Monday, December 12, 2016


Donald Trump is about to become president, and Politico reports that Democrats have no response plan:
As Donald Trump’s inauguration draws near, Democrats fear they remain woefully unprepared to fight the new president’s agenda.

The party loses its standard-bearer once President Barack Obama leaves office, and the Democratic National Committee won’t get a permanent chairman and staff until March, two months into the presidency. That Democratic power vacuum has raised concerns about the party's ability to provide a united message -- or even to stand up a centralized rapid response operation -- for the president's first 100 days in office.

Their worst nightmare is that Trump, ever the showman, will define his opening act with little unified resistance.

“It's a very serious concern. I just went on TV twice today on Fox and MSNBC on the Cabinet appointments and I winged it,” said Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor and 2008 presidential candidate. “You need something right now. Trump every day is doing something outrageous. What do we do? Criticize everything he does? Hold back a bit? I know we need to develop an economic message but that's long term. We need something now. Most of the Democrats I talk to are down, and they're asking who's in charge.”

... the question of message coordination is an immediate one for those who are faced with spouting the party line with the Trump train barreling down the tracks.

In the words of one Democrat who remains a frequent television commentator, but who has noticed the ranks of prominent party surrogates shrinking as the number of talking points and centralized messaging memos wane, “People are afraid to go out there."
My immediate reaction is: When did Democrats ever have a "unified message"? And haven't "the ranks of prominent party surrogates" always been inadequately small? Even when they held the White House, Democrats had no star-maker machinery, beyond the partly self-generated stardom of Obama. And Democrats never worked the media refs to demand parity on TV and cable news, which are still wired for Republicans.

If Democrats think things are worse now, that means they're really bad.

But aren't Democrats winning on Russia? Boyd Brown, a South Carolina Democrat who used to be a member of the DNC, says: "We’ve got him on this Russia deal, but we’ll find a way to mess it up."

Maybe, maybe not. The glimmer of hope here is Trump himself. As incoming presidents go, he's strikingly unpopular, according to Pew:
As Trump prepares to take office, 41% say they approve of the job he has done explaining his plans and policies for the future of the American people, while 55% say they disapprove of the job Trump has done.

That 41% approval rating is lower than President Barack Obama's 72% in December 2008 and President George W. Bush's 50% in January 2001 -- in the wake of a disputed election. It's also lower than President Bill Clinton's 62% in January 1993 and President George H.W. Bush's 65% in March 1989....

Trump's Cabinet picks have also received low marks, with just 40% of Americans surveyed saying they approve compared to 51% who disapprove of his selections so far.
At this point, Trump is his own worst eneny -- which is to say that he's a worse enemy to himself than the opposition party is. Boyd Brown can talk about Trump's PR success with the Carrier deal, but the Russia revelations have completely swamped that story, which was already tarnished after Trump attacked local union leader Chuck Jones and Jones didn't back down, even in the face of threats from pro-Trumpers. I expected day after day of Trump's victory tour, but there have been only a couple of days of coverage. (Maybe Trump's ADHD kicked in and the tour was forgotten.) The Russia story is much bigger and is likely to linger much longer -- and Trump courted more bad publicity by leaking the name of Russia pal Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state appointee just as the story was unfolding, rather than waiting a few days.

I don't want to fall into the trap of assuming that Trump is self-destructing -- a lot of us believed that much of the way through the campaign -- but he's never been across-the-board popular, and he's not becoming more so, the way most newly elected presidents do. This gives Democrats a little time. But not much, because even unpopular presidents can get things done. Democrats need a leader who understands that they weren't in great shape even before the leadership vacuum existed. However, any leader at all would help.


AllieG said...

I notice that the persons quoted in the Politico story are all has-been and Beltway types. "Prominent Dem who appears on TV" but doesn't have an elected position? Where are my talking points? You mean you can't go on TV and speak for yourself? There are 48 Democratic Senators and 190-something Representatives. They are the damn opposition now. It's what they say and do that counts. That's not much hope based on past performance, but they do seem a tad feistier than during the Bush era.
Also, there's us. We can be more public in what we say and do. Anyone who doesn't spend Christmastime telling Trump-voting acquaintances and family members who they got suckered on Medicare and Social Security is not in the fight.

Never Ben Better said...

Rep. Seth Moulton (D. Mass.) would make a great spokesman for the Dems on the talk shows -- young, telegenic, smart, clear-spoken, a combat vet, and sharp on the issues (also my Congressman) -- but the problem is breaking him into the ranks of acceptable guests, which is the prerogative of the media, a sclerotic bunch most comfortable with trotting out the same old reliable faces.

I'll repeat what I said again and again to people whining about how Obama never pushed the messaging well -- how the hell do you get a message out when the media are determined not to hear and transmit it?

Unknown said...

Only the repiglicans can win at this site. With Graham and McCain going after Orange Julius Caesar the Dems can sit back and enjoy the show. The dynamic duo hate tRump and will do anything they can to destroy him. So We'll mess it up really becomes pass the popcorn.

Lit3Bolt said...

Good points, although at the same time, I admit to being frustrated with Obama with being a 19th century gentleman President in the 21st century. Then again, as @Never Been Better points out, Obama and almost every Dem has been hemmed in into doing almost nothing by the media (can't be angry! can't pull a stunt! can't be sad!), or having it simply drowned out by right wing media and the MSM.

I think the best way to attack the Right is from the Right, because they're so ideologically far adrift at this point they've left themselves exposed.

"What? You want a bunch of Islamic jihadists with hoodies buying guns to shoot your preppy children?"

"What? You trust foreign corporations filled with swarthy Asians to not pollute your picturesque town?"

"What? You want to deport all illegals? Get ready to pay 40 dollars at McDonald's for a Happy Meal then."

"What? You expect a serial adulterer and his porn star trophy wife to appoint a Christian judge?"

"What? You want to be best friends with Russia now? Pinko."

"What? You voter IDs? Fine, then let's make them mandatory and have your taxes pay for it."

This is fertile ground, and only goofballs like Trae Crowder on youtube are covering it.
But most national Dems are just as Villager-addled as Republicans, so they think kissing Chuck Todd's ring or shining the right billionaire's shoes will give them a chance or organizing the bestest creative team of their Ivy League classmates will allow them to present their message.

Unknown said...

Maybe Democrats will stop trying to please Republicans and realize that Republican - Lite just won't sell.

easttexan said...

So, the people whose follow-up to 'hope and change' was 'look what we dragged out of the mothballs' don't have a Plan B?

I'm shocked.

Ken_L said...

"Trump meets Kanye West!" and "Trump says cancel new Air Force One!" type distractions will lose their efficacy once they have to compete against headlines like "Gas hits $5" or "Dozens feared dead in explosion at Trump Towers Istanbul". But the absence of effective Democratic Party media performers is hugely worrying, compounded by the willingness of people like Schumer saying of course they look forward to finding common ground, or Gabbard telling people to shut up about all the generals of course they're great picks.

Why does Richardson need someone to give him talking points? Does he really not know how to explain what "conflict of interest" means and why Trump is a living case study of them?