Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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The Structure of Political Revolutions

In the wake of William Taylor’s Tuesday testimony, Donald Trump and his congressional allies will now have to move from denying there was a quid pro quo exchange (military aid for a Biden investigation) to explaining why the Senate shouldn’t convict the president and remove him from office for his scheme.

The best crystallization of this new paradigm is in the Washington Post essential reading column by Dan Balz.

Couple that with the president’s use of the term “lynching,” which was beyond the pale for even the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board (despite Joe Biden’s past use of the word), and you quite quickly reach the conclusion that Donald Trump is a political goner.

But if the following things are true, the Taylor-induced paradigm shift might not mean that Trump doesn’t get four more years:

(Editor’s note: double negative used on purpose.)

1. House Democrats will not be able to complete the impeachment process in 2019.

2. The impeachment process will block the Democrats from breaking through with voters in talking about health insurance and other winning issues.

3. In an election year, Trump can convince the publicly-wavering Mitch McConnell to hold his conference in line and win an acquittal in an impeachment trial.

4. Democrats will struggle to nominate a presidential candidate who can win a general election even against (maybe especially against) an impeached-but-not-convicted Trump.

Already this week we have seen stories about Team Trump’s massive fundraising edge and Team Trump’s massive general election digital media targeting edge – both putting Democrats on edge.

Now comes a pair of essential reads in the nation’s two most politically influential newspapers.

The New York Times: “Anxious Democratic Establishment Asks, ‘Is There Anybody Else?’”

The Washington Post: “Anxiety rises among Democrats worried about party’s prospects in 2020”

The Post story’s very tight nut graph says this:

“In conversations with 17 state and national party leaders, nearly all expressed some level of unease with where the field stands and a deepening concern that, even as Trump suffers through one of the darkest phases of his presidency, the leading presidential contenders would struggle mightily in a one-on-one contest with him. For all of his challenges, Trump commands a gigantic operation that has vacuumed up unprecedented sums of money, an unparalleled megaphone to lure in voters and a lock on most of the Republican Party. Democrats face the possibility of a long primary fight that could cleave the party along ideological and generational lines and leave the nominee campaigning against an incumbent whom Democrats see as simultaneously weak and hard to beat.”

My take: Why would the Democrats’ leading presidential candidates “struggle mightily in a one-on-one contest” with Trump? 

That is the topic of my book, out on Tuesday, “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists On What It Will Take.”

As the book’s prologue – about the 1992 election, the last time an incumbent president was beaten – suggests, to dislodge someone from the White House, the opposition needs both hope and a general election plan.

The dread and panic on the part of many Democrats that Trump will be reelected is not new.  The pining in some quarters for Hillary Clinton to run again is just the latest manifestation of a phenomenon that has been going on for most of the Trump presidency.  Not only is beating an incumbent historically difficult, but there are real and unique challenges in beating THIS incumbent that daunts many top party strategists.

The impeachment track is important and interesting, and, for many more months, will be the dominant storyline in American politics.

The weakness of the Democrats’ presidential candidates is important and interesting, and, for many more months, will be largely buried from public view, further hurting the party’s chances.

The Democrats I interviewed for my book never imagined that Trump would be impeached, or that he would hand Syria to the Russians, or that Anonymous would turn an op ed into a book, or any of the other things that have happened in the last two months that make Democrats determined to expel Trump from the Oval Office.

Trump wants to be reelected every bit as much as Democrats want to beat him. 

Bill Taylor has shifted the paradigm on the contours of the impeachment fight.

Here’s a reality that has NOT seen a paradigm shift: the Democratic presidential candidates are doing almost nothing now that “How to Beat Trump” suggests is essential if the party is to have a chance to win the White House. 

To shift the paradigm, one of the Democratic candidates needs to figure out how to simultaneously win the nomination AND put in place a well-funded general election plan with a message that can win Wisconsin and 270 electoral votes.

Right now, there is nothing like a majority view in the party about who that person is. And, as this week’s reporting suggests, Democrats are growing less sure about what the right answer is, rather than more sure.

“How to Beat Trump” gives rise to the question of “who can beat Trump?” 

Despite Bill Taylor, nobody knows the answer to that question right now.


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One thought on “Wednesday, October 23, 2019

  1. Well-written and analysis. I’ve never seen such a ruthless person as our president. He will fight and stoop to any behavior necessary to get what he wants. I fear there is no one who can win over him and no strong force in congress to lead impeachment proceedings. When Cummings died, we lost a strong advocate.

    On a personal note, I wish you the best. I like Dr. Phil’s quote when it comes to making amends. “Even prisoners get parole.” The public misses your talented analysis.


    Sent from my iPad


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