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 2:00 AM
Updated: May 7, 2018 2:00 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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 449492

Reported Deaths: 6047
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin933031483
Ramsey40134741
Dakota33159344
Anoka31061365
Washington20220230
Stearns17922188
St. Louis13730242
Scott1199496
Wright11656104
Olmsted1054775
Sherburne822065
Carver696436
Clay653981
Rice610769
Kandiyohi554871
Blue Earth543233
Crow Wing484877
Otter Tail457967
Chisago453336
Benton421086
Winona390046
Douglas375766
Nobles371746
Mower367829
Goodhue349259
Polk328958
McLeod325745
Morrison312145
Beltrami311048
Lyon302538
Becker286239
Itasca285243
Isanti282941
Carlton280943
Steele27489
Pine267013
Freeborn247923
Todd232230
Nicollet225436
Brown215534
Mille Lacs214545
Le Sueur210715
Cass207723
Meeker200033
Waseca190116
Wabasha17243
Martin170826
Roseau165717
Hubbard149538
Redwood139827
Renville137540
Houston137213
Dodge13544
Chippewa131632
Cottonwood127718
Fillmore12435
Wadena120117
Rock110312
Sibley10857
Aitkin108333
Faribault106716
Watonwan10678
Pennington99715
Kanabec98018
Pipestone94723
Yellow Medicine93715
Murray8935
Jackson86010
Swift83518
Pope7415
Marshall70315
Stevens7018
Clearwater68514
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake64915
Wilkin6269
Koochiching59710
Lincoln4871
Big Stone4603
Unassigned43668
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4107
Kittson37220
Red Lake3174
Traverse2523
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307088

Reported Deaths: 4340
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46016457
Linn17864278
Scott15566166
Black Hawk13875238
Woodbury13040177
Johnson1216051
Dubuque11434153
Pottawattamie9047113
Dallas896572
Story871235
Webster470172
Cerro Gordo467871
Sioux456157
Clinton451863
Warren449038
Marshall428662
Buena Vista393829
Muscatine392278
Des Moines383641
Plymouth351468
Wapello346598
Jasper324059
Lee318131
Marion305752
Jones272649
Henry264831
Carroll255934
Bremer246848
Crawford232324
Washington220332
Boone219517
Benton210150
Mahaska195037
Jackson193031
Tama188758
Dickinson186227
Kossuth174844
Delaware174536
Clay169820
Wright165224
Fayette163623
Hamilton160730
Buchanan160423
Winneshiek156919
Harrison156762
Hardin155529
Cedar154219
Clayton151548
Butler149224
Page144915
Floyd139836
Cherokee139227
Mills136916
Lyon135732
Poweshiek133924
Hancock130724
Allamakee129628
Iowa126022
Calhoun12299
Grundy121626
Jefferson121325
Madison12129
Winnebago119729
Mitchell116235
Louisa115430
Cass113942
Chickasaw112212
Sac111115
Emmet110831
Appanoose110740
Union109222
Humboldt105819
Guthrie103424
Shelby103427
Franklin102718
Unassigned9410
Palo Alto90910
Montgomery86423
Keokuk85626
Howard84419
Monroe81319
Clarke7987
Pocahontas77711
Ida74730
Davis69421
Greene6947
Adair69020
Lucas6589
Monona64616
Osceola6419
Worth6133
Taylor5949
Fremont5176
Van Buren49713
Decatur4934
Ringgold44311
Wayne41721
Audubon4158
Adams2973
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Clear
wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 8°
Feels Like: -8°
Mason City
Clear
wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 9°
Feels Like: -9°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 7°
Feels Like: -8°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 8°
Feels Like: -8°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
10° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 11°
Feels Like: -8°
A cold end to the workweek
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

RPD, Marine ROTC duke it out in physical challenge

Image

Century defeats John Marshall in early season matchup

Image

RCTC women's basketball preps for first game in almost two years

Image

Semper Fi, RPD meets Marines

Image

Can your employer force you to get a Covid-19 vaccine?

Image

Aaron's Thursday Night Forecast

Image

Mayo Clinic holds virtual town hall

Image

More Iowans will be eligible for vaccine in February

Image

RPD and Marines train together

Image

New speeding laws

Community Events