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Opinion >  Syndicated columns

Ed Rogers: 2018 election could be Democrats and impeachment vs. Republicans and good economy

By Ed Rogers Special to the Washington Post

Ed O’Keefe and David Weigel’s recent story in the Washington Post on division within the Democratic Party makes an important point: “(F)rom immigration to banking reform to taxes to sexual harassment, many in the party say it does not have a unified message to spread around the country.”

In my view, the Democratic Party is without an affirmative policy agenda. As a result, Democrats in the House and Senate and Democratic candidates everywhere are moving to the left. In particular, House Democrats are increasingly calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, while their Senate counterparts are calling for his resignation. It appears the leftward lurch that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., started has taken on a life of its own and is out of control.

The Democrats’ last effort at having something positive to offer voters was a comical failure. Does anyone even remember when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., launched her “A Better Deal” campaign in July? Despite efforts to refresh the platform’s website, it appears that Pelosi has essentially abandoned it altogether. The word “fizzle” doesn’t even begin to capture its nonperformance.

However, after eight years of disheartening and debilitating low growth, Trump and Republicans in Congress have made a positive impact on the economy. Forecasts for the months ahead look good, consumer confidence is up, the repeal of net neutrality will return capitalism to the internet, stock market advances are contributing to the “wealth effect,” businesses see that the war on regulation has only just begun and, with tax reform on the brink, chief executives and entrepreneurs throughout the country know that an all-around pro-business vibe has taken hold in Washington.

While the process associated with the tax bill’s formation has not been particularly flattering or well communicated, none of that will matter if it produces a lift to the economy. Voters care about job growth, better wages and feeling economic momentum – not how tax law is formulated.

Normally it would be foolish to take today’s headlines and extrapolate out to the next election. But I believe Democratic street cred and enthusiasm from the left are going to be measured in terms of how pro-impeachment a candidate is. Democrats who want to emerge from the herd next year or believe they will have to defend against a primary challenge from the left have come to realize that the more strident they are in calling for Trump’s impeachment, the louder the applause will be from their core voters.

It is worth noting that 75 percent of Democrats surveyed by Public Policy Polling in October support impeaching Trump. Nothing will happen before November to reduce that number, and the need for any remotely sensible reason to impeach Trump will be lost on Democrats come next fall. The Democrats want Trump’s head on a platter. They will have to be either be pro-impeachment or risk being seen within their own party as dragging their feet and behind the rank and file.

Already, 58 House Democrats – or 30 percent of their caucus – have voted favorably on a motion to impeach Trump. And that was after Pelosi and Sanders explicitly warned against voting in favor of impeachment. As of Friday morning, eight Democratic senators had called for Trump’s resignation as well.

Simply put, we could be headed for a midterm election defined by the Democrats’ call to remove Trump from office and the Republicans’ success in creating a good and growing economy. Impeachment vs. a vibrant economy is about as good a contrast between Republicans and Democrats that the GOP could hope for. But it is hard to imagine Trump becoming the symbol of a resurgent American economy. Instead, he is more likely to make noise, tweet indiscriminately and distract from the GOP’s messaging. With Trump, it is always one step forward, four steps back.

Still, running on impeachment alone is going to be risky for Democrats. According to Third Way’s Matt Bennett, Democrats should adopt an 80-20 rule next year and only talk Trump 20 percent of the time. But the Democrats are obsessed with Trump and showing every sign of having this equation backward.

If the only thing Democrats offer next year is a call for Trump’s impeachment and the usual claims of the GOP’s mistreatment of widows and orphans, then Republicans may have a fighting chance of damping the wave that is building against them and keeping losses to a minimum.

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