Weav­ing a ‘blue wave’ from im­peach­ment fan­tasies

The Democrats nurse fevered anti-Trump dreams in ad­vance of the midterms and in spite of his­tory

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By David A. Keene

Democrats are con­vinced that the “blue wave” they’ve been count­ing on to set the stage for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s im­peach­ment in a House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives they con­trol is out there and build­ing. They con­tinue to en­joy a four to six point “generic” ad­van­tage in the polls, and there is ev­i­dence that their vot­ers are more anx­ious to turn out and vote than their Repub­li­can coun­ter­parts — two in­di­ca­tors that com­bine with the me­dia’s con­tin­u­ing ef­fort to de­mo­nize Mr. Trump to give them more than a fight­ing chance to take the House.

Midterm elec­tions are de­cided not by in­de­pen­dents and ca­sual vot­ers, but by more com­mit­ted par­ti­sans and don’t tell us much about how the next pres­i­den­tial con­test will go. Con­gres­sional Democrats suf­fered in­cred­i­ble losses in 1994 and 2014, but Pres­i­dents Clin­ton and Obama were both hand­ily re-elected two years later. Their party’s midterm de­feats didn’t keep them from a sec­ond term, but doomed much of what they had hoped to get through Congress from the day their op­po­nents were sworn in.

In 2014, the Repub­li­can base was so op­posed to Mr. Obama that the mere men­tion of his name was enough to get them to drag them­selves to the polls. They didn’t like him and de­tested his agenda. He was their “get out the vote” pro­gram and it worked, giv­ing Repub­li­cans vic­to­ries at all lev­els. This year the shoe is, as they say, on he other foot. Don­ald Trump is the Demo­crat’s Barack Obama; they can’t wait to get to vent their anger at Mr. Trump by vot­ing against his Repub­li­can al­lies.

Vic­tory is far from guar­an­teed, how­ever, be­cause many of to­day’s Democratic lead­ers are stak­ing out po­si­tions so ex­treme that they are risk­ing driv­ing away some of the vot­ers they can usu­ally count on. Repub­li­cans faced a sim­i­lar prob­lem when purely ide­o­log­i­cal can­di­dates who split rather than united Repub­li­can vot­ers al­lowed Democrats to hold onto seats they might oth­er­wise have lost in 2014.

Rhetor­i­cal over-reach can be a real prob­lem in a cam­paign and that is ex­actly what we’re wit­ness­ing to­day as Democratic can­di­dates and their fel­low-trav­el­ling pun­dits tout “so­cial­ism,” de­clare their de­sire to im­peach a pres­i­dent, raise taxes and con­tinue to at­tack not the can­di­dates with whom they dis­agree, but the vot­ers who sup­port them.

In fo­cus­ing on Mr. Trump’s per­son­al­ity and tweets rather than his poli­cies, Democrats are ask­ing vot­ers to ig­nore the econ­omy and any other suc­cesses for which he tries to take credit be­cause he’s a bad guy who shouldn’t be pres­i­dent. By fo­cus­ing al­most ex­clu­sively on his real and imag­ined foibles, they are forced to ar­gue not for a dif­fer­ent agenda, but for sup­port in their ef­fort to drive the man from of­fice. That may prove to be a step too far even for many vot­ers who share their dis­taste for Mr. Trump.

Democratic lead­ers rec­og­nize the dan­gers they face in play­ing to an ide­o­log­i­cal base with­out turn­ing off vot­ers who haven’t bought into the ag­gres­sive “pro­gres­sive” agenda their ac­tivist fringe holds so dear, but haven’t quite fig­ured out how to do it. They warn of the po­ten­tial back­lash of mak­ing the midterms a ref­er­en­dum not on Mr. Trump’s poli­cies and per­son­al­ity, but on whether they should be em­pow­ered to im­peach him. But those warn­ings are be­ing ig­nored by the fire­breathers among them. Even one as out of touch with re­al­ity as Nancy Pelosi re­al­izes that while calls for im­peach­ment feel good to Democrats who would like to force Mr. Trump out of of­fice, it’s bad pol­i­tics and could strengthen rather than weaken the Repub­li­can ef­fort to hold the House. She knows, too, that when Repub­li­cans in the 1990s de­cided to im­peach Bill Clin­ton, it back­fired.

The par­al­lels are in­ter­est­ing. Both Mr. Clin­ton and Mr. Trump are un­der at­tack from their op­po­nents be­cause of busi­ness deal­ings that took place be­fore they en­tered the White House and lying about and cov­er­ing up sex­ual mis­con­duct that would have proved em­bar­rass­ing to them dur­ing their re­spec­tive cam­paigns. Both men ar­ranged to pay “hush” money to women with whom they’d had af­fairs. The only real dif­fer­ence is that Mr. Clin­ton con­tin­ued his af­fairs while he was pres­i­dent and the de­fend­ers of both claim that what­ever per­sonal mis­takes they made shouldn’t de­tract from their per­for­mance as pres­i­dent.

As the at­tempt to drive Mr. Clin­ton from of­fice took cen­ter stage back then, the pub­lic re­al­ized that his op­po­nents wanted to drive the pres­i­dent from of­fice not out of moral ou­trage at his busi­ness deal­ings and af­fairs, but be­cause they thought they could ex­ploit both to gain a po­lit­i­cal up­per hand. It didn’t work then, and Democrats and Repub­li­cans who lived through it then can­not re­ally be­lieve that it’ll work now.

What was it that they say about those who fail to learn from his­tory?

In fo­cus­ing on Mr. Trump’s per­son­al­ity and tweets rather than his poli­cies, Democrats are ask­ing vot­ers to ig­nore the econ­omy and any other suc­cesses for which he tries to take credit be­cause he’s a bad guy who shouldn’t be pres­i­dent.


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