With Robert Mueller behind them, Democrats need to focus on 2020

With Robert Mueller behind them, Democrats need to focus on 2020
© Aaron Schwartz

The much anticipated testimony of former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' MORE last week failed to provide any new information into his investigation of Russian interference surrounding the 2016 election. But the two hearings underscored the deep divisions present among the Democrats. The stark contrast of opinions between party leaders, committee leaders, and the most vocal members for impeachment made it clear that the Democratic Party is struggling to find its message heading into the 2020 election.

The hearings themselves contained no dramatic revelations. As expected, Mueller largely deferred to what was already disclosed in his report. At times, Mueller even refused to read out loud what was in his report for the public record and responded to questioning from lawmakers with more than 170 one word answers. Indeed, his first opening statement to the House Judiciary Committee in the morning set a clear precedent for how the day was going to proceed. “I do not intend to summarize or describe the results of our work in a different way in the course of my testimony today,” the former special counsel declared to the members of Congress.

Mueller continued to emphasize his only previous public statement, “As I said on May 29, the report is my testimony, and I will stay within that text.” With few substantive revelations, and without the smoking gun that many members of Congress had hoped his in person testimony would provide, it is time for Democrats to put the special counsel investigation behind them and focus on the issues that really matter to the American public.


The only real tangible outcome from both hearings was a clear picture of how divided members of Congress are from one another, both between parties and particularly within the Democratic Party. Additionally, there are already concerning reports that some Democrats, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, had pushed hard to begin impeachment proceedings after the former special counsel testimony, only to be rebuffed by the ever unwavering House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats sharpen their message on impeachment Congress hunts for path out of spending stalemate Siren song of impeachment lures Democrats toward election doom MORE.

During the final Democratic press conference after both hearings, Pelosi told reporters, “We still have some outstanding matters in the courts. It is about the Congress, the Constitution, and the courts. We are fighting the president in the courts.” To be sure, if the finalized political strategy after the failed spectacle of the testimony is simply a continued and indecisive middle ground between moving forward with impeachment or dropping inquiries, then the future outlook for Democrats looks increasingly dim.

In a Washington Post/ABC News poll earlier this year, 46 percent of voters indicated that the Mueller investigation will not change their 2020 choice. The results of the poll show us that the continued focus of the Democrats on the Mueller investigation, even after it failed to provide a smoking gun, will only do a disservice to them heading into the 2020 election. The only clear position that Democrats have displayed to the American people is a marked inability to pass a unified legislative agenda and a total failure on their behalf to put together an alternative agenda of their own that does not include the former special counsel or investigations of the president.

Most importantly, Democrats were elected in the 2018 midterm elections to advocate for health care, middle class tax reform, and other kitchen table issues. The campaign was not won on promises to investigate the president. It is imperative for Democrats to focus on the real concerns of the American people if they want to remain competitive in critical races for Congress and governorships, as well as the race for the White House.

The issues that Americans care about are health care, middle class tax reform, and infrastructure, not endless investigations. If the right steps toward a focus on these issues is not taken, then Democrats will struggle to get the independent swing voters they desperately needs in order to beat Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE and win in key swing districts. The Democratic Party and its leadership have to take serious pause and comprehend the vast complicated fight ahead for our country, which may very well leave the integrity of our democracy and strength of our nation in the balance.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”