Several Democratic candidates around the country are conducting shrewd, intelligent campaigns for Congress, focusing on real issues and letting the Trumps fall where they may. They realize that they do not need to fulminate incessantly against President Trump’s countless foibles, faults and failures. He does this very ably all by himself. He is the perfect vehicle for keeping his mayhem front and center, reminding voters daily why it is essential to come out and vote against his enablers in November.
Trump’s inability to stop tweeting, turn off the TV and actually govern permits Democrats to zero in on issues that matter to voters: a broken and obscenely expensive healthcare system; K-12 education that has fallen behind the rest of the developed world; unaffordable higher education that often does not lead to a decent job; blindness to the massive workplace changes about to hit us from technological innovation; expanding income inequality; collapsing infrastructure; climate change denial; inept disaster response; an unfair tax system that favors the wealthy; unsustainable entitlement programs; an ignored opiod crisis; and disastrous deregulatory initiatives that will sicken and even kill Americans.
The Trump administration’s most egregious deregulatory actions are being done for two reasons that should be made clear to voters: (1) to put more money in the hands of wealthy polluters, and (2) for ideological reasons that have nothing to do with costs and benefits. The dangers associated with these backsliding actions need to be explained in graphic terms that are easily understood. Three examples: (1) allowing more methane and carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere accelerates global warming, which will make climate anomalies like Hurricane Florence increase in number and severity while also causing more cancers, compromised immune systems, respiratory ailments and neurological, reproductive and developmental damage; (2) permitting coal waste to be pumped into rivers and streams now threatens water supplies in 25 states; and (3) authorizing previously banned dangerous, toxic pesticides for use throughout farm country.
These three deregulatory nightmares only scratch the surface of the administration’s war on rational regulations that protect Americans’ health. The increased healthcare costs they will trigger will ultimately be measured in the trillions.
I have not even mentioned the whack-a-mole lunacy that comprises what passes for a Trump foreign policy: pulling out of treaties and agreements designed to keep the peace and protect our citizens; declaring tariff wars on our principal trading partners; disrespecting our closest allies; pandering to murderous dictators; surrendering to Russia’s cyber war against us without a fight; and abandoning America’s role as the world leader in maintaining stability and advocating for the rule of law.
The benefits of so many painstakingly crafted post-World War II constructs are somewhat abstract. But that does not mean that they are any less critical to maintain — and explain. Democrats need to show in practical terms why Trump’s foreign misadventures are so dangerous. NATO, for example, has for 70 years provided the secure umbrella under which Europe was and is able to grow its economy and provide a stable, expanding market for U.S. exports. The revenues realized from selling our goods and services to 500 million European Union customers undergird our prosperity.
Campaigns need not be mere exercises in misinformation, meaningless sloganeering and a competition to taint an opponent with mounds of misleading dirt. They are also a platform for responsibly educating voters about the real-life impact of government policies. Democrats might want to try this approach.
Canandaigua Academy graduate Richard Hermann is a law professor, legal blogger, author of seven books and part-time resident of the Finger Lakes.