I’m going to go out on a limb and say the only real path to doing that will be at the ballot box. Short of treason, I don’t see Republicans supporting impeachment, a process that is no slam dunk in any case. That means Trump either chooses not to run, or resigns. And while I think Trump’s future is set on the public speaking circuit, I don’t see him cutting and running.
In their heart of hearts, I’m pretty sure the Democrats get that. Putting aside the Electoral College, the numbers don’t lie. Flipping back some traditionally blues states would make a whole lot of difference, and it isn’t far-fetched considering the embattled president’s less than stellar approval rating.
Unfortunately, there is a battle brewing in the party’s ranks, pulling it to the left. The recent success of folks like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have many in the party embracing a candidate molded in her leftist image, rather than the old-school moderate perhaps best personified by a Joe Biden. This, no doubt, will play well to an activist base, but it is not the sort of thing that will sway middle America to your cause.
In an excellent piece in the Wall Street Journal, Gerald F. Seib, citing AP VoteCast, points out 60 percent of Democratic voters are 45 and older. Of those, 48 percent call themselves “moderate” or “conservative,” outnumbering those who consider themselves “very liberal” 2 to 1.
In fact, the story of the 2018 midterms wasn’t Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez knocking off an old-guard Democrat in a Democratic New York district, it was suburban white women with a track record of voting Republican expressing dissatisfaction with Trump by voting for Democrats. Hardly young socialist rebels.
Of the approximately 60 percent of eligible voters that turned out in 2016, roughly 27 percent voted D and 27 percent voted R. While the popular majority voted Clinton, losses in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin threw the Electoral College vote solidly to Trump.
To me, that comes down to a poor choice of candidate. Hillary Clinton had a checkered past in her own party, let alone on a national stage. In 2016, she had a hard time surviving a primary campaign that was set in her favor to an acerbic, self-avowed socialist. Eight years prior, she lost a primary battle to a first-term senator and community organizer. The takeaway? Despite her fervent supporters, a good portion of Democrats wanted someone else. You might call that a “likability” factor.
There are those who say that is code for sexism, and granted, that may be the case in some arenas, but I’d be willing to wager less so within the party. And, it ignores the baggage Clinton had piled up in over 20 years in the public eye.
In the general, the party showed itself to be dangerously out of touch with the electorate. It did not seem to take anti-Obama backlash seriously, it overestimated people’s happiness with the ACA, it did not perceive financial difficulties thrust on middle America through many of it’s policies and a slow growing economy, and it seemed to be out of touch with the perception that it catered to urban elites while ignoring one of its long-time strengths: blue collar America.
Mix in Clinton fatigue, and tone-deaf statements like “basket of deplorables” and “we are going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” it’s little wonder she lost the very states that flipped the election to Trump. Places her predecessor carried four years prior. Point fingers where you may, in my book, responsibility for losing those battleground states falls right at her doorstep.
The lesson here is the base isn’t going to win you an election. What was the Democratic base going to do, vote Trump? Neither was it Trump’s appeal to the base that won it for him. It was Clinton pushing middle-of-the-road voters into the Trump column. And those votes are reclaimable for Democrats.
A study by the non-profit More in Common USA released last year shows our discourse is being driven by a vocal minority on the extremes — eight percent on the hard left and 6 percent on the hard right — while the rest of us, some 67 percent, for an “exhausted majority” in the middle.
Moderates have become the enemy. To those on the hard right, a moderate is simply someone on the left, and vice versa. Moderation doesn’t play well on TV. The airwaves are chock full of loud voices on the right and left shouting over each other. It doesn’t make a catchy meme. Reason and objective thought are thrown out the window, everything is now about feelings and knee-jerk reactions, arguments and anger.
I agree, it is exhausting. And the majority are left choosing between flawed candidates who don’t represent their interests, because one thing the parties do agree on is controlling ballot access and who gets on the debate stage to mitigate the danger of a third party or independent challenge. And in 2016, the Democrats playing to their base gave us Donald Trump.
The Republican Party has cast its lot with Trump. The midterms showed Trump fatigue can flip moderates to the Democrats. If they want to have a chance at truly removing him, they will take that to heart when they evaluate a primary field that potentially will dwarf the one the Republicans trotted out in the last go around. Find a candidate who can take the battle to him, or rise above him. One who appeals to voters far and wide, including moderate Republicans and Independents, and not just to the Ivy and Seven Sister crowd.
Otherwise, prepare for four more years.