Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may be bad for the United States, but he’s good for the Republican Party. Democrats should watch McConnell to see how to manage expectations. As James Comey is set to testify, you can feel progressives’ giddiness over the twitters. They’re sure he’s about to bring down the president. The media is also setting up high expectations with CNN bringing in a cast from Watergate to discuss the hearings.
In reality, progressives should be prepared for a big letdown. Trump is not about to be impeached and Comey’s testimony won’t single-handedly lead to definitive proof of obstruction of justice. Instead, today’s testimony is just more of the big shiny object that’s distracting progressives from the issues that could return them to power. Collusion with Russia will not end the Trump presidency and may actually help Republicans in 2018.
And while progressives are setting an extremely high bar for success (i.e., bringing down the president), Mitch McConnell is downplaying chances for his legislative agenda. Last week, a parade of Senators, including Richard Burr, told reporters that they don’t believe there’s a path for repealing Obamacare this year. Now, it turns out that McConnell and company are working on a compromise that may go to vote right before the July recess. In other words, Trump goes free and Obamacare goes away.
Russia has become the Democrats’ Benghazi. It’s a great rallying cry for the base but the rest of the country is already tired of it. If anything is really going to happen with the Russian probe, it will come out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, not Comey’s testimony, and Mueller is just beginning his process. The obsession with Russia is little more than a distraction.
Democrats are like kids with attention-deficit disorder. They can’t stay focused on what matters and keep getting distracted by what doesn’t. A few weeks ago, they were bringing light to the House’s disastrous repeal-and-replace legislation which would bring back pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps and strip health care coverage from millions of Americans. Once it passed, though, the media and a handful of Senators said it would have a hard time getting through the Senate. Democrats immediately switched their attention to the Paris agreement and now the Russian investigation.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are quietly putting together a repeal bill. They’re also telling everyone that GOP tax reform is too difficult to pass. McConnell is downplaying expectations to minimize the impact of failure while using other distractions to try to put together legislative successes for the 2018. It’s smart politics.
Democrats would be wise to refocus their attention on issues that directly affect American voters. The Russian probe is complicated and highly politicized with little connection to most people’s lives. Bringing back pre-existing conditions, though, is a deal killer. Tax reform that shifts the burden from the wealthy to the middle class could provide Democrats a cudgel. Right now, they’ve set the bar so high that an indictment of a guy like Carter Page or even Jared Kushner will elicit little more than a shrug from most Americans. In contrast, anything McConnell passes in the Senate, no matter how flawed, will be seen as a huge success.