With this distraction finally out of the way, its time to deal with issues that the majority of the electorate actually cares about
Finally, the moment has arrived. After almost two years of feverish speculation about what it might unearth, Robert Muellers special counsel investigation has come to a close. Based on what we know so far, the Mueller report is good news for the Republican party in general, and for Donald Trump in particular. But it is also good news for the country. The special counsel found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. While Russian meddling was evident, it was done without high treason.
Obviously, in todays polarized world, the Mueller report is bad news for the Democratic party. But this is mostly a self-inflicted wound. It never should have made the Mueller investigation the core of its political agenda, nor treated it as a spectacle for scoring political points.
The broader population was never particularly interested in the Mueller investigation and increasingly considered it further evidence of everything that is allegedly wrong with Washington: that its run by navel-gazing and self-obsessed elites who are more concerned with defeating each other than with helping the country.
For Democrats, the only good thing about the Mueller report is that it came it now, and not next year, when the election will be around the corner. This gives the Democratic party roughly one and a half years to finally prioritize issues the electorate does care about. And I am not even sure that this will be enough time. Because, as Democrats continue to obsess over and revel in the historically low approval ratings of Trump, and celebrate the blue wave of the midterm elections, Trump is still set for re-election.
The reason is simple: he has delivered for the groups that matter. The Christian right is delirious over the staunchly anti-choice supreme court judges Trump has appointed, as well as the many lower courts hes quietly been filling with rightwing judges. And as long as there is a chance that more judicial vacancies open up in the next term, the evangelical right will come out en masse again in 2020. Meanwhile, pocketbook-voting Republicans are delighted by the tax reform and the soaring US economy, however shallow and unsustainable that growth might be. And major donors love Trumps frontal attack on (the already weak) environmental and financial regulations, the dismantling of the states regulatory and supervision agencies and his symbolic moves on Israel.
While the wall remains a sore issue for far-right pundits, such as Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson, Trump can easily convince his core base that he is trying hard and just needs a second term to finally break the deep state. Moreover, his base has low expectations of politicians in general and is the most polarized part of the electorate, so it has nowhere else to go and will turn out again, whipped into a nativist frenzy by Fox News and conservative talk radio.
If Democrats want to win, the party has to return to bread and butter issues, like economic redistribution, social justice and welfare provisions. They should run a positive campaign in which Trump, and the radicalized Republican party, features only as a backdrop. It is encouraging to see that a growing number of prominent Democrats have stressed this already, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pete Buttigieg. And, to his credit, Bernie Sanders has said this all along.
Finally, Democrats should stress the importance of all elections (not just the presidential ones) and the urgency of engaged political struggle. It was this sense of urgency that led to the mass mobilization of the Tea Party still misinterpreted by many liberals as a mere AstroTurf creation and that consolidated the broad rightwing coalition around the unlikely Republican candidate Donald Trump. The urgency is there for all to see.
Climate change and environmental degradation are happening at a dizzying pace that will make many developments irreversible within decades if not years. The sustained attack on legal abortion is entering into its final stage see, to cite just one of countless examples, the recent heartbeat bill in Georgia and Roe v Wade could be overturned, or made irrelevant, in the next years.
The war on drugs has destroyed generations of African American men, while opioids are still destroying communities of all races across the country. And the extreme level of economic inequality as well as the post-crisis consolidation of financial institutions makes the next economic crisis inevitable if we do not act soon. The surest way for Democrats to defeat Trump is to offer solutions to these problems. The clock is ticking. They have no time to waste.
Cas Mudde is a Guardian US columnist and the Stanley Wade Shelton UGAF Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia