Impeachment has flopped.
The goal for the Democrats was to convince a significant portion of the country — beyond those who already loathe him — that President Donald Trump deserves to be removed from office. In polling both nationally and in key swing states like Wisconsin, the plan hasn’t gotten far. Since the House began its process, the polling has actually snapped in the other direction.
In fact, President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE’s approval polling is relatively strong; he’s been riding a slow crest to a comfortable mid-40’s rating that just might allow an incumbent who has never secured broad popularity to win a second term.
Trump is helped by a humming economy, the possibility of some trade deal resolutions in 2020 — and a left fringe that has not so much jumped off a cliff as catapulted itself into the Grand Canyon, and whose primary accomplishment is the most partisan impeachment (it’s a fact!) this country has ever witnessed.
The tone of this impeachment, and the inability of the Democrats to pull in even symbolic Republican support, presents quite a contrast to the Democrats’ 2018 midterms strategy, when the candidates who swept suburban Trump districts talked kitchen-table issues, and specifically healthcare, nonstop.
But when those freshmen arrived in Washington, the loudest voices in the Democratic caucus won out, and since then they have spent their political capital pursuing impeachment.
It is that primary disconnect — between the can-do rhetoric of the Trump-district Democrats and the stark partisanship of their caucus — that could provide a foundation for a potentially stunning GOP victory in 2020.
That is, if the GOP can provide a contrast for voters, with real accomplishments — particularly on healthcare.
Health care costs, which have risen almost steadily since President Obama and Congressional Democrats passed the ACA in 2009, are the most important issue facing Americans across the country, in poll after poll. In contrast, USA Today polling shows impeachment, though it has “transfixed Washington and inflamed American politics,” is near last in voter priorities.
The GOP, having been caught embarrassingly flat-footed on health care after capturing the presidency in 2016, has essentially stopped championing big ideas on the subject. Like on so many other issues (the environment comes to mind), the Republican Party has receded to its corner, throwing spitballs at the Democrats — as if convincing the American electorate of the other side’s lunacy is akin to leadership.
But conservatives cannot abdicate on Americans’ number one priority if they really wish to secure a governing majority.
Voters are being asked to choose between a radical takeover of a broken and opaque health-care system, and nothing at all.
They could be forgiven for giving at least some credit to the side that is offering ideas, however disastrous those ideas would be in reality.
A GOP healthcare plan might involve improvements to our existing prescription drug system that flood light into the opaque and sprawling world of insurers, distributors and Pharmacy Benefit Managers. Or it could entail a broader and more ambitious shift that would allow health care companies to market and advertise across state lines, much like car insurance works today.
It will certainly involve measured attention to detail and focused messaging — and less bombast.
This could come from Republicans like Missouri Rep. Ann WagnerAnn Louise WagnerConsumer bureau chief bashes FTC and pledges focus on tech giants, big firms House Democrats scramble to save housing as Biden eyes cuts Conservative women's group endorses Sarah Huckabee Sanders for Arkansas governor MORE, who founded the Suburban Caucus to address kitchen-table problems like health-care (and win back the suburbs), or from Iowa Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Iowa Democrat drops bid to challenge Grassley after death of nephew Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case MORE, who has warned his fellow Senators that they will “have to face their constituents” in 2020 and would be well-served to pass his prescription drugs proposal into law.
Former Republican governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal gets it, writing recently that voters “don’t want the left’s radical plans, but they may settle for them” if the GOP doesn’t offer intelligent solutions. Another who gets it is Maine Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsBiden signs four bills aimed at helping veterans The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The omicron threat and Biden's plan to beat it Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo MORE, who is still waiting on the “health-care fixes” she was promised in return for her vote for GOP tax reform, and whose reelection to a Clinton-won state is essential to GOP prospects to hold the upper chamber.
The GOP’s best shot for 2020 is to present an inverse reflection of the Democrats’ self-indulgent impeachment circus by pursuing American’s top priority instead of that which is least important. The GOP must work to present and pass substantive health care reforms that bring down costs and inject competition into the marketplace — and then put the weight of its messaging machine and President Trump, its number one spokesperson, behind one message in particular.
That message would be that, despite their campaign promises, the Democrats who arrived in waves from Trump districts frittered away their time while the nation’s problems festered — and that the GOP can be the adults in the room as their opponents veer further and further left.
This will only work if the Republicans get serious — and can boast real accomplishments — on Americans’ number one issue.
If the GOP can pass healthcare legislation that reduces costs and increases competition — and if President Trump can inject a little focus into his health care message — we may witness historic Republican wins at the ballot box this fall, and the GOP will find itself in a new position of strength to govern into the future.
Albert Eisenberg is a Philadelphia-based political consultant who works on LGBT and urban issues from the right. He formerly served as communications director for the Philadelphia Republican Party and director of social media for the Young Republicans National Federation. Follow him on Twitter @Albydelphia