Leave it to the Democrats — one Democrat in particular — to muddy their campaign message on the eve of the most crucial midterm elections in living or dead memory.
The obvious strategy, for a party with the requisite discipline to win, would be to stick to the issues that voters deem most important, and to hammer those issues 24/7: health care (most notably, the Trump GOP’s ongoing bid to sabotage Obamacare); the Trump GOP’s plutocratic tax cuts that have benefited the rich at the expense of the average Joe; public education spending (most notably, the lack thereof); and the alarmingly urgent need to hold Trump accountable for his serial lies and creeping authoritarianism.
With just three weeks left on the clock, how hard should it be to stay on message? Apparently it was too hard for Elizabeth Warren, who decided on Monday to drop into the news cycle the presumably earth-shattering revelation that a DNA test shows her to be somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American on her maternal side.
This is supposedly important because Trump has long been mocking her as “Pocahontas,” a fake Native American, and she was determined to end his mockery by proving that she had Native American ancestry between six and ten generations ago. She thought it was vitally important to get this news out as soon as possible because she’s ramping up to run for president in 2020, and wants to take that identity issue off the table …
Hang on a sec. Why couldn’t she have waited a mere three weeks before re-launching this teapot in a tempest? Perhaps I should quote Jim Messina, the 2012 Obama campaign manager, because he tweeted it well: “Argue the substance (of the Native American issue) all you want, but why 22 days before a crucial election where we MUST win House and Senate to save America, why did (Warren) have to do her announcement now? Why can’t Dems ever stay focused???”
And, as ex-Democratic party chairwoman Donna Brazile said on Fox News, “People want to talk about jobs, they want to talk about health care, they want to talk about the local candidates. They’re not really focused on 2020 yet, they want to talk about 2018.” True that. There will be scads of time to talk about 2020 — two years worth, starting approximately 10 seconds after the midterm results are tallied.
But because Warren couldn’t wait three weeks, she has created a wasteful distraction — and Trump is only too happy to feed the distraction by mocking her anew. He doesn’t believe the DNA test, he’d like to personally test her … whatever. He’s a troll in White House trappings, and a troll is going to troll. She’s still “Pocahontas” and Stormy Daniels is “Horseface,” because it’s easier to sling insults than to do actual work, like holding Saudi Arabia accountable for dismembering a Virginia-based journalist. Let him rant, there’s no point trying to rebut him. If Warren had released documents proving that her direct ancestors fought with Sitting Bull at Wounded Knee, Trump would’ve demanded that she produce the arrows.
Even worse, Warren’s announcement drew heat from a leader of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma. Chuck Hoskin Jr., the Cherokee secretary of state, released a statement: “Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven.” Sure enough, Trump saw that statement and weaponized it on Twitter: “Thank you to the Cherokee Nation for revealing that Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, is a complete and total Fraud!”
And while much of the mainstream media swarmed to Warren’s ill-considered distraction, here’s what was really going on: A fiscally conservative watchdog group announced that the Trump GOP’s massive tax cuts have poured oceans of red ink on the budget ledger (the group says this is “just the beginning of large and growing deficits as far as the eye can see”), which shatters the Trump team’s predictions that the tax cuts would somehow pay for themselves and balance the budget. Meanwhile — here’s what else is going on — Mitch McConnell says the budget deficit projections are “disappointing,” and that his proposed cure is to slash spending, by targeting Social Security and Medicare.
So, to review: Trump and the GOP enacted tax cuts that skewed toward the rich and to corporations, delivering a relative pittance to average Americans … and the GOP’s solution to the resulting red ink is to target the programs that benefit average Americans. If Democrats can’t thread that into their midterm message about protecting health care and holding Trump accountable, and pound that message between now and Nov. 6, they should shelve themselves in a museum next to the Whigs.
But wait — Elizabeth Warren, obsessed with Trump’s insults, wants to talk about herself! As ex-Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday, Trump “has a real knack for getting Democrats to do dumb things.” And nothing is dumber than a distraction that Democrats can ill afford, on the eve of elections crucial to the future of democracy.