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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

How Much of Dem Focus Should Be on Russia Probe?

In her pbs.org post,  “Would focusing on Russia probe help or hurt Democrats in the midterms?,” Jessica Yarvin writes:

…Some liberal groups see a danger in Democrats focusing too much of their 2018 messaging on the Russia probe, its ties to the Trump campaign, and issues like corruption in politics.

Priorities USA, another prominent left-leaning group, put out a memo last week arguing that Democrats should stick to an economic and health care-centric message in the months heading into the midterms…“When voters hear the Democratic argument on health care or on taxes and then hear the Republican side, they side with Democrats,” Priorities USA Communications Director Josh Schwerin said.

The group wrote in its memo that its internal polling shows Trump’s approval rating climbed four points since November, from 40 percent to 44 percent. However, specific policies, like the tax law Trump signed late last year, and the GOP’s repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, remain unpopular, the polling shows.

However, writes Yarvin, “In a report released last week, the influential liberal Center for American Progress group outlined several potential ways that Democrats could use the investigation and alleged collusion to their advantage this fall.” Further,

The CAP report cited several instances in which Russian money may have flowed to the Trump Organization through Trump’s business associates, including the real estate developer Felix Sater. Highlighting those connections could help build the case with voters that Trump can’t disentangle his work as president from his global business empire — an issue critics argue raises questions about corruption and conflicts of interest.

There is “a sense of out-of-control sprawling corruption that goes across a wide number of issues,” Jesse Lee, a senior advisor at the Center for American Progress, said in an interview.

The report describes “the fluidity with which Sater has shifted from real estate to geopolitics” and makes the case that “business relationships can be repurposed as pathways to foreign influence.”

There is ample polling data which indicate that corruption is a potent issue for assembling electoral majorities. This was true even before Trump, and it now looks like a huge gift staring Democrats in the face. Democrats also have a range of reforms to address corruption, including:

The report pointed to the DISCLOSE Act, which would ban campaign contributions from American corporations that have at least 20 percent foreign ownership. The bill was first introduced in the House by then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. in 2010. Since then., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has repeatedly introduced the legislation, most recently last July.

Trump’s particular corruption issues, along with the fact that McConnell, Ryan and other GOP leaders  have produced zero reforms to address corruption, remain a glaring political reality. Their inability to enact any anti-corruption legislation whatsoever, despite the GOP’s “trifecta” majority, amplifies the case against Republican-driven corruption.

The Russia probe escalates the Democratic edge on the corruption issue even further. To fail to leverage this advantage would be gross political malpractice, though it should be thoughtfully balanced with other specific campaign issues and tweaked for each electorate.

2 comments on “How Much of Dem Focus Should Be on Russia Probe?

  1. Candace on

    Most people have to get and pass background checks to get a job and place to live. Why are they suddenly unimportant when working in and running the White House?
    I don’t understand why no one is asking about the Republican party’s background check for Trump. I guess they probably didn’t need one? Apparently his business practice and connections were well known. They could’ve very easily said that they understood he had a lot of support but he had too many shady business ties, lots of troublesome legal baggage for them to choose him as their candidate to run in 2016. Why didn’t they do that?

    But also who forgets how Republicans would frequently compare Putin and President Obama? Putin was a strong leader, they’d say, and Obama was weak. The only motivation or criticism anyone could find in that was that they were just racist.
    Republicans were constantly complaining about Obama and now they have Trump and they’re happy. No more opposition. So when Republicans go after someone or something, its good to keep in mind who and what they’re suggesting would be an improvement.

    “The Russia probe escalates the Democratic edge on the corruption issue even further. To fail to leverage this advantage would be gross political malpractice, though it should be thoughtfully balanced with other specific campaign issues and tweaked for each electorate.”

    I agree with you, except when mentioning the Russia investigation, I haven’t seen the corruption issue be discussed in any significant detail, (except now the CAP report) or how these crimes would impact the US Government and its ability to serve the people.
    The most common solutions I’ve read for what happened in 2016 are Sanctions and just a general complaint that Trump isn’t going to keep us safe from Russian interference in 2018. This to me implies that there’s nothing to be learned from the interference and we’re fcked because we have to rely on Trump and his Republicans to “protect” 2018 elections. Everyone knows the Republican party will never accept giving up their ability to manipulate perception or reality of election outcomes, but they like war right? Maybe they will go for that! “Why won’t the T-Republicans punish RUSSIA?”
    there is nothing to be learned AND no one wants war with Russia China, North Korea, the Middle East anywhere so that approach is all wrong.

    I haven’t read the entire report from the Center for American Progress linked to in that NPR article
    https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2018/02/13/446576/cracking-the-shell/ but so far pretty awesome.
    So when talking about the Russia investigation, why not focus on support for The Disclose Act, the Honest Ads acts, empowering the FEC and doing anything else that addresses economic’ weaknesses in the system that allowed this to happen instead of war?

    So democrats cant ignore the investigation. Republicans sure as hell wouldnt. Its good to stay focused on the economy and healthcare too but also gun control. (I’d vote for what Thom Hartmann ideas on this)
    I think differences in spending priorities between Republicans and Democrats has got to be mentioned often. Somebody should talk and listen to Danny Sjursen.

  2. Victor on

    Why would you double down on a strategy that has a ceiling?

    Do we really think there are Democrats who didn’t get the message or Republicans who are now so soured on Trump to vote against the GOP?

    Trump isn’t on the ballot and most Republicans are still in a “give him a chance” or “he is against elites and being obstructed” mood.

    The thing that turned Democrats against Hillary and the thing that turned anti/Trump Republicans into Trump voters has little to do with Russia or identity politics grievances.

    You need a coherent message.

    Why should Democrats be turned into the opposition party? Just to obstruct Trump? A lot of voters will like having a counterweight. But many will look at gridlock as something that needs to go away. We had 6 years of gridlock under Obama.

    Democrats have gone from “yes we can” to being the other party of “no”.

    Even if obstruction is sound strategy politically now it is pathetic in the medium term and dangerous and anti-ethical for any democratic (small d) party.


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