Carl Golden: How Democrats could hurt their chances in November
In the face of month upon month of glowing reports of a national economy reaching new milestones, the blue wave - the movement predicted to sweep Democrats back into control of Congress this November — lost its momentum.
Well, it’s back, gathering power and strength and once again raising Democratic hopes it will come crashing down on Congress, washing Republicans into retirement and turning the House into a Democratic stronghold.
The economic news hasn’t lost its luster and promise - quarterly growth is approaching four percent and predicted to reach higher, job creation remains strong and unemployment has fallen below four percent.
The suddenly resurgent blue wave is building to a crescendo on indictments, guilty pleas and convictions of individuals associated politically, professionally or personally with President Trump.
The conviction of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on tax and bank fraud charges and the guilty plea entered by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to tax, banking and campaign finance charges dealt the president a serious blow. It also re-energized Democrats seeking victory in Congressional districts by tying their Republican opponents to a corrupt Administration.
While neither Manafort’s conviction nor Cohen’s guilty plea involved allegations the Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives in 2016 - the basis for the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller - the courtroom tales of tax evasions, offshore bank accounts, backroom deals with foreign countries, and hush money paid to buy the silence of women allegedly involved with Trump were damning.
The blue wave re-emergence brought predictions that Democrats would easily exceed the net gain of 23 House seats to win control.
The renewed sense of optimism is understandable, but before party leaders begin checking for new office space, jockeying for committee chairmanships, or assessing their chances for advancing in the hierarchy, they should turn their attention to the torches and pitchfork crowd braying loudly for immediate impeachment proceedings against the president.
It is crucial for the leaders to discipline the party’s hard left, that growing and vocal bloc squirreled away in the Capitol basement assembling a Frankenstein using parts donated by Bernie Sanders. It is a group to whom making a point is more important than making progress.
Being swept up in impeachment fervor — egged on by the amen corner in the media - would be a strategic and political blunder, playing into Trump’s hands and those of his hardcore base.
Democrats spent months demanding Congress protect Mueller from dismissal and insisted that no deadline be placed on completing the investigation.
Moving toward impeachment at this point would immediately give credence to the argument that it is a blatant political act produced not by evidence of criminal acts, but by a visceral dislike for Trump and an obsessive need to overturn the 2016 election and prove the illegitimacy of the outcome.
It would cut the ground from beneath the Democrats’ contention that they support Mueller and his investigation and that the probe is the proper vehicle to determine whether election irregularities or illegalities occurred.
Given such an opening, Trump will escalate his “witch hunt,” “rigged investigation” rhetoric and claim he was correct all along in his contention that impeachment was the pre-determined end game and that Mueller and his team are complicit in it.
The leftward shift in the Democratic Party has become increasingly apparent, crystallized by a platform embraced by many of its candidates to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), establish universal medical care, provide government employment and fringe benefits to anyone out of work, and offer free college education.
It represents a nascent socialist movement, but should it become the party’s face, it can only harm its prospects. This hard left agenda is not acceptable to the majority of Americans who are largely centrist and believe in individual rights and freedoms rather than ever deeper government involvement and control of daily life. In a recent poll, 56 per cent viewed capitalism positively while only 37 per cent viewed socialism in that light.
Impeachment is still opposed overwhelmingly as measured consistently in polling, a clear indication that such a step in the absence of clear and compelling evidence that Trump has committed a crime would be deeply damaging to the democracy.
An impending blue wave has clearly returned and Democratic leaders would be wise to ride the wave rather than attempt to get ahead of it lest it is they who are swamped and washed off the surfboard they hoped would carry them to victory.
Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail.