The Trump supporter’s response to the Muller probe or another Trump associate pleading guilty is that it doesn’t matter. And they’re right.
Working opposition research teaches you that listing the horrible facts about a candidate isn’t the most effective way to swing a potential voter. Political attacks can be easily dismissed as “fake news” or rationalized as “well, the other side is just as bad.” You need to lay out facts, explain why they’re important, and most importantly how it directly affects the voter.
The Muller probe and Trump’s possible legal troubles don’t matter to the 2018 midterm election because they have no real-world impact to voters. Their day isn’t any different because Fox News or MSNBC ran a story about the latest rumors surrounding the investigation. Those are the stories that sell newspapers and bring in viewers but it won’t be a story that decides votes in November.
The 2018 midterms will be decided by what voters actually care about. Voters in Michigan will care that the EPA put their kids at higher risk for lead poisoning. Twenty million voters will remember Republican attempts to cut off their access to health care despite 59 percent support from voters for a program like Medicare for all. Over 70 percent of Americans want bipartisan action on immigration and gun control as opposed to cuts to legal immigration and “thoughts and prayers.” They’ll know that the tax cuts that were supposed to be for the middle class resulted in a record $178 billion in share buybacks for corporations but stagnant wages. Voters this election will care far more about Republicans’s policies than Trump’s tweets.
There’s a reason that statistics guru Nate Cohn of the New York Times predicted that the 2018 midterm battleground is broader than the suburbs — and it includes a long list of white working-class and rural districts that voted for Donald J. Trump in 2016. Those voters aren’t getting their news from the “biased left-wing fake news” but from what they’re experiencing firsthand under a Republican-led House, Senate, and presidency.
The focus also has to shift away from the obsession of seeing what will finally get Trump’s supporters to turn on him. The media has become like Charlie Brown and his football, flummoxed yet again when Trump’s support remains solid and even solidified in his ardent 35 percent despite the latest scandal, guilty plea, or tweet. The people we should be interested in hearing from are people who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016. Voters who stayed home in 2016. First-time voters. African American voters whose record turnout has decided races in Alabama. Voters that live outside major cities in previously-Republican states like Virginia.
The voters that will be deciding the 2018 elections aren’t going to be making their decision based on a scandal or an investigation. The midterms won’t be decided by Trump’s die-hard supporters, Bernie Bros, or Democratic Socialists. The voters that are going to decide this election are the ones that have been impacted by this administration’s policies. Republicans and Democrats need to ignore the headlines and breaking news chyrons, because whichever party realizes that it’s policy, not Twitter, that will decide these elections will likely be the one to win them.
By Jake Kohn
Jake Kohn is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School and Yeshiva University and is a member of the New York and DC Bars. He works as a policy associate at a public interest lobbying and government relations firm with a focus on rural development and housing.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not represent an official position of his employer.