Let’s get this clear before I go on. I am no fan of Donald Trump. I believe he is a 12-year-old, thin-skinned bully – a very talented and clever bully it must be said – in the body of a 71-year-old ego-maniac. Taking that perspective I think gives tremendous insight into his actions and motivations. Nonetheless, this story is not about him. It is about the Democrats and how they are going to continue to lose. It is to some extent also about how the press is helping them lose.
Find an alternative
First, the Democrats and many anti-Trumpers in general take a much too hopeful view and believe that because the Donald is such a (insert your favorite pejorative noun), that he’ll self destruct and his base will tire of him. I don’t think so. He has a pretty solid base not because he was a great candidate and now president but because they don’t see a viable alternative. The Dems must figure out how to present both alternative issues and leaders.
Focus on the real Russian problem
Second, the debate over Russia has gotten far off-track. It was and should still be primarily about Russian attempted interference in the 2017 national elections. How are we going to safeguard out systems next time? What should we be prepared to look for? Who should be punished and how? How successful have they been in disrupting the west? Of course, some of that information may be classified but certainly not all of it. Congress and Robert Mueller should be focused there and if there is evidence of collusion or skullduggery (i.e., trumpery) in financial dealings, they will uncover it and it will be uncovered in the context of an international attack of the US, not a political fight over presidential petulance and administrative incompetence. Making this seem purely political will not win any converts.
Focus on less exotic issues
Third, many potential Democratic-leaning independents are getting bored with the constant news about tweets, the president, Russia, lies. I played golf with three friends I haven’t seen since before the election. They are all well-educated, upper middle class, Connecticut residents. They should be a core democratic constituency. Not one is a Trump supporter. All are bored with the news by now. All three are still working. This concerns me greatly (not that they are working but that they are bored by the repetitions of the same news!) They are losing faith in the news media’s ability and intent to separate need-to-know news from drive-up-ratings news. It is hard enough to follow the news with new and spinning information without having the media drive out the moderates. If my friends are representative, a primary Democratic audience is losing interest in the Democrats and the media. When Democratic politicians get in front of a camera, they need to pivot to inequality, jobs, budget and at least offer some new talking points.
Stop making everything about Trump. It makes you look like Republicans!
Fourth, cyber-hacking and international interference is a difficult issue to see. The fact that the Obama administration didn’t make a bigger deal of it allows people to assume it isn’t such an important issue. It’s easy to then assume the “whole Russia thing” is in fact just a political artifact of a lost election. This is the core problem to be investigated by Congress and the Democrats must focus on it. If that problem is to be solved, Congress and administration must take it seriously. They must get the president to see that it is not about him or the legitimacy of his election but about the security of the nation’s most important institution. They must convince Trump-land that they actually are concerned about a real issue that pre-dates the elections.
Care about someone in red districts
Fifth, people who are still concerned about their economic situation, whether they’ll have health insurance or be able to educate their kids must see the almost exclusive reporting on things Russian as another “swamp” monster coming from a city and a government that doesn’t care about them. I don’t see any evidence to the contrary, by the way. That’s an opening for Democrats. They need to find something beyond free education (not important to many) and free healthcare unless they can build a compelling story about inequality and its effects.
So what does a good Democrat do? I’m not entirely sure because I’m not one of those either. But they need to do something different that shows the country they recognize the problems people care about. That includes the environment and equal rights but it also includes the concerns over religious rights, business regulations intended for Fortune 500 companies that burden small-business and former employees of dying industries. That means they need to change and broaden the base. They cannot run on anti-Trump rhetoric, more minority rights and free stuff alone.