Historically speaking, the minority party gains seats in Congress in midterm elections, and conventional wisdom suggests that Trump’s apparent unpopularity should cause a GOP bloodbath in November. Despite history and anti-Trump sentiment being on their side, the Blue Wave that was inevitable just a few weeks ago is looking more like a puddle and Democrats are concerned that they’re on the verge of losing their best chance to stop Trump, both legislatively and via impeachment.
What’s happened? For starters, Trump’s poll numbers aren’t all that bad right now, especially considering how disproportionately negative his media coverage is. One poll even has his approval rating in positive territory amongst registered voters. Voters are also giving him credit for the improving economy. But, Trump’s poll numbers aren’t even the worst indicator for the Democrats’ hopes of taking back Congress. The GOP now has a six-point lead in the latest Reuters/IPSOS Generic Congressional Ballot poll.
Make no mistake about it, a lot can happen in six months, and there is polling that suggests they still have an edge for the midterm elections, but, there’s no denying that retaking Congress is not a sure thing for the Democrats anymore. Perhaps it never was.
To address their vanishing hopes of taking back Congress, Democrats have a brand new strategy they hope will ensure the Blue Wave becomes a reality:
Democrats plan to highlight allegations of corruption surrounding the Trump administration — and a legislative agenda to prevent future abuses — as they continue rolling out their party platform ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The first planks of the “A Better Deal” platform, released last year, focused on the party’s economic agenda. Now, with questions about pay-to-play politics swirling around President Trump and his current and former aides, Democrats introduced new anti-corruption proposals Monday billed as “A Better Deal for Our Democracy.”
“Instead of delivering on his promise to drain the swamp, President Trump has become the swamp,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during a rollout event on the Capitol steps.
This is clearly a throwback to their successful 2006 midterm strategy of running against GOP corruption. In 2006, Democrats exploited the Jack Abramoff scandal and targeted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, turning him into a symbol of systemic corruption in the GOP. DeLay was innocent and was cleared of any wrongdoing after an absurdly long legal process, but Democrats succeeded in taking back both the House and Congress in 2006 and would keep control of the House until 2010 and the Senate until 2014. The fact they smeared an innocent man didn’t matter then… and it won’t matter now.
It is hard to take Democrats seriously when they run on an anti-corruption platform. In 2006, they targeted Republicans for unethical behavior that was rampant in their own party—not that they cared. For Democrats, Trump’s true crime was that he beat Hillary Clinton, and they’ve been desperately trying to pin anything on him that will stick. It’s become clearer every day that the Russian collusion story was a red herring to distract from Obama administration abuses of power during the 2016 election. And Trump’s poll numbers haven’t been affected by the Stormy Daniels story the media is currently obsessing over. Still, with tax increases being the cornerstone of their legislative agenda, a crusade against corruption might just be their best chance.
Except, when it comes to corruption, Democrats are notorious hypocrites, and their constant attempts to scandalize everything that happens are the Trump administration is no different. For eight years they ignored or excused Barack Obama’s corruption and scandals. Where were they when more than more half of the nation’s inspectors general accused his administration of stonewalling investigations? Where were they when the Obama administration covered up their poor response to the BP oil spill or the poisoning of the Colorado River? Where were they when Obama weaponized the IRS, EPA, DOJ, and FBI against his political rivals? Where were they when Obama expanded the surveillance state? Where were they when the Obama administration tried to cover up the deaths of thousands of veterans who died waiting for care at the VA? Where were they when Obama was spying on the media or manipulating intelligence to falsely claim progress was being made on the War on Terror? Where were they then?
Democrats have no business claiming any moral high ground on corruption when they were willing accomplices for the rampant corruption of the Obama administration.
So will this strategy work? Probably not. As I previously noted, Trump’s poll numbers have been improving despite the wall-to-wall coverage of Stormy Daniels and this neverending Russian collusion witch hunt. Americans, it seems, are getting tired of the partisan scandalmongering and care much more about how Trump’s policies are affecting them personally.
Matt Margolis is the author of the new book, The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis