Democratic leadership needs to learn how to grandstand in the Trump era

The Democratic Party’s leadership is bewildering to many, but Americans are not stupid. While there is a sect of Trump voters that would be activated and energized by impeachment, there are more sane people in the country, including those behind the old blue wall that will vote appropriately (or not at all) when Democrats and a few Republicans make the case demonstrating the corrupt scourge that is the president.

A few weeks ago the stock market took a marked dip when it was clear that a deal with China on tariffs was not forthcoming. I wrote the following then about Democratic leadership:

After a steady focus on the Mueller report and many other Trump antics, tweets, and idiocy that should have been ignored, the stock market’s fall in tandem with failed trade talks had the full attention of our derelict media. It was time for grandstanding.

While Donald Trump was ready for the grandstand, our Democratic leaders were not. It would have been a safe bet to assume that our leaders would be chasing every microphone at MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News. I knew they would be agile enough and grandly call an official press conference so they could get to speak to the American farmer, the American consumer, and the members of the middle class who are getting hit the hardest by tariffs.

On Trump and the liberal pundits:

Trump is showing the potential to clobber Democrats using tariffs to counter the status quo, the mythical center.

Donald Trump gave a short but effective interview earlier this week after the stock market had a sharp drop when it realized that there would be no deal on Chinese tariffs. I was astounded by the response from pundits on MSNBC. It wasn’t that they were not speaking the truth. It was that they could not understand that it does not matter what they think, but what the people who are going to vote think.

In normal times, grandstanding is anathema to those who are serious about developing good policies. But these are not normal times. A large percentage of Americans now have short attention spans, and have learned to receive news in soundbites. Many are used to the braggadocio of reality TV. While it may not be the majority (yet), it is a significant number that can swing elections as it did in 2016.

And Trump did it to Democrats again last week.

On Wednesday, May 22, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer visited the White House to discuss an infrastructure bill. Earlier in the day, Pelosi had accused the president of a cover-up. Given the president’s childlike temper and past acts, Pelosi and Schumer should have expected a grandstanding stunt, and had one of their own ready. In fact, theirs would have perfectly leveraged the president’s insistence of his innocence from both Russian collusion and obstruction of justice.

Such grandstanding by Pelosi and Schumer would have garnered national attention, if done with the right cadence and timing.

An aide should have had the two volumes of the Mueller report in a briefcase. Pelosi and Schumer should have had talking points already written out. They should have placed the 400-page printout on a podium, and then said something like this:

The Mueller report is more than 400 pages long. We cannot expect our busy citizens, trying to make ends meet, to read it all. That is our job. And we did. This report is a fact-finding mission and it is our job to analyze the results and act appropriately. What we have found in this document is that our president and his team were corrupt. Now we must decide what course we must take that will best serve the country.

  • The 2nd paragraph of the Mueller report states that “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. Evidence of Russian government operations began to surface in mid-2016.”
  • Throughout volume 1 of the report, it is clear that many of Trump’s people had several interactions with Russian operatives. While the investigation did not result in a charge of treason or some other crime, every American must be concerned that Trump’s people had relationships with these characters.
  • One must not forget the last-minute, out-of-the-blue change to the Republican Party platform that was favorable to the Russians at the expense of the Ukrainians. 
  • There are already dozens of indictments, and several of Trump’s closest team members are already serving time in prison.

The enumerated list should have then continued with page numbers and allegation after allegation, in a sort of sonnet form.

For some time I believed impeachment would have detracted from the Democratic message, and not been worth it. Now, with the bullying, taunting president openly obstructing the process, impeachment is a must, lest Democrats seem weak.

Joy-Ann Reid’s commentary on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell was both prescient and notable. She made it clear that the Democratic leadership has bought into a fallacy: a mystical belief that Trump has a hold on the electorate when he, in fact, does not. Reid said the Democratic leadership continues to fear the Trump voter, more so than the backlash from the Democratic base.

Let’s hope that changes sooner rather than later.

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