn’t proven to a significant portion of the electorate that Trump can’t handle the job, in fact, according to one survey, the vast majority of Trump voters don’t regret their vote at all.
What can Democrats do then? Well, for starters, stop obsessing over Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and start obsessing over what does sell broadly among the electorate. Everyone is running to the left. The Democratic party needs to find a way to live seamlessly with Socialists and Moderates under its wing. This will be a challenging task so long as politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nancy Pelosi hog the limelight and come to be most strongly associated with the Democratic brand. Democrats need more uniting figures at the helm, or else moderates will believe every Democrat is at least implicitly signing onto Democratic Socialism. I am not seeking to argue Democratic Socialism is bad or even merely a poor campaign strategy. I am seeking to argue Democrats need to not screw up in 2020 by falling into the same mistakes as they did in 2016. Democratic Socialists very easily could sweep up many working-class voters Trump won if only they weren’t contributing to the culture war with Trump. It is the culture war that Democrats are struggling with most heavily. Many Democratic policies are broadly popular among Americans after all. Bring it back to bread and butter economic revivalism and Democrats might be able to peel off some Trump voters. Alas, for now it appears Democrats are convinced they can simply turn out the base to win. And you know what, they might be right, at least in the short term, but what do you do when there’s no boogeyman Trump to help turn out your base? That’s when, barring a notable change in Democratic politics, we see drop offs in Democratic turnout again and Republicans experience more 2010 and 2014-esque waves. Someone needs to remind Democrats that although a lot of people live on the coasts, a lot of people also live in the middle of the country. These are people they should run candidates for. Historically, they were able to do that! Given how much policy action occurs at the state level, it should be noted that a lot of policy priorities are being ceded simply because Democrats aren’t running candidates that can win more rural districts.