Nancy Pelosi’s fecklessness has ensured that Americans understand impeachment to be a purely political matter, and as a purely political matter impeachment is as dead as your leftover Christmas turkey.
Only a few days after the impeachment vote, President Donald Trump hit his best job-approval rating ever in the Quinnipiac poll. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is ready to slap the process around like a housecat tormenting a sparrow. The magic bullet missed, and now Democrats have to make a more ordinary case against Trump.
The problem is: They don’t know how.
The case against Trump in 2016 was that he is unfit for the office. The case against Trump in 2020 is — or should be — that he is not very good at his job.
In 2016, Trump promised Americans sustained 3-percent economic growth, but the economy has not met that standard. He promised a shrinking trade deficit, but the trade deficit has grown. He promised to build a wall along the southern border and to make Mexico pay for it, which he has not done. Which is to say, on the core issues of economic growth, trade, and immigration, President Trump is a failure by his own criteria.
But the Democrats are poorly positioned to take Trump to the woodshed on these issues.
Consider immigration. In 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders toured Iowa union halls with an immigration message that was not too different from Trump’s. He denounced “open borders” as a billionaires’ plot to flood the U.S. market with cheap labor. At the time, Democrats still talked about illegal immigration like it was . . . illegal.
In 2020, ascendant Democratic primary candidate Pete Buttigieg has just published a plan that would reduce the deportation of illegal immigrants, including those guilty of certain categories of crimes, and Democrats as a whole have invested a great deal of political capital in opposing Trump’s efforts to control illegal immigration.
Why? A majority of Americans say they personally worry about illegal immigration, and a large majority — 77 percent in the most recent Gallup poll — say they see illegal immigration as a “critical threat” or an “important threat.” Trump has thrived on the issue of illegal immigration, and, in response, Democrats have taken a position that is both bad policy and bad politics.
On trade, Democrats have done the opposite: Rather than blindly opposing a basically good policy, they have adopted the worst of Trump’s ideas. Senator Elizabeth Warren apes Trump’s nationalist posturing, insisting that trade is a question of “loyalty to America” and charging that American businessmen “have no patriotism.” Her proposals would essentially prohibit trade deals with China and Mexico, among other countries. But two-thirds of Americans say Trump’s trade war is unlikely to improve their lives and a third say it will leave them worse off, according to a Hill/HarrisX survey. Warren is unlikely to outdo Trump on a nationalism agenda, but nonetheless she has maneuvered herself into a position that is both bad policy and bad politics.
On the economy, Trump has seen modest success after tax cuts and deregulatory efforts. The Democrats oppose these for ideological reasons, but also because they have the stink of Trump on them.
A more intelligent approach for Democrats (and for us lonely few anti-Trump conservatives) would be to concede that the president’s positions on issues such as illegal immigration and trade speak to concerns that are genuine and legitimate while pointing out that his actions have been in the main ineffective or genuinely destructive. But the Democrats are so committed to their exotic fairy tale — Trump is a monster, Trump is a Nazi, Trump is a white nationalist, etc. — that they have forgotten how to run an ordinary campaign against an ordinary failure.
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