June 7, 2018 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Dem Establishment Strikes Back

And the Republicans have already run out of gas in the run up to November's midterms.

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The main attraction this morning is a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing that midterm voters would support candidates promising to “serve as a check” on Donald Trump “by a whopping 25-percent margin.”

By a similar margin, 22 percent, people said they would be less likely to vote for someone who supported Trump on most issues. “A majority—53 percent—say they’re less likely to vote for a candidate who supports the president on most issues.”

The poll comes a day after primaries in California and other states showing the Democratic Party is doing all right given that the party doesn’t have a clear leader (by dint of being shut out of power) to communicate a clear political message. Indeed, as Bloomberg’s inestimable Jonathan Bernstein wrote on Wednesday, success coming without clear leadership makes success all the more impressive.

Takeaway No. 1.
Democratic pollster Fred Yang conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. He told NBC News that the polling “points to a repudiation of Donald Trump and to the benefit of Democrats. I think this is becoming a traditional midterm where the party controlling the White House is going to lose seats.”

All of this is bad news for those who believe the problem with the Democratic Party is that it’s a party. Many people who backed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries believed that if the party had gotten out of the way and let voters decide who the party’s nominee would be, we wouldn’t have President Constitutional Crisis.

This has always been a fabulously weak assertion. First, because it presumes Bernie Sanders would have been the people’s choice. Two, because it presumes Sanders would have beaten Trump. Fact is, we can’t know a counterfactual. Yet the idea that political parties are no good very bad lives on in the face of evidence that a political party is (likely) going to give the people what they want: a check on a crazed executive.

Takeaway No. 2.
Contrary to populist belief, the Democratic Party, in order to win, does not need a clear message; does not need a leader; does not need to get more progressive. As I have said, all candidates need to do in an environment in which an president invokes the divine right of kings is comb their hair, brush their teeth, and oppose Trump.

I have a third and final observation having to do with the last strategy remaining for the Republicans to protect their majority. It appears they have caved to Trump’s instinct for frothing up resentment among base voters. The leadership had hoped to campaign on the $1.3 trillion tax overhaul, but Trump seems bored with it. He’d rather focus on “culture war tropes that propelled him to the White House.”

This isn’t new. We knew in February that the president would rely on “unexpected cultural flashpoints” to drive out the base in November. Moreover, we knew that these same “culture tropes” (i.e., racist messages) are the kind that Kremlin operatives seize on to move public opinion, by way of social media, against the Democrats.

That worked when an African-American president sat in the White House and a woman dared to be Trump’s opponent. But I don’t think it will work when the Democrats have no clear leader and the Republicans hold all the levers of power in Washington. Try as they might, I doubt that the Republicans can recover the energy they saw in 2010. With Barack Obama gone, the gas is gone, too.

Takeaway No. 3.
It not only won’t work but it will likely harm Republican odds. Trump is already viewed as the president of Republicans, not the president of the United States. Doubling down on a racist strategy to incite rage will likely deepen that impression as well as deepen a majority’s desire for the Democrats to check a crazed executive.

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(Image courtesy of the WSJ)

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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