Senate Democrats are approaching the January confirmation battle over Donald Trump’s Cabinet as a chance to launch their political comeback and expose the president-elect as a fraud.Democrats aren't going to have the votes to block these nominees, but it's obvious that they should be put on the spot in front of TV cameras and made to account for their ideas and for relevant aspects of their careers. However, I don't think this will be less successful:
... The goal, according to lawmakers and aides: to depict Trump’s chosen inner circle of billionaires and conservative hard-liners as directly at odds with the working-class Americans he vowed to help.
... Democrats believe they have a target-rich environment ... whether it’s Rex Tillerson’s ties to big oil and Russia, Steven Mnuchin’s Wall Street career, Betsy DeVos’ antipathy toward public schools or Tom Price’s past support for overhauling Medicare.
“You’ve got a woman whose mission in life for the Department of Education is to privatize the public education system. You’ve got this secretary of HHS designee whose mission has been to raise the eligibility age for Medicare,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who will help oversee Ben Carson’s confirmation as housing secretary on the Banking Committee. “You need a scorecard to keep up with the attack on American values.”
Democrats are also demanding new disclosures of all Cabinet nominees’ tax records, to bolster their case that they and the president-elect are out to enrich themselves. Just three committees generally receive nominees' tax returns.Would it be good to have this information? Sure. Does the public care? Even when Donald Trump was dropping in the polls during the presidential campaign, it seemed clear that the call for his tax returns wasn't connecting with the public the way stories about his personal attacks and his predatory sexual behavior did. Many Americans, I think, had some sympathy for Trump -- they wouldn't want their own taxes made public. They might have told pollsters that he should release the information, but it wasn't deeply troubling to many of them.
Democrats should insist that nominees provide the same information that their predecessors had to provide, including the traditional financial disclosures. But if some Senate committees have never demanded tax returns, then Democrats shouldn't press for additional disclosures -- Republicans can always move goalposts this way, but when Democrats do it, their demands become the issue. (The reason for this? The so-called liberal media chides Democrats for moves like this. The conservative press never chides Republicans.)
I'd say Democrats should concentrate on what's in plain sight, and not on bigness per se -- after three decades of post-Reagan CEO worship, a lot of Americans don't care that Tillerson is part of "Big Oil" or Mnuchin is a Wall Street Master of the Universe, but they're likely to care about excessive coziness with Putin or foreclosure profiteering. (I know, I know -- to you and me, the sleaze is the inevitable result of the job description. But much of America has a bizarre and self-contradictory view of big business, alternating between populist wariness and Stockholm-syndrome hero worship. Y'know, "No poor man ever gave me a job" and all that.)
Concentrate on possible dire consequences -- an even more emboldened Putin, the end of Medicare as we know it. But don't attack these people purely on their riches. Americans distrust fat cats but aspire to wealth and admire "job creators." Fat bankrolls and even shady tax dodges aren't going to bother most Americans, alas. They'd like to be rich and dodge taxes creatively, too.