Democrats: Inoculate Yourselves Today

Democrats: Inoculate Yourselves Today

Tomorrow You’ll Be Exposed to Something Lethal

The political world is pacing itself into exhaustion with anticipation of Robert Mueller’s testimony tomorrow.  Republicans girding as if for a dental extraction. Democrats as if Mueller is set to deliver shiny new Trump-destroying toys down the cable news chimney.

Neither is terribly likely, all the more reason why today is the day for Democrats to inoculate themselves with a powerful swig of reality.

If you treat the testimony as an opportunity to engage fellow Americans in a better understanding of why this President should not be re-elected, you may be successful, which would be a major victory for our country. If you allow yourselves to be seized by a fit of irrational exuberance and overreach on impeachment, it could lead to one of the great failures: a backfire that leads to Trump’s re-election and total disaster. 

For those still ambivalent about this proposition, I encourage you to “play the movie.” The quotes are from a graduate school teacher of mine, Robert Blackwell (a staunch Republican, by the way, at a time when Democrats felt like they could have Republican mentors). Ambassador Blackwell taught policy analysis – how to look at your options and decide which is most likely to work.

He once gave us a drill. “It’s 1994, the Rwandan genocide,” he said. “You are an adviser to the President. He is asking you, should I send in U.S. troops to stop the fighting?  What do you tell him?”

“Yes.” we all said.  “OK,” he said.  “I’m a movie guy. So, play me the movie here. Rwanda is about the size of New Jersey.  80% of the people live in rural areas. Where do the troops go?”

“Where the people are,” we replied.  That seemed right.

“OK, so they’re going village to village.  What are the troops going to do? Take away weapons?”

“Yes,” a few people said, sounding a bit more tentative.

“OK, so most of the weapons being used in the violence are farming and household items, so, are the troops going door to door to confiscate them? Play me the movie. It’s late afternoon.  A platoon is walking down the street. They come to a door.  Do they knock? Do they break down the door?”

“Ummm…” we replied.

He then let us off the hook. His point was not to oppose a policy of sending in U.S. troops. Or support one. The point was that this kind of detailed thinking can really help decide what to do, avoid horrible mistakes, and strengthen your policy once you do decide.

Applying this thinking to impeachment, let’s play the movie.

House Democrats vote to impeach President Trump. There is a trial in the Senate. As the facts in the Mueller report are re-litigated, do the scales fall from the eyes of twenty Republican senators (which you would need, along with all Democrats, to convict) who now abandon the President? Does Mitch McConnell give a contrite speech about the error of his ways?  Do Trump voters across the country race to burn their MAGA hats, while swing voters, especially the key swing Rust Belt non-college educated white voters, race to change their registration to “Democrat?”

If you don’t want to speculate, think of the clips of this movie that we’ve already seen. After last week’s racist tweet-storm, all but four Republican members of congress refused to vote to condemn Trump. Mitch McConnell deflected further talk of the incident.  Trump’s approval rating went up.  This has mostly been the pattern after every Trumpian outrage.

Which is why Donald Trump perpetrates outrages.

As I have argued and as others have pointed out, the tweets were evidence of Donald Trump’s recognition that his best (and possibly only) strategy for survival is to force the 2020 election onto stark, charged, partisan ground. Pull wavering voters behind the partisan battle lines and stockpile the gunpowder of anger, of “pick-a-side”-ism. Strategically, savvy Democrats know, or should know, that they do not want to be fighting the 2020 election on the proposition that “Donald Trump is terrible and unfit to serve.” We’ve seen that movie before too. Bad ending.

So Democrats: prepare yourselves today to use tomorrow for what it is. Show people that we were attacked by units of the Russian military and that Donald Trump and his campaign were on Russia’s side, not ours. Then on Thursday and every day after, put all of your energy into showing how you are going to protect our country and strengthen our way of life by giving working Americans a better deal.  

That’s a movie that people want to see.

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