Forget about Mueller, Democrats — we've got real work to do

Forget about Mueller, Democrats — we've got real work to do
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After watching hours of testimony from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE, one thing is clear: Democrats never should have pinned their hopes on a 74-year-old Republican. So here’s some simple advice for my fellow Democrats: move on. The brutal truth is, the American people have no use for hand-wringing about, for example, whether President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions The Memo: Left pins hopes on Nina Turner in Ohio after recent defeats Biden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic MORE improperly used his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to send a message to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Gallup just asked voters an open-ended question about their top concerns heading into 2020, and a conspiracy with the Russians and obstruction of justice were nowhere to be found. 

Yes, it is absolutely a terrible thing for our republic that the president may have committed crimes and has faced no accountability. But it’s not like this is the first time we’ve seen that happen with powerful people — consider the 2008 financial crash. Right now we cannot afford to indulge in the cable TV news-fueled fantasy that voters actually care about the norms and guardrails of our democracy. If they did, Donald Trump would not be our president. 

So let’s get down to the serious business of getting Trump out of the White House. How do we do that? If you look around the world, right-wing populism that combines nativism with a capitalist critique is very hard to defeat. Just look at Australia or India, or Boris Johnson’s recent election as prime minister of Britain. The advantage of putting identity supremacy at the center of your campaign is that it’s easy to deliver on. You don’t actually have to pass any legislation or provide people with any material benefits. The sheer joy of seeing “those people” put in their place, sent back to where they came from, if you will, is enough.


Just look at the delight among the faces in Trump’s rally crowd at they chanted, “Send her back!” about Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarBiden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban CBC presses Biden to extend eviction moratorium The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (D-Minn.). They aren’t disappointed that Trump can’t even deliver on building his stupid border wall. This group got exactly what they came for. It’s psychological welfare for the disaffected. 

On the left, we don’t get to ride free on psychological goodies; we have to actually deliver real benefits that make people’s lives better. If we fail, then we’ll be like all the other sad out-of-power left and center-left parties across the globe, impotently decrying our fate. Convincing people that you actually might be able to deliver the goods requires two essential ingredients: 1) An agenda that is big enough that people say, “Well, that would really shake things up,” and 2) a way to implement that agenda. 

On the agenda, don’t do what we always do and drown people in policy papers. Don’t overwork the details. No one believes those details are going to be the final cut, anyway. For example, on the vitally important issue of health care, right now we’ve got South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegSunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate Sunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Chasten Buttigieg: DC 'almost unaffordable' MORE advocating for “Medicare for Those Who Want It” and the Center for American Progress pushing “Medicare Extra” (whatever that is). They all need to stop. “Medicare for all” is great — it’s clear, it’s simple, it’s bold. And by cutting private insurers out of the deal entirely, you signal that you are committed to overturning the apple cart. That is exactly what we’re after. 

Convincing people you can actually implement the agenda is the radically more challenging aspect. You would have to be delusional to imagine that any Republican would give a Democratic president one thing that could resemble a win, let alone the kind of large-scale reform that’s needed. So anyone advocating that path should be dismissed out of hand as not credible or electable. The only real route available is to enlist the public in forcing lawmakers to accede to their demands. 

That’s not enough, though. A credible presidential changemaker also will need to go outside of those norms and guardrails that we tend to be so concerned about. When Trump stood on the stage at the Republican National Convention and said, “I alone can fix it,” people believed him because they knew he wouldn’t suffer the normal bureaucratic nonsense. He would break stuff and he would get his way. Our candidate also must be willing to break stuff. 


By pursuing race-baiting without economic populism, the president has kept Democrats in the game. But our path out of the wilderness is tenuous, narrow and easily lost. Perhaps the worst outcome would be for a Democrat to be elected president only to see his or her well-intentioned agenda die in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns MORE’s legislative graveyard, paving the way for Tucker Carlson 2024

Forget about Mueller. We’ve got real work to do. 

Krystal Ball is the liberal co-host of “Rising,” Hill.TV’s bipartisan morning news show. She is president of The People’s House Project, which recruits Democratic candidates in Republican-held congressional districts of the Midwest and Appalachia, and a former candidate for Congress in Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @krystalball.