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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Is Trump at Long Last Toast, and How Should Dems Respond?

It’s too early to assess the political damage to Trump resulting from his recent and pending indictment(s), and more importantly for Dems to define a new 2024 strategy. But the damage looks substantial enough for Dems to begin thinking about it.

In “How Trump’s new indictment could affect 2024,” WaPo’s Aaron Blake limns the damage to Trump, as revealed by previous opinion polls: “

What seems clear is that more Americans, Republicans included, view these charges as serious. And while another indictment might not be enough to sink Trump in a GOP primary, this one for now appears more problematic, especially for his general-election hopes.

….The first thing to note: As with previous polls, people are less concerned about the charges Trump faces in Manhattan. While 52 percent of Americans regard it as a “serious crime” to falsify business records to conceal hush money payments to an adult-film star — the lowest percentage of five issues tested — 65 percent say the same about taking highly classified documents from the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them….Among just Republicans, while 28 percent say the former is serious, 42 percent say the latter is.

Much also depends on how much people would regard a conviction as being disqualifying. And that’s where this poll is especially helpful.

The survey also asked whether people thought Trump should be allowed to serve as president if he’s convicted of a “serious crime.” Just 23 percent overall said he should be, while 62 percent said he shouldn’t be. Republicans were more evenly split, with 39 percent saying a serious crime would be disqualifying.

The overlap between these two questions — how many people view serious crimes as disqualifying and regard these particular things as serious crimes — is also crucial.

Blake goes on to cite a YouGov poll which “combined the data” and found:

Regarding the Manhattan indictment, 41 percent of independents and 44 percent overall view the alleged crime as serious and also say it would be disqualifying.

Those numbers go up to 49 percent and 50 percent, respectively, in the classified documents case.

That’s nearly half of voters who, to the extent the case is proved in their minds, say Trump would be disqualified.

Blake adds, “this is people saying he shouldn’t even be considered for office in that case — not just that he will have done something seriously wrong.”

Of course, the shelf life of public attitudes toward Trump this week could be ancient history in a few more weeks. Or, it could get a lot worse pretty quick.

The Biden Administration will respond intelligently. The short term strategy is to STFU and allow impartial justice take its course. Other Democratic leaders will make comments disparaging Trump. But they should also focus their scorn on the GOP’s culture of corruption, moral decay and utter disdain for democracy, a perfect petri dish for creating their Frankenstein. The anti-Trump rank and file progressives are already in gloatfest mode – part of what 8 years of Frankenstein’s rampage has accomplished. But every Democrat should repeat the “let impartial justice take it’s course” mantra.

It is more possible today that one of the other Republicans will win the GOP presidential nomination. But let’s not be shocked if that doesn’t happen. Regardless, Democrats should focus on building unity, affirming their commitment to democratic values and principles and mobilizing a record-level turnout to end the exhausting mayhem of the Republican fiasco.

2 comments on “Is Trump at Long Last Toast, and How Should Dems Respond?

  1. Victor on

    Democrats still don’t understand just how transformative Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party has been and the medium term consequences for American politics.

    What Trump did:

    1. Destroyed the de facto bipartisan consensus about deindustrialization not being a big deal, mostly via his attacks on American dependence on Chinese imports;

    2. Defended people’s right to live in the places they grew up in, a rhetorical achievement with deep policy consequences via rejecting the Clinton/Obama framework of calling for people to “reskill” and move (and concentrate wealth further in just a few US cities’ neighborhoods);

    3. Achieved a de facto end of the (forever) War on Terror, mostly by sticking to deadlines on withdrawal from failed country building in Afghanistan;

    4. Started a (dangerous) return to historical patterns of isolationism (America First), not seen since World War II, and didn’t start a single war, not even a small one (even kept peace with Iran);

    5. By keeping peace with Iran and expanding peace between Israel and Arab states may have led to the creation of a possible Middle East consensus on autocracy (and high energy prices), involving Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran;

    6. Destroyed the bipartisan consensus on entitlement reform, declaring Social Security and Medicare as untouchable, allowing seniors to complete their alignment with Republicans without fear of getting their own benefits cut;

    7. By declaring Social Security and Medicare as off limits, made the Republican narrative about deserving and undeserving Americans more coherent, making cuts to other welfare programs and the imposition of work requirements more politically viable (the opposite happened with the failure to dismantle Obamare -but refusing to focus on Obamacare also neutralizes a GOP vulnerability-);

    8. Created an economic boom during Covid by signing on to Democratic proposals for extensive cash payments;

    9. Moved the GOP away from opposition to (popular) gay marriage, while refocusing on a moral panic around children and gender;

    10. further closed to door to any bipartisan agreement on immigration reform, consolidating the GOP on an enforcement only agenda, and successfully identified policy changes needed to get the abuse of asylum under control (policy changes Biden has had to adopt).

    Trump’s most important legacy is consolidating the Republican belief that Democrats are so dangerous and despicable that minority rule is not only legitimate, but necessary. Even the use of force has now been legitimized.

    The fact that he achieved this legacy and still managed to both increase turnout in general and support from minorities should be the most worrying for Democrats.

    Because of shifts in support from the upper middle class (high regular turnout) to Democrats and from the working class (low information voters) to Republicans, high turnout and highly polarized elections may now favor Republicans.

    Meanwhile, 3 years into the Biden administration, the media (specially liberal media) is still obsessed with Trump and Democrats can’t move past their strategy of using rule of law tools and arguments to try to control Trump’s return.

    There is still no widespread understanding, much less agreement (among elite, activist and highly partisan Democrats), that democracy won’t be protected in the long term without major shifts in economic policies and the creation of at least a few new consensuses on some of the major social issues of the day.

  2. Martin Lawford on

    As of 2020, Gallup reported that 17% of respondents said they had “a great deal” of trust in the judicial branch of the federal government while 26% said “not very much” and 8% said “none at all.” Two years later, with Biden having succeeded Trump, just 7% report a great deal of trust in the judicial branch while 31% report “not very much” and 22% say “none at all.” In two years, the Americans who put a great deal or a fair amount of trust in the judicial branch went from a two-thirds majority to a minority.

    Consider the political implications of this in the context of Trump’s indictment. If Gallup is accurate, most Americans today put little or no trust in the federal judicial branch. It is correct for Democrats to repeat the “let impartial justice take its course” mantra. The problem is that most of the country believes the federal judicial branch does not provide impartial justice. To them, that manta will sound like an excuse.


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