Impeachment: the Midterms factor

With Trump refusing to sit for an interview for Robert Mueller, is it creating more of a chance of an impeachment?

Posted: May 7, 2018 2:58 AM
Updated: May 7, 2018 3:00 AM

California Democrat Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, had strong words for his own party.

On Friday, in an op-ed in The New York Times, he warned fellow Democrats against a rush to talk about impeachment before all the evidence was in front of them. "Let President Trump arouse his voters as he will," Schiff wrote, "while Democrats continue to focus on the economy, family and a return to basic decency. And in the meantime, all Americans should reserve judgment until the investigations have run their course."

These are strong words for the Democrat who has been one of the most vocal critics of Republican efforts to stifle special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. This is a message that Democrats should read carefully as they head into the midterm season.

After another week of Trump administration chaos, in which Rudy Giuliani has become the new star of Donald Trump's political reality show, Democrats have a great deal to be excited about. Though their lead in the generic ballot has declined, there are many signs that the midterms will be a good day for Democrats. The high number of retirements by Republican incumbents, the outcome of special elections where Democrats took red seats or Republicans barely held on to theirs in deeply conservative territory, and many of the polls continue to point to a possible wave election. And it is important to remember that, historically, midterms almost always go poorly for the party in power.

Yet Democrats, who certainly can't forget the dangers of believing in inevitable outcomes, need to be cautious. Nothing is a slam-dunk in American politics.

The biggest challenge for Democrats is to avoid letting anti-Trump fervor drown out their own message. To be sure, attacking the President is often an important part of wave elections. Though they already had control of the House in 1982, Democrats expanded their majority by urging voters to take a stand against the Reagan Revolution. In 1994, Newt Gingrich used President Bill Clinton -- and his failed health care plan -- as a foil to excite voters to turn out in the election. Nancy Pelosi returned the favor in 2006 as Democrats were determined to send a message to President George W. Bush, just as Tea Party Republicans did in 2010 when they took back the House.

But in each of those cases the anger toward the incumbent president was combined with a program or agenda.

In 1982, Speaker Tip O'Neill rallied Democrats around a theme of "Fairness," assuring voters the party would protect the social safety net and reverse the regressive economic policies of an administration that had left working Americans struggling in the middle of the recession. Gingrich had his 10-point Contract with America, a laundry list of promises that Republicans vowed to fulfill if they took power. They would impose term limits, reform congressional spending and boost defense spending.

Democrats in 2006 vowed to bring the war in Iraq to an end and restore the social safety net policies that the administration had stripped away. Tea Party Republicans continually blasted President Barack Obama, but they also spoke to their supporters about the urgency of cutting government spending and cleaning up the way that Washington worked.

Trump poses a particular challenge since the turmoil and scandal coming from the Oval Office often overwhelm the amount of public space available for discussion about other issues. Democrats are making a big political bet if they think that the news over Russia, payments to porn stars and ongoing lies will be enough to bring voters out to the polls. This is especially risky given that unemployment is now at historically low 3.9% and Trump might be on the cusp of helping to orchestrate a major peace deal between North and South Korea.

Democrats are also confronting some extremely bitter internecine primary competitions that could dampen voter turnout in the general elections if they are not handled with care. The national party has been coming down hard in certain primary competitions, placing immense pressure on upstart challengers to get out of the race so that the favored candidate can run a clean race. In The New York Times, Alexander Burns has recounted the forceful intervention of the Democratic National Committee in areas in California, Arkansas and New York.

The intervention has sometimes produced a backlash among voters who resent national officials making the decision for voters. The 2016 primaries revealed that there are some pretty deep and unresolved tensions within the party. As they attempt to protect "safer candidates" who stick to the economy and look like Conor Lamb -- winner of Pennsylvania's special House election -- national Democrats have the potential to try to stifle candidates who are talking about crucial issues such as gun control and sexual harassment. The Intercept recently published a recording of Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, pressuring a candidate in Colorado, Levi Tillemann, to get out of a primary and make way for the party's preferred candidate.

Given that midterm elections are primarily about turnout, primary battles that leave too many voters upset and unmotivated, rather than inspired, could have a detrimental effect when it comes time for competitive general elections.

