Back to the drawing board…?
The anticipated Mueller’s report has found “no collusion” (as many expected). For 2019’s Democrats, a blow to their narrative against the president. But for 2020’s Democrats, could it be a blessing in disguise?
The long awaited and highly publicised Mueller investigation has finally come to an end, with the conclusion plastered across the front pages and headlines of the international press: “NO TRUMP-RUSSIA CONSPIRACY” from the New York Times’ live updates page — and “MAINSTREAM MEDIA STUNNED: OUR BEST PRESIDENT PROVED RIGHT” from the obviously reputable, unbiased and trustworthy Fox News. To be concise: the US Attorney General William Barr released on Sunday the summary of Robert Mueller’s 2-year-long investigation into allegations of collusion between the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government with the objective of putting Trump into the White House. The final result of the inquiry stated that they did not have enough evidence to suggest that Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government.
The initial result of the inquiry is quite clearly not what Democrats had hoped for — especially not those vying for Trump’s impeachment. A sizable portion of the case for the President’s impeachment relied upon the final report from the special counsel finding him guilty of collusion with the Russian government — and while the counsel’s statement has made clear that they do not believe their findings “exonerate” the President, the final report from Mueller certainly does not act as the Watergate-style hammer blow that will bring Trump’s administration crashing and falling down through the halls of the Capitol building. In fact, they almost act in the opposite direction: the 2019 anti-Trump strategy for Democrats was largely based around the various allegations against him and the slowly brewing, potential political earthquake that Russia inquiry could pose. In many ways, it’s back to the drawing board for Democrat spin doctors and propagandists who now cannot rely on allegations of Russian collusion without opening themselves up to the devastating jabs of “The investigation proved he didn’t, libtards!” from wannabe Tomi Lahren’s, people with “conservative pundit” or “True American” in their Twitter bios, fake journalists or — of course — Tomi Lahren.
Republicans and allies of Donald Trump will also undoubtedly see this as a victory — it didn’t take long for Trump himself to claim that he had been entirely exonerated on Twitter, despite the special counsel’s statement having said that their report did not exonerate him in any way. At least for Republican strategists, the threat of a Trump-Russia bombshell exploding under 1600 Pensylvania Avenue seems to have passed — for now. In short, it seems that the Democrats of 2019 — strongly suspicious of Trump’s Russian ties — have been thrown wildly off course by an independent evaluation of the campaign that suggests the Trump-Russia accusations are groundless. However, the story doesn’t quite stop here — as many congressional Democrats, including Schumer, Pelosi and Nadler, have pointed out.
It is entirely correct to say that the allegations surrounding obstruction of justice are still circulating — and naturally so. Mueller’s statement did not rule the existence of evidence that Trump had tried to obstruct justice whatsoever. Instead, it was only the Trump-appointed Attorney General’s statement that did — and as the Senate and House Democratic leaders have pointed out, this statement may not be the easiest to trust immediately when considering his affiliation and possible loyalty to “Individual 1” — the president — who is subject of multiple ongoing criminal investigations relating to his imprisoned or guilty associates, hush-money payments, inauguration funding and more — and of these, every single one of these investigations is separate from the Russia inquiry.
With that in mind, from this point, there are two paths the report and any subsequent legal action can go: and perhaps surprisingly, both can be good paths for Democrats if they finally decide at some point to start trying to win elections again. Case one: Trump is cleared of Russian collusion, but the full report implicates him in other criminal activities. Case two: Trump is cleared entirely and there is no foundation for any legal action against him. Both outcomes seem like they would undermine trust in Democrat officials and representatives, especially those who have already called for his impeachment. However, both hold merits that Democrats may be able to exploit.
Let’s take case one first: Trump is cleared of Russian collusion, but the full report implicates him in other criminal activities. Of the two this is (without a doubt) the best for Democrats and the worst for Trump supporters, who may then have to swallow quite a painful truth if the evidence presented by the full report does prove that Trump has engaged in serious criminal activity. However, this outcome is unlikely: Mueller’s team have specifically said they are not looking to press any more charges, leaving it mostly up to prosecutors and the nation’s courts to decide whether any evidence published in the report could be criminal. Let’s assume it does for now: great! Democratic strategists have plenty of ammunition to fire at him during the 2020 campaign and, with independently gathered proof on hand, Trump voters are powerless except to just ignore empirical evidence (which I don’t believe they’ve found it hard to do in the past). So, case two: the more likely but more devastating case for Democrats. How could this turn out well?
It’s worth saying at this point that this is most certainly speculation on my part — but I do believe it holds some merit. Quite frankly, the 2020 Democratic candidate will not be able to win the presidency just by slinging accusations of Russian ties and criminal activity at Trump, who is already effectively the presumptive nominee for the Republican ticket. In a starkly divided and partisan country, moderates are in a difficult position — and in 2020 more than ever, it may be strong policy pledges and manifestos that win over moderates as opposed to rhetoric and slogans. Having Trump exonerated will force Democratic strategists to shift onto building strong solutions and policy positions. I don’t expect Trump’s strategy of loud-mouthed name-calling to change — and so Democrats must adjust. Providing strong statements of constructive policy on important issues like infrastructure and jobs will likely stand up well against Trump’s often-xenophobic tangents that he fires out when granted a microphone. Trump’s exoneration could see a shift in debate and campaign strategy that makes Democrats more appealing to the moderates turned off by the verbosity of Trump’s first term — and, crucially, it may make them appear the stronger party against a tarnished GOP.
Mueller’s report may not be everything 2019’s Democrats hoped for — far from it, in fact. But it may be time for the party of 2019 to now readjust, back off from disproven and unfounded accusations, and to refocus on proudly displaying strong plans to help American families, laying the groundwork for next year’s presidential campaign. The Democrats of 2020 will need it.