The Democratic plan to erase Donald Trump by 2020
Cut through the media haze for a moment to ask why top Democrats like Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) keep hedging about impeaching the president. Right now, the Democratic agenda is almost exclusively about stopping the Trump. That has been more than enough substance for Democrats to rake in the campaign cash. According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, Democratic House and Senate candidates have raised a combined $985,535,391 this cycle compared to $727,572,522 for Republicans. That’s a significant financial advantage.
Ironically, it also depends on Trump being president.
Let’s just say that Trump resigns at the end of August because he’d rather spend more time golfing. There goes the entire Democratic agenda and their political super villain. President Mike Pence takes office and, in contrast to Trump, is as controversial and flamboyant as watching paint dry. Pence also happens to be a seasoned politician much more comfortable navigating D.C. politics than Trump. He’s not nearly as likely to create situations conducive to a media circus.
Trump’s departure actually hurts Democrats whose opposition to him is the wind in their political sails.
By contrast, imagine if Democrats turn their fundraising advantage into control of the House and possibly a narrow majority in the Senate. They can tie the Trump administration in knots with oversight hearings, embarrassing requests for information and impeachment proceedings. If the Democratic base ultimately demands Trump’s impeachment–a simple majority vote in the House–Democrats could do so knowing that a two-thirds vote in the Senate for Trump’s removal would be highly improbable. Senate Democrats, heading into a much more favorable 2020 election cycle, would blister Senate Republicans for protecting Trump in the face of a House impeachment case against him.
At this point, Democrats seem to believe that their best chance for the White House in 2020 is to have Trump on the ballot. If they control the House of Representatives during the presidential election cycle, they’ll pummel Trump for the better part of two years, deny him any legislative victories, and force Republicans into an incredibly uncomfortable defensive posture. If Democrats narrowly capture the Senate as well, they can shut down or significantly alter Trump’s judicial nominees and other appointees.
Charged emotions to the contrary, the best tactical play for Democrats is to keep Trump right where he is, win the House in 2018, and then set themselves up to take the Senate and White House in 2020.
Best plans aside, Democrats may be their own worst enemy.
The emerging popularity of democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez within the Democratic Party won’t help Democrats win centrist voters necessary for political control. Outside of liberal strongholds like New York and California, democratic socialism seems a little too much like regular failed socialism–especially against the backdrop of a crumbling Venezuela.
Democrats don’t seem to be learning from Clinton’s failed electoral tactics either. She lost to Trump in large part because she conceded the blue-collar union vote in the Rust Belt. Trump’s protectionist trade agenda and support of the coal industry are specifically designed to help him keep what he won. If Democrats can’t find a way to compete for that demographic, Trump will continue to be a formidable electoral force.
The silver lining for Republicans is the lifetime tenure of Supreme Court justices. Justice Neil Gorsuch is on the bench and Judge Brett Kavanaugh seems likely to be confirmed in the next few months. Even if Democrats manage to upend Republican majorities, reverse the handful of policy changes, and even defeat Trump himself by 2020, they’ll likely contend with Trump’s judicial legacy for decades. Even the most tactically sound plan can’t erase that.