The best news for Democrats is that at the grass-roots level, hundreds of thousands of hard-working citizens have been organizing and mobilizing since the start of this presidency to take back control of Congress. As Lara Putnam and Theda Skocpol argued in Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, thousands of women in suburbs, cities and small towns in key electoral counties have been doing the grunt work that is needed to create a true political counter-mobilization for 2018 and 2020.

But taking advantage of the political window that Trump has created for Democrats won't be an easy victory. Democrats must avoid two big pitfalls -- failing to deliver a compelling agenda and dampening their own turnout though excessively hard-line tactics in the primaries. And that could leave Republicans in much better shape than they otherwise would be in the age of Trump.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 725353

Reported Deaths: 13373
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion990831737
Lake53265963
Allen40302675
Hamilton35392408
St. Joseph35350550
Elkhart28304438
Tippecanoe22315217
Vanderburgh22252396
Porter18596306
Johnson17856376
Hendricks17121313
Clark12908191
Madison12549339
Vigo12400244
Monroe11827168
LaPorte11736210
Delaware10595185
Howard9837215
Kosciusko9358117
Hancock8225140
Bartholomew8038155
Warrick7761155
Floyd7636177
Wayne7007199
Grant7003174
Boone6660101
Morgan6543139
Dubois6143117
Marshall5973111
Dearborn577977
Cass5777105
Henry5675102
Noble556583
Jackson500172
Shelby488596
Lawrence4482120
Gibson434191
Harrison433071
Clinton426653
DeKalb424184
Montgomery423188
Whitley393739
Huntington386980
Steuben381857
Miami379766
Knox371190
Jasper362147
Putnam358260
Wabash352578
Adams340554
Ripley338670
Jefferson328881
White312554
Daviess295499
Wells290481
Decatur283392
Fayette278462
Greene276285
Posey270733
Scott264553
LaGrange264270
Clay258645
Randolph239781
Washington239332
Spencer230831
Jennings229048
Starke213852
Fountain211846
Sullivan210942
Owen196356
Fulton194240
Jay190930
Carroll187820
Perry182537
Orange182154
Rush172725
Vermillion167843
Franklin167235
Tipton161945
Parke145616
Blackford134332
Pike132834
Pulaski116045
Newton107034
Brown101441
Crawford99114
Benton98114
Martin87515
Warren80915
Switzerland7828
Union70610
Ohio56211
Unassigned0413

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1078734

Reported Deaths: 19344
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1253471392
Cuyahoga1113202107
Hamilton797471200
Montgomery512091012
Summit46916933
Lucas41890782
Butler38250580
Stark32150907
Lorain24874480
Warren24236297
Mahoning21439586
Lake20548368
Clermont19719238
Delaware18478131
Licking16384210
Fairfield16116199
Trumbull15974466
Medina15213262
Greene15013244
Clark13942297
Wood13038188
Portage12792201
Allen11590231
Richland11300198
Miami10656215
Muskingum8787132
Wayne8760210
Columbiana8743229
Pickaway8540121
Marion8502135
Tuscarawas8461243
Erie7840154
Hancock6884126
Ross6830152
Ashtabula6765169
Geauga6664148
Scioto6393101
Belmont5837167
Union569647
Lawrence5542102
Jefferson5487151
Huron5419119
Darke5342122
Sandusky5322120
Seneca5258121
Athens518158
Washington5138109
Auglaize487884
Mercer479785
Shelby467693
Knox4477110
Madison435061
Putnam4263100
Ashland420989
Fulton420469
Defiance417797
Crawford3960106
Brown392457
Logan380976
Preble378498
Clinton369961
Ottawa366179
Highland353161
Williams337275
Champaign329658
Guernsey315353
Jackson311851
Perry294550
Morrow283739
Fayette281049
Hardin270164
Henry267966
Coshocton263958
Holmes2591101
Van Wert242663
Pike237333
Adams236552
Gallia235048
Wyandot230654
Hocking214862
Carroll191047
Paulding171740
Meigs144339
Noble133437
Monroe131242
Morgan108323
Harrison107437
Vinton82115
Unassigned02
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