Trump remains the key to 2022

Democrats might want to rethink focusing on other Republican figures

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, watches a video of former President Donald Trump play during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in February on domestic terrorism. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, watches a video of former President Donald Trump play during a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in February on domestic terrorism. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted August 3, 2021 at 1:52pm

ANALYSIS — Most Democrats were thrilled when Twitter banned Donald Trump and Facebook and Instagram suspended the former president’s accounts for lying about the 2020 election and its aftermath.

Keeping him off those platforms, along with not showing his rallies on cable giants CNN and MSNBC, could silence his lies and undermine his relevance. That could well weaken his clout both in the Republican Party and in the country at large.

Of course, sympathetic cable television channels continue to cover Trump’s rallies and echo his lunacy, and he continues to distribute statements about various controversies.

Trump also continues to receive attention through a long list of “tell-all” books written by reporters who covered him. In other words, he certainly isn’t being ignored.

But the current coverage is far different from his White House days, when he would dominate virtually every news cycle with his assault on the press, his daily attacks on his political opponents and a litany of untruths.

With Trump not nearly as much in the limelight as he once was, Democrats are spending more time complaining about a handful of Republican elected officials who spend most of their time defending the former president and portraying Democrats as communists, socialists, Marxists and any other “ist” they can find. 

The list includes Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Paul Gosar of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

But while the Washington echo chamber sometimes seems obsessed with Greene and Gaetz, the 2022 midterm elections will almost certainly be a referendum on either President Joe Biden or Trump rather than on any single House Republican or group of congressional Republicans.

Like those Republicans who mistakenly insisted they could turn the 2018 midterms into a referendum on House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, any Democrat who thinks that the 2022 midterm will primarily be about Marjorie Taylor Greene is probably delusional.

Yes, Greene is a useful foil for Democrats, who can use her “exotic” views in their fundraising and to energize base voters. But attacks on her won’t make her less popular with Trumpers, and she doesn’t have the responsibility that Biden does for what happens in the country.

Republicans want to make the midterms about Biden — his promises, shortcomings and failures — and that has worked historically. The exceptions — including 2002 (following the attacks of 9/11), 1998 (the backfiring of the Clinton impeachment effort) and 1934 (the success of the New Deal) — are rare.

Taking Trump out of the limelight may eviscerate him, but it could also deprive Democrats of a bogeyman who can turn out their voters in 2022, continue driving suburbanites to the Democratic column and unite Democrats who aren’t entirely in agreement that Biden has been a smashing success so far. 

Democrats’ best chance of holding the House and the Senate next year is by keeping the focus on Trump — by exposing what he did as president to undermine the rule of law and to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election. 

Keeping the attention on Trump shouldn’t be difficult. He can’t resist injecting himself into most controversies, and the flurry of post-election books document a president who would do anything to stay in office. Moreover, the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol obviously gives Democrats a platform from which to keep the focus on the former president.

Trump hasn’t announced his plans for 2024, but he appears to be moving toward another presidential run, and that keeps him relevant. As early polls and fundraising figures have shown, Trump remains the leader of the Republican Party.

It might be tempting for Democrats to snipe at each other or unload on McCarthy or Greene. But they shouldn’t forget who the central players are in 2022. And that would be Biden and Trump. 

Democrats need to give Trump enough rope so that he can hang himself. That means they still need him to get plenty of attention between now and next November.