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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Where Dems Should Go From Here

In his Washington Post op-ed, “The first five things the Democrats should do with their House majority,” Ronald A. Klain writes:

Let’s start with where the new majority should not start: investigations, accusatory hearings or impeachment proceedings. However tempting it might be for freshly empowered congressional Columbos , not a single subpoena should fly in the first 100 days.

Not, of course, because there is a shortage of things to investigate — just the opposite. The Trump administration has been the most corrupt since Ulysses S. Grant was in the White House. The administration has flouted the constitutional limit on taking moneyfrom foreigners and flagrantly disregarded the rule of law. The transgressions merit serious inquiry and long overdue accountability. Voters chose a Democratic House, in part, to impose missing checks on Trump’s excesses and to get to the bottom of the many questions raised in the past two years.

Klain argues that “Nonetheless, a Democratic majority charging out of the gate with investigative hearings would be making a mistake, for a number of reasons,” among them the fact that a good investigation takes time, loud, reckless hearings could muddle up the perception of Mueller’s nonpartisan investigation and Dems should avoid being branded as a party more concerned with investigation than needed legislative reforms.

All good points, especially the latter one. When an election is complete, the public wants to move on and expects the majority party to take the lead in securing needed legislative reforms. With House and Senate control divided between the two parties, that’s a highly problematic challenge, even more so with a Republican President. But Democrats have to do their best, or be perceived as endlessly campaigning instead of working for real change.

But let’s not forget that Americans also want clean government, and they deserve a look at Trump’s hidden tax returns. It’s not a matter of “if” his tax returns should be revealed; it’s more about when. But Dems should take care not to be perceived ‘out of the gate’ as shirking their responsibility to propose and pass needed legislative reforms.

Klain goes on to propose a credible legislative agenda, incuding raising the minimum wage, strengthening the Affordabe Care Act, restoring the Voting Rights Act and other measures to protect voting rights, infrastucture initiatives and immigration reform. Later, urges Klain, for the investigations.

Dems experienced a number of bitter disappointments in marquee races, including the defeats of Beto O’Rourke’s Senate bid in Texas, Andrew Gillum’s race for Governor of Florida and Amy McGrath’s campaign for a House seat in Kentucky.

However, Democrat Tony Evers narrowly won a marquee governor’s race over Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Democrat Stacy Abrams may make it to a run-off in the Georgia governor’s race, and Lucy McBath holds a narrow lead in the GA-6 contest, one of the more interesting, yet under-reported House contests, featuring an African-American advocate of gun control nearing an upset in a predominantly white southern district. Many Dems will also cheer Laura Kelly’s defeat of the GOP’s chief voter suppression advocate Kris Kobach for Governor of Kansas and Harley Rouda’s lead over putinista Dana Rohrabacher in CA-48.

Looking toward 2020, Democrats are expecting a bumper crop of presidential candidates, including some fresh faces. California Governor-elect Gavin Newsome will get lots of presidential buzz, and  Sherrod Brown’s Ohio victory was the very first MSNBC call for the Senate.

Democrats certainly cemented their brand as the party that merits the support of women, with a record number of women Democrats who will take office in the new congress, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who calmly weathered the GOP’s hysterical attacks with impressive grace and strategic smarts.

All in all, Democrats ran an extremely good campaign in 2018, with no major gaffes or blunders. There is still plenty of room for improvement — Dems have a lot of hard work ahead in terms of securing better performance in working-class communities, rural, urban and suburban. Here’s hoping the sound strategy that won the House will help Dems win the Senate and White House, just two short years from now.

4 comments on “Where Dems Should Go From Here

  1. Martin Lawford on

    The Taxpayer Bill of Rights says that every federal income taxpayer is entitled to the confidentiality of his federal income tax return. Hence, President Trump’s income tax returns are no more “hidden” than anybody else’s. Most Congressmen, including Nancy Pelosi, do not make their tax returns public nor are they obliged to do so. If House Democrats breach that confidentiality in the case of President Trump, the public will see that as not only illegal, but hypocritical, and a dangerous conversion of the IRS into a political weapon. They will be 100% correct.

    • Samantha Kimball on

      I disagree with Mr. Lawford. Presidential candidates should be held accountable to a higher standard of transparency, as well as keeping their promises.

  2. Polly Goldberg on

    Amen. Democrats need to impress the voters who care about issues with their probity, devotion to work, and thoughtfulness. Any hint of hysteria should be avoided. The environment, healthcare, and gun violence are immediate needs. There’s so much to be done that the new House has to do triage.

  3. alkali on

    “… not a single subpoena should fly in the first 100 days.”

    I would put this a little differently: of course subpoenas should go out the door immediately, if only because the administration will fight them tooth and nail and they will take a while to enforce. But don’t put out a press release just because you issued a subpoena. Wait until you get something back to make some noise.


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