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Democrats Should Run Against Ryan And McConnell

[ Posted Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 – 17:19 UTC ]

Although it hasn't gotten a whole lot of media attention yet, this is another one of those weeks when Congress actually does something, because they are forced to. A handful of times each year, Congress runs up against a calendar deadline (usually one of their own making), and is thus forced to pass a bill or else (choose one): the federal government will shut down, the country will default on the national debt, some large group of people will be royally screwed by congressional inaction, or (the worst of them all, to congresscritters) one of the enormous number of congressional vacation weeks will be in peril of being delayed or cancelled.

This time around, Congress is facing yet another possible government shutdown, as a gargantuan omnibus budget bill is being haggled over which will fund the government all the way through the midterm elections. Since this is going to be the last such "must-pass" bill until then, all sorts of other issues are being negotiated -- which is really just a frank admission that Congress is not expecting to do anything at all until after November. March isn't even over yet, and Congress is wrapping things up until Thanksgiving, to put this another way. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

It's not like they don't have important things to do or anything. The list of crucial issues which are currently demanding congressional attention is a long one. But no action is planned on much of anything, as Congress clears the rest of the year's calendar to focus on their highest priority -- getting re-elected. This is why there's such a mad rush right now to get legislation completely unrelated to the budget into the must-pass bill this week, of course. Which is downright pathetic, really. Congress is currently trying to do six months' worth of business in a few days, and the massive resulting bill will not be fully read by a single person who votes on it. Senator Rand Paul may launch a filibuster and shut down the government (briefly), exactly as he did last time, in protest of this incredibly broken process. At this point, it's hard not to sympathize with him at least a little bit, because he's right -- this is no way to run things.

All of this gives Democrats a wide political opening, as the midterm election season gets underway. Democratic candidates should be gearing up to run against the "do-nothing" Republican Congress, and, in particular, against Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell's lack of leadership skills.

It's a pretty easy case to make, for Democrats:

"Republicans control the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House -- and yet they can't get anything done. This is the least productive Congress in modern history! Paul Ryan can't get his own caucus to agree on a vote that the sky is blue, and Mitch McConnell isn't a whole lot better. Their first-year agenda was to spend almost the whole year trying to take health insurance away from 20 or 30 million Americans, which (thankfully) failed spectacularly. Then they passed some giant corporate tax cuts for their puppetmasters on Wall Street. Now they're wrapping up all the business they intend to conduct for all of 2018, which isn't much to write home about. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell couldn't successfully run a lemonade stand, much less Congress. Elect Democrats so that we can finally get some things done!"

Turn about, in this case, is fair play. Republicans have successfully demonized Nancy Pelosi for over a decade now, although Chuck Schumer's name isn't as well-known yet (due to all the efforts to demonize Harry Reid, who has since retired). But, in doing so, they've left themselves vulnerable, because their own congressional leaders are no great shakes themselves.

Added to this political opportunity is the propensity of conservatives to demonize their own leaders. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell do not have a whole lot of support outside of Washington, and every time they fail to act on some long-held Republican dream agenda item, they are personally excoriated by the rightwing media. So the ground has already been softened up for Democrats, thanks to conservative bloviators.

Democrats should base their campaign strategy for taking back Congress on a very old campaign theme: "What have you done for me lately?" If Republican candidates attempt to use Nancy Pelosi to scare voters into electing Republicans, then Democratic candidates can fire back by asking what in particular Paul Ryan has done for anyone since 2016. Other than attempt to take away health insurance for millions, that is. Mitch McConnell is still trying to get political mileage out of ensuring a conservative Supreme Court justice was confirmed, but that's pretty old news by now. What has he done lately for voters? Not much.

Midterms are almost always "throw the bums out" election cycles, so this shouldn't be all that hard for Democrats to feed into. Republicans have had control of all branches of government for over a year now, and they have precious little to show for it. Their big signature achievement is going over like a lead balloon, as even voters who saw a little more in their paychecks still resent the fact that over three-fourths of the tax cuts went to corporations and the ultra-wealthy. In the recent special House election in Pennsylvania, the Republican groups all started off by flooding the airwaves with ads touting the tax cuts, but then as the election wound on an interesting thing happened. The "tax cuts are wonderful" ads were cut back, and then cut back again. By the time the election rolled around, the GOP groups had completely given up on tax cut ads, because they were not working. They hadn't moved the needle one iota.

