For anyone paying even cursory attention to most left-leaning news platforms for the past two years, collusion has been the the predominant rallying call in the fight against Trump’s presidency.
It seems that the prevailing voices inside the Democratic party are doing what they believe is the right thing: go after Trump on what appears to be the most critical flaw in his entire presidency. But is this a miscalculation? There simply has not been a revelation of any concrete evidence that the sought-after collusion took place. And in all likelihood, it may not have happened at all.
It may be that he’s known all along that there was no collusion, and he has been letting his opposition throw everything they have at this wild goose chase so that it may serve as a diversion that ultimately weakens them and allows him to pursue other things that go mostly without criticism. This kind of a move is straight out of Sun Tsu’s playbook, The Art of War. Keep your enemy distracted on something that is without a payoff, so that they waste their time and energy while you do what you need to do.
Trump may be belligerent, he may be racist, he may be consistently dishonest, but he’s not entirely politically stupid or foolish. If he really were colluding with the Russians, it wouldn’t make sense for him to side against Maduro in Venzeula, or withdraw from the INF treaty.
And what is Russiagate, anyway? Why has it been dominating the public streams of discourse so heavily and for so long? Well, it may be just a conspiracy theory fed by some collective form of cognitive dissonance. Or it may just be what earns the highest ratings for the corporate news networks. We may never know.
But what we do know, is that the Democrats are likely not going to get Trump on collusion. It’s uncertain if he will be found guilty of obstruction, and it’s unlikely for him to be impeached (and what then, President Pence?) So it’s time for them to re-think their game plan and bring it back to the basics, by focusing on the tangible issues.
In a recent appearance in front of a live audience for Democracy Now!, Noam Chomsky assessed the situation with the brilliant depth and clarity that is characteristic of his unique style of political commentary.
And, I should say, the Democrats are helping him. They are. Take the focus on Russiagate. What’s that all about? I mean, it was pretty obvious at the beginning that you’re not going to find anything very serious about Russian interference in elections. I mean, for one thing, it’s undetectable. I mean, in the 2016 election, the Senate and the House went the same way as the executive, but nobody claims there was Russian interference there. In fact, you know, Russian interference in the election, if it existed, was very slight, much less, say, than interference by, say, Israel. Israel, the prime minister, Netanyahu, goes to Congress and talks to a joint session of Congress, without even informing the White House, to attack Obama’s policies. I mean, that’s dramatic interference with elections. Whatever the Russians tried, it’s not going to be anything like that. And, in fact, there’s no interference in elections that begins to compare with campaign funding. Remember that campaign funding alone gives you a very high prediction of electoral outcome. It’s, again, Tom Ferguson’s major work which has shown this very persuasively. That’s massive interference in elections. Anything the Russians might have done is going to be, you know, peanuts in comparison. As far as Trump collusion with the Russians, that was never going to amount to anything more than minor corruption, maybe building a Trump hotel in Red Square or something like that, but nothing of any significance.
What will happen if no concrete evidence of Russian collusion surfaces by the time the 2020 Presidential Election is full swing? Will Trump then be exonerated? Would this deal a major blow to his opposition? If so, this is far too great a risk for the Democrats to be taking right now. How could his opponent recover her or his public image if the Democrats’ entire campaign against Trump eventually amounts to nothing? Where would his opponent stand in the polls then?
Instead, the Democrats should protect their edge and seriously consider sitting down to formulate a strategy, perhaps like a two-pronged plan like this:
- Develop a strong, progressive platform of their own
- Attack Trump on the tangible issues
If they were to realign their sights, they could find themselves focusing on the big issues that have popular bipartisan support among voters, and pursue a winning strategy. Issues like:
- Ending the continuous military engagements abroad, and listen to progressive voices, such as Tulsi Gabbard, who seek to take real action on these supremely costly and disastrous campaigns. Fifty-eight percent of Americans want the government to cut arms sales to Saudi Arabia over what they have been doing in Yemen.
- Modifying or nullifying The Patriot Act. It’s been 18 years of a thus-far endless “War on Terror”, and Americans are tired of the sacrifices in civil liberties that have been forced upon them.
- Trump’s disastrous direction of Homeland Security and his immigration initiatives. What could be less popular than family separation and indefinite detention?
- The Trump Tax Reform policy, which is deeply unpopular and ultimately screwed the middle class harder and gave more cuts to the 1% corporatocracy at a time of unprecedented income inequality in America.
- An ongoing, artificial regime change effort in Venezuela that Trump has shown no intentions of stopping. A part of this campaign has been a series of sanctions that have blocked the shipment of goods such as insulin and have resulted in the deaths of over 40,000 Venezuelans.
- The War on Drugs is still raging, which has proven to be supremely wasteful and discriminatory against people of color. The majority of Americans want it to end or scale back. It’s lasted well beyond it’s time, and the Democrats need to fight Trump on it.
- Net Neutrality is still a critical issue affecting the most widely used tool for communication on the planet. The FCC officially instituted its new policy in early 2018, which now allows internet service providers to slow down internet speeds at will, censor content with or without the user knowing, and impose new fees. The FCC’s decision is devastatingly unpopular, and this presents yet another opportunity for the left to attack Trump on his lack of action to protect genuine net neutrality.
If these talking points, and others like it, were on a regular rotation on networks like MSNBC or publications like The New York Times, one can imagine the kind of gravity that would generate, drawing swing voters to the left and build tangible inertia for a legitimate opposition to Trump. Instead, the status quo has been potentially self-destructive insistence on developing the Russiagate narrative up until the point that it blows up in everyone’s face. Yet, any strategy that the DNC could adopt in identifying the issues that have popular, bi-partisan support among voters, and integrating them in their platform would be a far wiser alternative. You have to beat Trump at his own game.
In all likelihood, there probably was no collusion. But that’s okay, because there’s plenty more to get him on. The Democrats just need to change their focus.