Why shouldn’t the Democrats make Trump’s supposed “collusion” with the Russians a major focus of their 2018 and 2020 campaigns?
Short answer: Because winning elections requires focussing on issues which matter to voters. This “issue” does not.
Long answer: Even if the charge were true, namely, that Trump’s campaign obtained information from Russians either in or outside government to gain advantage over his rivals, it would matter little to the overwhelming majority of Americans. That’s because they already know that elections are manipulated and largely owned and operated by a billionaire class. Whether their addresses are in the Arbat and Khamovniki districts of Moscow or on Park Avenue makes no difference. In either case, the government works for them, whereever they are housed, and against the public. Democrats focussing on alleged manipulation of elections by the Russians while being a willing participant in the manipulation of elections by its major donors will be seen as hypocrisy-a confirmation of the poll result that “Democrats believe in nothing other than defeating Trump and the Republicans.”
But all that assumes that the charges are true. And there is very good reason to question them. At best the evidence for whether there was significant Russian influence of any kind is, in the words of the New Yorker’s Masha Gessen, “fundamentally uncertain.” That includes the evidence contained in Mueller’s indictment which is largely nothing new: a small number of poorly payed employees in a Moscow “troll farm” produced a string of tweets and facebook postings whose incompetence and tortured English syntax made them object of ridicule then, insofar as they were noticed at all, and now. For anyone who has seen them, the notion that these had a significant influence on the election is laughable.
But if the claims are so ridiculous why are they being taken so seriously?
Short Answer: Because they are a smokescreen created by Democratic Party leadership.
Long Answer: The real purpose of the stories of has nothing to do with protecting the electoral system and everything to do with proving a bad faith excuse for the class of political professionals who failed to defeat Donald Trump, the Republican candidate with the lowest approval ratings in the history of presidential polling. The story as they tell it is not one of an electoral debacle resulting from their incompetence and venality and their rigging of the system in favor of a weak candidate, rather, it was Russians influence.
The story is absurd on its face and the “embittered losers” (as they are described by Russian scholar Stephen Cohen) making it have been almost entirely discredited. But while that is so, they remain in control of the institutional mechanisms of the Democratic Party, as well as having close contacts in the agenda setting media at all levels. This allows them to project their message across the full range of media outlets thereby defining conventional wisdom, regardless of its logical and factual bankruptcy.
But that doesn’t mean that it is believed, particularly by those with decades of experience with other equally cynical and dishonest pronouncements from Democratic Party leadership.
Continuing to flog the Russian collusion story will cement the widespread perception of the Democrats as opportunistic and unprincipled–if not deserving to lose, surely not meriting enthusiastic support at the polls, if any support at all.
Why should the Democrats make the NRA, guns and gun control the major focus of their 2018 and 2020 campaigns?
Short answer: Because winning elections requires focussing on issues which matter to voters. This issue does.
Long answer: In contrast to Russian collusion story, as we saw last week in Florida, gun control, or more precisely, its absence, is (literally) deadly serious and can have a profound impact on our lives. While school shootings, such as those in Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland are rare, Americans have a 25.2 times greater chance of being killed by guns than citizens of any other developed nation.
What is blocking action on what is a public health crisis (as the the U.N. recognized), are not individual gun owners but rather an industry trade association, the NRA, whose contributions and lobbying network has for many years managed to defeat virtually every effort to institute meaningful control over weapons and who is able to purchase them.
That said, the NRA is a relatively small organization, one which overwhelmingly finances a single party.
That is in sharp contrast to other Washington lobbies such as the energy, telecommunications and pharmaceutical industries which invest billions in public relations investing a significant fraction of their vast resources in both parties. In contrast to their lock on the political system, the NRA is vulnerable both because of its relatively small size and because it has few friends on the Democratic side of the aisle. An effective mass movement of the sort which is emerging from Florida leading to a unanimous rejection contributions from the NRA could eventually define as Republicans as, what they are, a clear and present danger. While there will be little love for them, the Democrats could deploy gun control as the issue which allows them to redefine their identity as based on minimally sane, common sense protection of public health and safety.
For it to succeed, the Democrats must maintain message disclipine on this, hammering again and again on the Republicans as a public safety menace. Of course, the Democrats can and should run on other issues on which the Republicans are vulnerable, in particular those having to do with grotesque levels of wealth and income inequality the system has produced and which has eviscerated the quality of life of the great majority over the past three decades
But given the party’s continuing collusion (i.e. receipt of huge donations) with the big banks, the insurance companies, and high tech industries, it will be seen as just as complicit as the Republican, its attempts to craft a unified message on corporate power and the rise of the plutocracy-likely to have little credibility with voters.
Gun control, however, is one issue, perhaps the sole issue, which the Democrats can legitimately claim ownership, sufficient to create a wave election in 2018.
They should run on it as if their-and our-lives depended on it.