The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

What is next for Democrats?

Getty Images

Today the Senate is expected to vote to acquit President Trump of both articles in his impeachment. The question for Democrats becomes what next? Should they keep driving down the twisting path of investigations and spurned subpoenas? Or should Democrats slam the brakes on their constitutional responsibility, two words Senate Republicans can no longer say with a straight face, to conduct real oversight of the administration?

The answer is to keep exposing the misdeeds of Trump, while opening a new front on the kitchen table issue of health care in Congress and on the campaign trail. It seems counterintuitive, but Democrats are in a decent, though imperfect, strategic political environment. They have thoroughly discredited acquittal. In December, when the House passed two articles of impeachment, a quick Senate acquittal would have helped the president.

After a blatantly partisan and stacked impeachment trial in the Senate without witnesses, however, that acquittal of the president is clouded in doubt. Now voters are more likely to assume that Trump was referring to Senate Republicans when he infamously declared, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I would not lose voters.”

But harping on inappropriate, impeachable, and illegal behavior will not be enough for Democrats. They will have to exploit one of the greatest electoral vulnerabilities of Trump, which is health care. In a recent poll by Navigator Research, 56 percent of the voters surveyed trust Democrats in Congress over Trump when it comes to health care. This is the largest gap so far in this poll. A poll by Fox News Channel found 54 percent of voters disapprove of how the president is doing on the key issue of health care.

Maintaining protections for people with preexisting conditions has been a relatively strong platform for Democrats. A poll by the Kaiser Foundation last November found that 62 percent of the public opposed the Supreme Court overturning the protection. In the same poll, conducted just before the 2018 midterm elections gave Democrats a House majority, 75 percent of Americans surveyed thought it was “very important” for the Affordable Care Act to maintain protections for people with preexisting conditions.

The Democrats may have won the House back on the issue of health care. But it is worth noting that last year, Democrats held the governorship in Louisiana and won the governorship in Kentucky, two states that Trump won in 2016. In both races, Democrats leaned on health care. Democrats also took control of the Virginia legislature with health care as a theme.

None of this is lost on Michael Bloomberg. He has spent over $88 million on television ads about health care across 27 states, according to data from Advertising Analytics, including about $66 million attacking Trump. His campaign has also spent more than $41 million airing one ad more than 46,000 times. It starts with a clip of Trump saying, “Let ObamaCare implode.” Another ad focusing on preexisting conditions has reportedly provoked Trump to incorrectly proclaim his support of protections while his own Justice Department lawyers argue in court to strip them away.

Voters might support a candidate they perceive as ethically challenged but getting things done on health care. They might elect someone who is a choir boy even if he was not delivering on health care. The problem for Trump is that he is viewed by many as both sleazy and taking away health care from people with preexisting conditions. It is a lethal combination.

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years and served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.

Tags Democrats Donald Trump Election Michael Bloomberg President Steve Israel

More Campaign News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video