“Keep It Simple, Stupid” would, you might think, be the last thing you’d need to teach an American political party.
But we’re talking here about the Democrats, a party whose leadership never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
As the possibility of a government shut-down loomed, the Democrats had an opportunity to pose a simple choice to Donald Trump: protect the Dreamers, or close shop.
If they had been really smart, the Dems, Chuck Schumer and the rest, could have presented the American people with a simple us-or-them choice on two issues that they couldn’t lose, One was protecting the DACA people, the other was extending CHIP, the program protecting health insurance for children.
The CHIP issue was so easy that even the Republicans got it, and caved. Yes, they said at close to the last minute, we’ll extend CHIP in exchange for extending budget negotiations and staving off the government shut-down.
If the Democrats had started and ended negotiations with those 2 easy-win items on their agenda, they could have commanded both the moral high ground, but the popular sweet spot, as well,
Even in the “third rail” context of shutting down the government, polls showed most people supported the Democrats on those 2 questions. But the Democrats couldn’t leave it at that, and got suckered into re-arguing half a dozen other issues, making what should have been an easy up or down choice into a complicated one that Mitch McConnell could easily turn into “politics as usual.”
Give us DACA and CHIP and we have a deal to keep government open.
But the Democrats couldn’t leave it at that.
They couldn’t take the couldn’t-be-simpler dividing line the Republicans had handed them for 2018 and forevermore. Who’s for giving a break to those striving and accomplished Dreamer people? The Democrats.
Who believes all kids deserve medical protection? The Dems again.
And who hates helping the Dreamers and taking care of kids so much, they’d shut down the government to stop them? The GOP.
You could ride that pony to Election Day.
Of course, there are other issues, a veritable basket of laudables — more aid for Puerto Rico, real reform of immigration, money to rebuild infrastructure (not a wall), and hard questions about why the military needs more money. To do what? and where?
But all of them could have waited, could have been argued, perhaps to the Democrats’ benefit, over the course of the 2018 election year. But the budget impass gave the Democrats an opportunity to define themselves in the simple, accurate, and powerful ways that win elections.
Who’s humane? Who’s cruel? — to Dreamers and to opioid addicts? To the homeless and the hungry?
Who’s aware of the realities of diplomacy and trade in 2018 or 20, and who wants to retreat to isolated Fortress America, alienating all our allies?
Who fought honestly and hard, if stupidly, to win the 2016 election, and who sucked up to the Kremlin for every illegitimate advantage they could use to win?
Every day between now and the upcoming Congressional and Presidential elections, the answers to these questions will only be made more manifest, and more to the advantage of the Democrats.
Donald Trump’s political genius is controlling the news cycle, by reducing it to his latest Tweeted distractions. The shut-down crisis gave the Democrats the chance to simplify things to their own advantage and they blew it.
Now, bi-partisan committees of moderates are trying to wind their way through a minefield of competing positions. However things turn out, what could have been a clear Democratic victory will have been smudged
Kindness for the Dreamers? Care for our kids? That’s who we Democrats are. The End.
New Jersey, Virginia, Alabama, DACA and CHIP…it would have made for a helluva winning streak, and what in politics should be harder to turn down than a winning streak?
Part of keeping it simple is knowing when to stop.
Speaking of winning streaks, we have another grand week upcoming on HERE & THERE.
On Monday, a revealing story of journalism in the 21st Century. AP’s Paris-based International Security Correspondent Lori Hinnant tells the story of Mosul Eye, the once-anonymous blogger who became the world’s most authoritative inside source on the Islamic State’s occupation of Mosul. It turns out his identity wasn’t his only big secret. This is a multiply-fascinating story.
On Tuesday, a billion-dollar legal dispute makes it to the Supreme Court. Laura Paskus of NM Political Report heard oral arguments over which states are entitled to how much water from the Rio Grande. It had been a 3-cornered argument among Colorado, Texas and New Mexico, until the Federal Government joined the case. Since then, things have looked bad for the Land of Enchantment. And Laura says the arguments she heard in the High Court didn’t raise her hopes for her home state.
Wednesday’s program features “America’s Money Answers Man,” Jordan Goodman, one of our top business and financial reporters, looking at that world-changing monstrosity, the Trump-GOP tax reform law. It was made by and for people who like cutting taxes, because the public services taxes pay for are nothing they’d ever want to use. Public schools, parks, buses or hospitals aren’t civilized enough for them.
Finally, on Thursday… there used to be a T-shirt…Amazon offered it for sale…that read “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.” Until Dan Shelley of the Radio, Television, Digital News Association asked the online superstore – you really think lynching journalists is a joke? Amazon agreed with Dan that it wasn’t funny and pulled it from their site. But that’s just the beginning of the story.
Our stories begin with Amy Marash’s editorial cartoons. Most people see ‘em before they listen to a podcast. Guarantees you something you’ll remember fondly.
Listen to my podcast at davemarash.com