This is significant because this is really the only card Republicans in Congress have to play, out on the 2018 campaign trail. It's really all they've got to brag about. And if the voters simply don't care, then they've got nothing else to run on. Their political quiver has but one arrow, and that arrow is badly bent and probably won't hit the mark.

Democrats, being the "out" party, are able to run on sheer aspiration instead of their recent record. They've got several solid issues that have been resonating well with the public (the biggest of which, so far, is proving to be their support for affordable healthcare), and their basic argument will be: "Put us back in power so we can get some stuff done." This is a potent stance to take in any midterm, but especially this year when the opposition doesn't have much of any counterargument. Personalize the lack of progress on pretty much everything by laying it on the shoulders of Ryan and McConnell, and the ads just write themselves, really.

The inside-the-Beltway crowd is already obsessing over how much the Democratic Party should present itself as the anti-Trump party. But interestingly enough, Democratic candidates don't seem to share this obsession. Trump has rarely been mentioned by Democrats on the campaign trail in the special elections which have been held, and for good reason -- House and Senate districts are much more local. "We hate Trump" isn't a campaign strategy, instead it is an unspoken given. Of course there are a lot of voters motivated to send a message to Trump by chucking Republicans out of office, but these voters aren't looking for confirmation, they're just looking for a "D" next to the candidates' name. They aren't the ones who need convincing, in other words.

Campaigns are fought for the undecided voters in the middle, and for the most part these are practical people who want to see results. Reminding them that Republicans are in control of everything and have not produced any such results will either discourage them from voting altogether or encourage them to give the Democrats a chance to drive the bus. For them, the most potent message around may wind up being: "So what have Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell done for you lately?"

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


25 Comments on “Democrats Should Run Against Ryan And McConnell”

  1. [1] 
    Kick wrote:

    Speaking of beating Republicans at their own game, Conor Lamb reports that Rick Saccone has conceded the race in the PA-18 special election. :)

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    but democrats DO have a recent record. remember, "chuck and nancy" got a debt ceiling deal done with POTUS when "paul and mitch" couldn't do much of anything.


  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:
  4. [4] 
    Michale wrote:

    Hay CW,

    I know this is off-topic...

    I also know how you love being prescient in your commentaries... :D

    Insurers Race to Develop Coverage for Driverless Cars

    Damage liability may shift from the driver to a wider list of providers as control of cars shifts from humans to computers

  5. [5] 
    TheStig wrote:


    That is a very good point.

  6. [6] 
    TheStig wrote:

    CW-Your black box frames the midterm election quite well. That said, the fact that Trump isn't all that popular doesn't hurt one bit. Painting a Republican as a cowering lap dog of Trump - to the detriment of local interests - can reinforce the need for change at the local level. The old bromide "all politics is local" is largely true, but corporate media tends to weight public discourse towards the National, with Trump wobbling on the point of the organizational pyramid.

  7. [7] 
    TheStig wrote:

    If I were to characterize Republican congress people in the age of Trump, it would be "shy and retiring - but mostly shy."

    If any party is capable of squandering this opportunity, it would Dems.

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    Totally off topic, but I would just like to go on record saying that Joseph Biden would kick Donald Trump's ass nine ways to Sunday.

    Believe me when I tell you that all-talk-no-action guys like "Cadet Bone Spurs Five Deferments" are running for the exits only to get caught by the Regular Joes who proceed to pound the BS right out of their mealy mouths. Seen it a thousand times. :)

    p.s. His lawyer quit! *LOL*

  9. [9] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    McConnell apparently believes that Congress should do as little as possible. So the 'Party of No' has now become the 'Party of Later (maybe never)'.

    Dislikes: Debate, Bipartisanship, sunlight, mirrors

    Likes: Crisis voting, Mint Juleps, Horses, Cash

    Favorite Movie: Wall Street

    Least Favorite Movie: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

    Favorite song: Stop (In the Name of Love)

  10. [10] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Ryan, on the other hand, still believes that government can accomplish things - like making the Rich even richer. He's never gotten over his first loves: Republican Jack Kemp, writer Ayn Rand, and the word "yep". Continually threatens to grow a backbone, but never manages to.

