Davis: Democrats can win the 2022 midterms by asking Republicans to answer two questions
Here are two questions that Senate and House Democratic campaign committees should demand — through well-financed national and state ad campaigns, on broadcast network, cable news channels and social media — that Republicans answer, yes or no:
1. Will you repudiate publicly Donald Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine?
2. Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision allowing states to make it a crime for a woman to have an abortion if they become pregnant as a result of rape or incest?
Just “yes” or “no” to both.
The exact wording of these questions is key. Democrats should simply state the indisputably truthful facts (Trump did praise Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as “savvy”) and the content of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft Supreme Court decision (it would allow states to ban all abortions, even from the moment of conception and including after rape or incest).
Most important is the wording of national, state and local ad campaigns. The ads must state these truthful words on what Trump and Justice Alito said and must require a yes-or-no answer. It should be the media’s responsibility to do the same, but so far they haven’t done so.
I have seen most interviews on mainstream media — including CNN, MSNBC and Fox — in which a politician will not give a “yes” or “no” answer and the reporter does not follow up to ensure that the viewer understands that the politician is refusing to answer.
One example of this was what happened when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) held a press conference after the Alito draft decision was leaked. He was asked about his reaction to the substance of the decision, and he immediately changed the subject to wanting to talk about the “leak” of that decision. I did not hear a single reporter interrupt him to insist that he please answer the question and stop changing the subject.
Nor did a single reporter ask McConnell, flat out, “Do you support allowing states to prohibit women from having abortions after they became pregnant due to rape or incest, which is what the Alito opinion specifically would allow states to do — yes or no?”
Why didn’t the assembled media do this? I am talking about liberal-oriented media as well as conservative. There were a lot of reporters in that press gaggle, many whom I know and respect — but why didn’t they?
More important, why haven’t the Democrats’ Senate and House campaign committees already gotten on the air with national and local and social media ads that ask these two questions? Why are we Democrats always too little too late on messaging, as compared to the GOP, which sets the national message early and often?
I hope the response to this column is that readers who disagree with Trump’s support of Putin, as well as the Republican Party’s support for allowing state legislatures to declare abortion illegal — indeed, in many states, to make it a crime to have an abortion immediately after conception by defining the fertilized egg within a second of fertilization as a “person” — will immediately demand better public messages from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and from the Senate and House campaign committees.
Why not start ad campaigns on these two issues and not stop until all Republicans running in 2022 for Senate and House seats are forced to answer, yes-or-no, to the two questions — or are continually embarrassed on local and national TV for refusing to answer the question and trying to change the subject.
Most U.S. polling, whether by conservative or liberal pollsters, has shown that more than 70 percent of all voters across the parties are opposed to Trump’s support for Putin and opposed to Alito’s and the national GOP’s willingness to allow state prohibition of abortions after rape and incest.
The continued silence and the absence of a national message by the DNC and the Democrats’ Senate and House campaign committees are an enigma. I hope this column stirs them to change and to take the lead, and to insist on simple, direct answers to these two questions.
Lanny Davis served as a special counsel to President Bill Clinton in 1996-98 and on a privacy and civil liberties panel post-9/11 which advised President George W. Bush. He is a co-founder of the Washington law firm Davis Goldberg Galper PLLC, specializing in crisis management in support of litigation and other legal issues.
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