Can just "not being Trump" really win the midterms?

The few remaining survivors of the repeal of Net Neutrality, the tax cuts and now, tonight’s State of the Union address, will find themselves crawling across a desolate landscape where they still have to somehow mount more than 400 congressional midterm campaigns. A daunting task to be sure, what with all the zombies roaming the landscape, rustling the womenfolk and raping the cattle. But we’re a tenacious nation and we should rightly expect the vote to take place despite all that.

Recent history tells us that the Democrats are going to swoop in like hawks over a pigeon coop and retake control of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate as well. That’s what happens with the party out of power in the first midterms after the Oval Office changes hands. So what pitch will Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer make to the nation, convincing them that divided government is the best type of government? At McClatchy, our friend Andrew Malcolm examines the question and seems to conclude that the minority leaders in both chambers thus far appear content to have their colleagues run on a platform of essentially just not being Trump. Is that enough?

Quick! What big midterm policy goals are Democrats driving as alternatives to Trump and the GOP? You know, the positive talking points they recite in unison day after day on every channel that will have them?

That is, the talking points other than “We’re not Trump, he’s terrible.” Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? …

By historical precedent, Trump’s party should be en route to losing at least 24 seats and House control. Remember, that chamber’s committees initiate all financial legislation and would have a free hand to subpoena and investigate any deplorables they choose.

But the president is not on the ballot. Stocks are soaring. Jobs are mounting nicely. The economy is growing at twice the rate under Obama.

This seems to be the unending tug-of-war when it comes to holding the majority or being in the minority. The party in power rightly gets the blame for everything that goes wrong and, to a much lesser degree (at least when it’s the GOP in charge), they take credit for positive news. The minority actually has it easier in some regards because there’s not nearly as much of a challenge involved in fighting from the cheap seats. If you can’t control which legislation even makes it to the floor for a vote, say nothing of what passes, critics have a hard time pinning the blame on you for much of anything beyond the occasional rhetorical misstep on the Sunday morning shows. In other words, it’s far easier to throw stones than to build something with them.

But is Andrew on to something here? Donald Trump isn’t technically on the ballot but every candidate and incumbent will be grilled as to whether or not they support the President’s vision and agenda. No matter how well things are going around the nation, if Trump is still seen as a negative by the majority of voters, that will be a headwind for GOP candidates across the board.

Yet things really do seem to be going well, at least on the domestic front. Whether it’s the unemployment numbers, the stock market, wages or consumer confidence, all the arrows are pointing in the right direction. When Barack Obama walked into the bloodbath of the 2010 midterms, the recovery was barely pushing its head above water. He could rightly claim that he didn’t cause the crash of 2007, but he’d been elected with a mandate to fix it and the results were thin gruel at best by that point. Is the landscape for November looking different enough to defy history?

It’s tempting to say that the Democrats will need to come out of their corner and be something more than just the Party of No, as they used to call the GOP when the tables were reversed. But that’s particularly dangerous right now. Proposing a major change of course when the current course seems to be taking the country to a happier place is risky at best. Not to cross swords entirely with Andrew Malcolm here, but Pelosi and Schumer may have no other choice but to run against Trump’s personality. And history tells us that it might not be a losing hand to play.