Viewpoint: Democrats should not shirk impeachment issue in midterms

Karen Rubin

What should the Democrats’ strategy be for the 2018 Midterms?

Pundits are widely asserting that Democrats will manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of what should be a Blue Wave of tsunami proportions.

The Great Neck Democratic Club took up the issue in a forum, “Donald Trump – How Can This be Happening and What Does It Mean For Us Locally?” with former Congressman Gary Ackerman, Nassau County Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs and National Democratic Committeeman and political commentator Robert Zimmerman.

What I heard was head banging against a wall: “We should have listened more” to the aggrieved white working class in Flyover America. “We should have cared more.”

As I recall, Hillary Clinton started her campaign with a national listening tour, for which she was roundly mocked; all anyone wanted to hear about was her emails and the media spent more time focused on an empty podium waiting for the Reality TV guy, than about reporting anything about what Clinton proposed to bring jobs and health care.

“Forgotten Man?” Nonsense.


Great Neck Democratic Club hosted a forum, “Donald Trump – How Can This be Happening and What Does It Mean For Us Locally?” with former Congressman Gary Ackerman, Nassau County Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs and National Democratic Committeeman and political commentator Robert Zimmerman at the Inn at Great Neck, on April 4, 2018 © Karen Rubin/

If the idea behind patiently “listening” to those who voted for Trump is to somehow win their vote, it would be not only an epic Lost Cause, but another monumental mistake.

If a Trump voter has not come to their own conclusion about whether to continue to support the Republicans who enable this catastrophe, they are not going to be swayed by appearing sympathetic to their grievance.

Democrats constantly fight the battles of the last election, which in fact, Hillary Clinton won, mind you. And what is rarely mentioned is that Democrats also picked up seats in Congress.

The name of the game in 2018 is turnout, and you don’t get turnout playing wishy-washy defense.

Republicans are masters are putting Democrats on the defense, getting Democrats to shut up, while they use fear-mongering to drive out their base, whether or not the fears are trumped up fantasies (Democrats will take your guns! Illegal aliens will invade! “Liberals Announce Plan To Crush Normal Americans In A New Civil War”).

Now they are using the prospect of impeachment to energize their base, while at the same time, manipulating Democrats into shying away from using Trump’s horrid policies, ineptitude and corruption in their campaign.

It may well be that Trump is not on the ballot, but his enablers are, and that’s the message Democrats need to hone.

Democrats are constantly playing defense, when in fact, they should be on the offense, laying blame for the economic woes of the white working class in Flyover Country squarely on the Republicans who blocked raising the minimum wage to a living wage, sabotage health care, public education, infrastructure spending and are dismantling consumer, financial and environmental protections?

Which party is responsible for the Forgotten Man?

Which party was responsible for the 2008 Great Recession?

Which party saved the auto industry and spurred the longest business expansion in history, and which is the party which now will impose tariffs?

Which is the administration that narrowed the budget deficit to the lowest in decades and which is the administration that will add $1.3 trillion to the national debt?

Which is the administration that brought health care to the largest share of Americans and slowed insurance increases (which had been growing at 3 to 5 times the CPI) to the lowest in decades, and which is the party that, through sabotaging access to health care, is seeing renewed growth in uninsured and costs?

People upset with “dysfunctional government? Excuse me? Which party is responsible for making “compromise” a dirty word, for burying popular legislation?

Since 1994, Republicans have escaped repercussions for refusing to work with representatives of the majority to come up with pragmatic solutions to the nation’s most pressing problems. Immigration reform. Climate change. Inequality. Police brutality.

Healthcare. Gun violence. Failing infrastructure.

That’s what Democrats should run on. Republicans failed you, Trump schnookered you. This is what I stand for, this is what I will do, and this is what we can accomplish with a Democratic majority.

But this may well be a “Vote them out” election, and not a “what will you do for me” election.

Hatred for Trump and his administration’s policies is what has brought one in five Americans out into the streets since 2016 – women’s rights, gun safety, climate, sciences, immigration rights, civil rights activists – waving “Vote Them Out!” signs.

It is Trump’s sick policies, his inept and corrupt leadership and even more inept and corrupt appointees, yes, but the responsibility must be put on the Republicans in Congress who enable him, who have brought dysfunction and chaos in government to new heights.

Just as “Rigged Election” was a trap, a ploy by Donald Trump to muzzle Democrats from questioning the result of the 2016 election, now Republicans are using the “fear” of a Democratic majority impeaching Trump as a means of energizing their base, and constrain Democrats from attacking Trump as an inept, corrupt, illegitimate leader who needs to be stopped.

So Democratic candidates will be challenged – especially by the media which will obsess about this in the same way they obsessed with Hillary’s emails rather than her policies – they must have a ready answer: if the Mueller investigation provides evidence that Trump obstructed justice, abused power, colluded or cooperated with a foreign power in order to win election, impeachment would be imperative to preserve and protect the most fundamental institutions of our democracy and the Rule of Law as required by the oath of office under the Constitution.

And though Trump is not on the ballot, the Republicans in Congress have been his enablers and demonstrated they will not stand up for the Rule of Law are, and need to be replaced. (Want examples?)

But then go on from there and state clearly what Democrats stand for: universal health care, climate action, public education, gun safety, strengthening Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, protecting clean water and air and preserving public lands that is all Americans’ birthright; fair trade, pay equity, gender parity, voting rights, criminal justice, immigration reform and legalizing DACA recipients status, a woman’s right to choose, and yes, diplomacy before militancy, and a recognition that global cooperation is imperative to solve intractable problems.

Democrats may be salivating at the prospect of a blue wave, but they will need a tsunami to overcome gerrymandering, voter suppression, disinformation/propaganda campaigns, Citizen United and campaign finance abuses in order to take back the House – where the Brennan Center for Justice has calculated that Democrats have to secure an 11 percent margin of victory.

That means that while Republicans only need 50 percent plus one vote, Democrats have to win almost two-thirds of the votes cast. Turnout is key.

If Democrats or anti-Trumpers perceive that a Democratic-controlled Congress won’t address the illegitimate, corrupt, lawless Trump administration, and invite the charge so conveniently leveled against “institutions” and “elites”, “Democrats and Republicans are just the same”, they will stay home.

And you can be assured this will be Republicans strategy to suppress enthusiasm and turnout.

Show what you stand for, and if preserving democracy means impeaching a corrupt, illegitimate, lawless president, stand up for that, too.

But keep in mind Obama’s famous phrase: Don’t do stupid.

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