Can Democrats find a silver lining in the massive dark cloud cast on them by Robert Mueller? Gary Meltz, a Democratic strategist in the Beltway, argues at Fox News that the Mueller report might boost Democrats more than Donald Trump in next year’s election. It will finally convince enough Democrats to stop looking to shortcut Trump and focus on beating him in the election, Meltz believes.
Well, maybe, but that’s not the only reality with which Democrats need to get in touch:
Democrats across the country are shell-shocked after learning that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report found no collusion between anyone in the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. The good news for Democrats is that the key to electoral victories in 2020,does not rest on impeaching the president for colluding with Russia. …
Another problem for Democrats is that a failed impeachment could enrage Republican voters in 2020 and drive them to the polls in masses. Not much different than how the Democrats’ efforts to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, just before the 2018 midterms, suppressed Democratic gains by motivating conservative voters.
Finally, even Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t think impeaching the president would change the underlying problems facing this nation, which she recently tweeted are “income inequality, racism, corruption, a willingness to excuse bigotry.”
While the media would love nothing more than for Congress and the White House to square off in an impeachment battle, it probably wouldn’t benefit Democrats on Election Day. Democrats may bemoan Robert Mueller’s report for now, but they may be thankful next November when they can campaign on affordable health care and economic justice – issues that motivate their voters, who are critical to taking back the Senate and the White House.
It’s an interesting argument, but nothing about it has anything to do with the Mueller report itself. Meltz’ arguments are valid, as far as they go, but all of these arguments applied before Mueller’s report too. Analysts have pointed out the lessons of 1998 practically since the end of the 2016 election. It’s been clear for months that Mueller wasn’t finding any evidence of collusion; not even his indictments against the Russians alleged any contact or coordination with any American save one, who wasn’t at all connected with Trump or the campaign. Meltz could have written the same op-ed at any time over the past 12-15 months.
He’s not entirely wrong, however. If Democrats pay attention to Mueller’s report and reset their thinking on what happened in 2016, it might prevent them from disaster next year. First, I argue in my column at The Week, they have to reject their conspiracy-thinking mythology that they got cheated in the previous presidential election:
Yet Democrats’ biggest problem is the mythology. If Trump didn’t play dirty, just how did he beat Clinton? Answering that accurately — a necessity for 2020 strategy — requires facing the truth: Clinton lost because she was a terrible candidate with an unwise campaign focused on identity, entitlement, and the progressive activist agenda. …
Clinton’s persistent focus on herself — her gender and her entitlement to the White House after her primary loss in 2008 — played to the same weakness. Rather than take the obvious opening to appeal to the center, the Clinton campaign moved hard to the left in response to Sanders’ nearly successful populist insurgency. And worst of all, Clinton followed Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 playbook in conducting a national message campaign instead of imitating former President Obama’s groundbreaking targeted organizing from 2008 and 2012.
These missteps together produced a significant recession in the Democratic vote in vital states. As I’ve noted previously, Clinton lost Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania far more actively than Trump won them. He didn’t expand the Republican footprint significantly in any of these states, a truth obscured in the GOP’s own mythology of 2016. He simply held his ground while Clinton energetically squandered Democrats’ “blue wall” advantage with her self-centered, too-progressive messaging.
In 2020, Trump will take the field in far more comfortable conditions than he enjoyed in the 2018 midterms. His critics’ credibility issues will offer ample space to rail against the “swamp” and its “evil,” “treasonous” creatures. If Democrats refuse to shut up about Russian collusion, spending more time attacking Trump than connecting to voters, they’ll doom their presidential hopes with a repeat of the mistakes of 2016. That will be especially true if their candidate trods the same progressive-identity path Clinton walked … right off the plank.
So far, Democratic candidates seem reluctant to part with that mythology. In fact, the 2020 crop of Democratic hopefuls first have to want to get past the Mueller investigation. Do they? At least for now, the answer seems to be no. And for that, Donald Trump will be most grateful.