The latest Democrat strategy is factually correct, but politically ineffective
Tactics reveal strategies. The Democrats have just changed both and are getting them wrong.
There has been a subtle but important shift in the objective, strategy, and tactics of the Democratic Congressional leadership.
Irrespective of the deafeningly loud case for starting impeachment proceedings (including this week’s revelation), I do not believe the Democratic leadership are about to position themselves as such.
What is, therefore, the change to the objective, the strategy, and the tactics of the Democratic leadership?
I think in the last twenty-four hours we have come closer to understanding that than anytime since Mueller.
The leadership’s objective seems to be them wanting to successfully assimilate the failures of Trump with the failure of the Republican Senate, specifically Mitch McConnell. This makes some immediate sense, of course, when the Senate and the White House are both up for grabs, then why not go for both?
In terms of the tactics that have revealed this objective, over the course of literally the last couple of days both Pelosi and Schumer have tweeted out messages against the general ineffectiveness of the current Senate, with McConnell front and centre (here and here).
In fact, in the last six of Schumer’s tweets, he has directly issued three of them to McConnell. Whereas, Pelosi, not even in the same Chamber as McConnell, is happy tweeting out pictures like this:
This is the beginning of what will be an eighteen month long counter-attack strategy whereby the Democrats will attempt to rebuff the inevitable Republican accusations that they are the ‘do-nothing Congress’. Incidentally that will be central to the Republicans attack — led by Trump, the Republicans will claim the Democrats are obsessed with investigating rather than legislating.
Let me be clear, this objective isn’t satisfactory, this strategy is ineffective and their tactics offer a grim nod to Trumpian Twitter spats.
Credit though, the Democtats are at least telling the truth. As Pelosi’s picture above shows, McConnell is border-line obsessed with blocking legislation from the House; that is factually accurate. He adopted a similar strategy under Obama of course, most famously not beginning the confirmation hearings of Merrick Garland. That, too, is factually accurate, and look at where it got the Democrats.
Furthermore, McConnell is remarkably brazed about the deliberate nature of his actions. Most recently, in paralysing the Democrat’s introduction of the Election Security Act in the House and Senate, which would literally uphold American democracy by making it harder for foreign countries to interfere. The Grim Reaper, however, is unlikely to allow the Senate to vote on it.
Why is this approach so ineffective?
The first weakness in this approach lies in peoples’ fundamental ambivalence to facts, no matter how loudly they are shouted or how often they are tweeted. It is to the shame of everyone just how easily the President of the United States goes on the record and lies — goodness knows what the long-term effects of this will be (on the office, the county, the world etc), but in the meantime, it has severely reduced peoples’ receptiveness to the power of truth.
Secondly, and this is of course linked, is that McConnell’s reputation is already wrapped up, repeating the same argument, no matter how true it is, for the next year and a half is a waste of time. He is not a man in high regard, the most rudimentary Google search has ‘Mitch McConnell turtle’ way ahead of anything to do with the 2020 election.
Jokes aside, McConnell’s favourable rating is -23, compared to Pelosi’s -12 and Chuck Schumer’s -13 . In addition, according to a Kentucky poll earlier this year, more than half of registered voters in the state disapprove of his performance and more than 60% thought it was ‘time for someone new’. Indeed, he regularly swings between the most unpopular Senator to somewhere at least in the bottom three.
The point is, the work has been done already. The Democratic leadership don’t have to spend their time doing the heavy lifting in the fight against McConnell. I mean, seriously, what more are they hoping for?
Thirdly, as the Democrats are trying to drag McConnell and Trump together in one big attack on Republican incompetence, then why not just take a step back first? McConnell, for all the power he does wield, is not the Republican nominee for President in 2020; that we can be certain of.
Instead, the Democrats have a wildly unpopular President who’s razor-thin support has haemorrhaged since he took office, particularly in those important swing states that will ultimately determine the election. Moreover, they have a President who they’ve actually beaten before — by 3 million votes!
This is an opposition candidate who brags about grabbing women’s p*ssies without their consent, who pardons his best mates even though they’ve broken the law, and who has just lost his 437th member of staff .
Ok, you may say, but voters don’t care about that? That may be true. So Democrats, how about this: Trump is the President who Kim Jong Un has on a string, he is the President raising tariffs which and hitting American workers, and he is the President that would rather let Russia decide your vote than stand up for American interests. He is not putting your America first; he is putting his America first.
If the Democratic leadership haven’t got enough material there to muster up a convincing attack strategy without having the surrogate his administration out to McConnell, then the party is in even more trouble than I thought.
Finally, and I think most importantly, the Democrats should be attacking, not counter-attacking or defending. They are in opposition against one of the most unpopular Presidents of all time after just three years in office. Once more, Trump is at his most unhinged and volatile when he is on the back foot. As soon as he is able to set the agenda, he becomes comfortable. His unrivalled command of the media (despite his espoused hatred for it) is a potent weapon. Once Trump has his tiny hands gripping onto an issue, the Democrat fight back is inevitably hopeless.
It is easy to miss this subtle change in approach from the Democratic leadership. Shouts for impeachment will rightly continue, and despite some noise from Pelosi, we are regrettably still a long way off any impeachment proceedings. Instead, both Schumer and Pelosi have begun an 18 month targeted campaign to hit Mitch McConnell, in lieu of an adequate attacking strategy towards Trump.
If the leadership are going to be insistent in their refusal to impeach, then they are surrendering their Constitutional duty as the legislative body.
If they continue with this objective, this strategy, and these tactics, then they are surrendering their political duty as members of the Democrat party.