    Likes: Libertarianism, cutting Healthcare, workouts

    Dislikes: nuance, talking, math

    Favorite Movie/Book: Atlas Shrugged

    Least Favorite Movie: Boyhood

  11. [11] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Oop - not done with Ryan yet:

    Favorite song: Come Together

    Least Favorite song: The Munsters Theme

  12. [12] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    I would just like to go on record saying that Joseph Biden would kick Donald Trump's ass nine ways to Sunday.

    Cage match!

  13. [13] 
    TheStig wrote:


    "Old Man Strong" vs "Old Fat Man"

  14. [14] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Should a match somehow occur, I would like to see Ruth Bader Ginsburg (in judicial robes) as the "card girl."

  15. [15] 
    Kick wrote:


    ^^^ This! ^^^

    Oh, my goodness, yes! RBG would be the only card girl needed for the 1-round match. She's a badass.

    Did you see Colbert working out with her on last night's show? She cleaned his clock.

    I love her :)

  16. [16] 
    Kick wrote:

    McMaster out ---> Bolton in

  17. [17] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    If only it was Michael Bolton!

  18. [18] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    McMaster out ---> Bolton in

    Wonder who won the pool on that? And don't forget:

    Dowd out ---> DeGenova in

    Next, look for Trump to fire the US Attorney in the Southern District of New York, and replace him with Judge Jeanine.

    Bring in Hannity to replace Hope Hicks? Makes sense in a Trumpian sort of way.

  19. [19] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    I just hope he doesn't inflict Greg Gutfield on us.

  20. [20] 
    Paula wrote:

    Another breaking story:

    Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft.

    That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team.

    While it’s unclear what Mueller plans to do with Guccifer, his last round of indictments charged 13 Russians tied to the Internet Research Agency troll farm with a conspiracy “for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.” It was Mueller’s first move establishing Russian interference in the election within a criminal context, but it stopped short of directly implicating the Putin regime.

    Mueller’s office declined to comment for this story. But the attribution of Guccifer 2.0 as an officer of Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency would cross the Kremlin threshold—and move the investigation closer to Trump himself.

    Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone admitted being in touch with Guccifer over Twitter’s direct messaging service. And in August 2016, Stone published an article on the pro-Trump-friendly Breitbart News calling on his political opponents to “Stop Blaming Russia” for the hack. “I have some news for Hillary and Democrats—I think I’ve got the real culprit,” he wrote. “It doesn’t seem to be the Russians that hacked the DNC, but instead a hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer 2.0.”

    The piece goes on to explain how Guccifer was identified after he "...failed to activate the VPN client before logging on. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based Internet Protocol address in the server logs of an American social media company, according to a source familiar with the government’s Guccifer investigation."

  21. [21] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Trump told Putin that they’d meet soon, which supposedly was news to his entire staff. There was no mention of a meeting in his notes.

    Should we be worried that Trump’s been communicating and making plans with Putin via backchannel means that our government isn’t aware of? Maybe Kushner did fulfill one of his many tasks that Trump stuck him with!

  22. [22] 
    Paula wrote:

    [23] Listen: Yes, we should be worried.

  23. [23] 
    goode trickle wrote:


    If we are going to do trump-pool speculation.... I have to go with Jenna Lee or Kimberly Guifoyle as a hope hicks replacement. Hannity could never recite the sunset poem.

    I think Gutfield is a has been, I would not be surprised to see the very successful propagandist Tucker Carlson get some sort of call up, Besides he would be a good fit with "blow 'em up" Bolton.

    The interesting thing I am noticing is that Trump is getting away from having any experienced practitioners of war and the costs associated with it and is definitely going with people who have gone to great lengths to avoid experiencing war but like the concept of it...

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:


    I have another interesting bit of information to pass along too:

    Tomorrow's front page: British data firm Cambridge Analytica offered £1m bribe to turn election

    shit -----> fan

  25. [25] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Trump is getting away from having any experienced practitioners of war and the costs associated with it and is definitely going with people who have gone to great lengths to avoid experiencing war but like the concept of it...

    I heard Bolton tonight described as the 'most dangerous' person Trump could have chosen for the job. Combined with the shake-up on his legal team, it suggests that his plan is to fire Mueller, then start a war to distract from it.

    It that sounds improbable, consider that we're talking about Trump. My favorite quote of the week was from Fran Liebowitz, who, being a New York celebrity herself, has known Trump for most of her adult life: “Everyone says he is crazy – which maybe he is – but the scarier thing about him is that he is stupid. You do not know anyone as stupid as Donald Trump. You just don’t.”

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