Democrats have a single goal when it comes to Donald Trump : impeachment. Their strategy is likewise clear: Resist! What no one seems to ask is whether resistance is really the best path to the House majority Democrats would need to pass articles of impeachment.
Democrats do have a few things going for them this year. On average, the party that holds the White House loses 30 seats or so in midterm elections—and the GOP has only a 24-seat majority. Moreover, 35 House Republicans are leaving their seats, more than twice the number of Democrats who are.
That’s not all. The intense dislike for Mr. Trump energizes the Democratic base the way Barack Obama energized the Republican one. Many swing districts will be in suburban areas where the vote margin may be decided by college-educated women, one of Mr. Trump’s weakest demographics.
But the idea that Mr. Trump’s unpopularity makes a blue wave inevitable overlooks some Republican advantages. Mr. Trump’s popularity is beginning to move upward with the growing economy, which points to a key weakness in the Resist! strategy:
Because the tax reform passed without a single Democratic vote, good news about the economy is bad news for Democratic candidates. It further means the Democratic message is rooted in enabling Washington dysfunction, because they cannot run as people willing to reach across the aisle to get things done.
It’s too early to know how last week’s failure to pass an immigration bill will play out politically. But if Mr. Trump goes around the country saying he offered to compromise but Democrats refused because they’d rather have a political issue, that could hurt them too. Especially because he will remind voters this is the same party willing to shut down the government for people here illegally.
There’s also the problem of candidates. Among this year’s crop of Democratic hopefuls are some military veterans. But it’s not a uniform message. A progressive Democrat backed by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is targeting seven-term Rep. Dan Lipinski in Chicago, a pro-life Democrat who voted against ObamaCare.
If the goal is a Democratic majority, purity campaigns are a distraction. When Rahm Emanuel was engineering the party’s retaking of the House in 2006, his strategy was to settle on a candidate who would be competitive in the district (even if not as liberal as the party would like) and then reduce the primary bloodshed.
It’s not clear Democrats are following that path today. In the California district where Republican Darrell Issa is retiring, for example, five Democrats are vying to replace him. Does anyone believe that in this competition a centrist Democrat will rise to the top?
In California, there’s an added problem: Under the state’s jungle-primary law, the two largest vote getters run in the general even if they are from the same party. So California Democrats are worried that their five candidates may split the vote and send two Republicans into November contention.
Finally there’s Mr. Trump. Even with his recent bump in the polls, he remains divisive. But he’s not the only divisive politician who will figure in this election. The most recent Politico/Morning Consult poll suggests that Nancy Pelosi has pulled off a largely unheralded achievement: In the Age of Trump, she is arguably the most unpopular politician in America.
What does that mean for impeachment? Well, in 69 House districts surveyed by the Congressional Leadership Fund (a super PAC devoted to maintaining the GOP majority), Mrs. Pelosi is underwater in every one. She is also toxic among independents.
Take California’s 10th District, held by Republican Jeff Denham. Hillary Clinton carried this district in 2016, and Mr. Trump’s approval rating is at minus four. But again, Democrats are split among eight primary contenders. And the CLF survey showed that voters in Mr. Denham’s district prefer Paul Ryan as speaker to Mrs. Pelosi by 13 points.
Come this fall, expect many GOP ads featuring Mrs. Pelosi calling tax cuts for workers “crumbs” and reminding voters that even if they find their Democratic candidate for the House reasonable, a vote for him will be a vote for Speaker Pelosi.
Of course it’s still early, and the polls remain volatile. The received orthodoxy may well turn out to be true, and the blue tsunami will wash over Congress in November, which will be followed by President Trump’s impeachment the following year.
Even so, the Resist! card remains a huge gamble. If Democrats cannot take back the House or Senate in an election year when they enjoy many advantages, they will wake up Nov. 7 in worse shape than when Mr. Trump beat Mrs. Clinton. And they will then enter the 2020 race without the White House, without either chamber of Congress and without a message.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To subscribe to Israel Commentary: Send your email address to:
https://israel-commentary.org – complete list of recent articles
Facebook: 1. Jerome S. Kaufman
2 .Israel Commentary