House Dems: Maybe we should stop talking about Trump all the time

AP Photo/Ben Gray

In the aftermath of the red wave in the November elections and amid national shifts toward the GOP in the generic ballot, some of the more moderate Democrats in the House are privately suggesting that another campaign based on nothing more than “not being Donald Trump” is probably not going to work out for them. Or at least that’s the gist of one analysis from Axios. Several Democratic lawmakers have been shifting the topics they highlight on social media in recent weeks, with some resorting to the old axiom about how “all politics is local.” But if that turns out to be the new game plan, liberals face a couple of obvious challenges. How will you change the topic when your friends in the media are still constantly talking about Trump at every opportunity? And if you’re changing the subject, what will you change it to that might make you more popular?

Democrats are privately concerned nationalizing the 2022 mid-terms with emotionally-charged issues — from Critical Race Theory to Donald Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection — will hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.

  • The push by centrist lawmakers, especially from the suburbs, to keep the conversation away from Trump is frequently derailed by the party’s loudest voices — and their insistence to talk about him at every turn.
  • “People don’t want to hear about Donald Trump,” Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.), told Axios. “They’re going to vote because they want to see people get sh-t done.”
  • “All politics is local,” Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) tweeted last week. “Whether it’s advocating for the equitable redevelopment of Gwinnett Place Mall, or securing funding for our local trailway system, every day I am working in Congress for our community.”

One bit of reality that seems to be sinking in among Democrats is that they can’t simply ride on a wave of anti-Trump angst for another election cycle when Donald Trump is no longer in office. Many Dem office-holders are only where they are because Trump drove a huge surge in voting in both directions. There is no urgency among the liberal base to get fired up about Donald Trump and the Never-Trumpers on the right are not going to be rushing out to vote for Democrats again. (Well, with the possible exception of Joe Walsh.)

As I mentioned above, changing the channel and just trying to ignore Trump won’t be easy. On any given day you can turn on CNN or MSNBC and still see multiple segments featuring the previous president’s name and visage. When a candidate shows up for an interview, if that’s the topic of the da,y they’re going to be asked about it. Convincing the cable news mavens to zip their lips about Donald Trump isn’t going to be easy because most of them are basically addicted to him at this point.

And if you do push for a new conversation, what will it be about? All of the liberal pablum making the rounds on the national level doesn’t look very promising. The Axios analysis claims that the focus on Trump and arguments over things like Critical Race Theory will “hamstring their ability to sell the local benefits of Build Back Better.” Unfortunately for them, we’ve been tracking the polling numbers pretty closely and most people don’t know much about BBB, but what they do know they don’t much care for. The other “big ideas” among progressives fare even worse. Critical Race Theory is not at all popular except in the most elite liberal circles and the entire idea of defunding or abolishing the police is being pilloried even in traditionally blue urban areas. You can run a campaign on fixing the potholes on the streets, and that’s a very necessary job, but it’s not going to have throngs of people showing up at rallies to hear you talk about it.

We will soon be heading into January and the midterms will be truly underway. Everyone considering a run for the House or Senate is going to have to figure out their talking points and come up with a plan to sell themselves to the voters. You can repeat the mantra about all politics being local all you like, but this is the 21st century. That’s not nearly as true as it used to be when most of the country is tuned in on social media and being fed doses of national political drama on a daily basis. Between pandemic restrictions, rising crime rates, and the various disasters that have emerged from Joe Biden’s handling of the country this year, it’s difficult to see a blue wave suddenly emerging.