(CNN)The Iowa caucuses are almost here. Voters will have a chance to express their preferences among the Democratic presidential candidates on Monday after months of campaigning, advertisements and televised town halls and debates. While Iowa alone will not determine the party’s nominee, it will mark the official start of the campaign season.
It is at this critical juncture that Democrats need to pivot from the impeachment trial to the 2020 election. Each candidate needs to figure out how to shift his or her focus to galvanizing voters now that the tumult over impeachment is coming to an end.
The most important step will be for Democrats to build on the main lessons of impeachment — rather than trying to put this saga behind them. Sure, Senate Republicans have blocked witnesses from testifying and President Donald Trump is all but certain to remain in office. But throughout the proceedings, House Democrats exposed just how far the President was willing to go to abuse his power. The message seems to have sunk in with voters, and polls found 75%
of registered voters wanted to hear from witnesses and 51%
believe Trump should be removed from office.
In the coming months, Democrats should drive home the ways Trump has abused his power and make that a central message of the 2020 campaign. They need to keep asking: Do voters want another four years of this and can the nation withstand the risk? They need to adapt Ronald Reagan’s 1980 message
and ask: Is our democracy better off than it was four years ago?
Republicans in Congress have fully embraced Trumpism. The Senate impeachment trial revealed that most of the GOP — including the so-called moderates — made a decision to stand by the President at all costs and accept the way that he governs. Even as incredibly damaging information continued to emerge in the media, the Senate Republicans stood firm. While some commentators have concluded that the President can get away with whatever he wants to, it is more accurate to say that members of the GOP are allowing him to get away with whatever he wants to, for the sake of their own partisan interests — namely protecting the president of their own party and voting on acquittal as soon as possible.
Faced with the opportunity to hear first-hand information from former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Senate Republicans turned it down, accepting the twisted logic of the President’s defense team, which argued that hearing from Bolton wouldn’t matter anyway and that it would necessitate a free-for-all of witnesses. Neither is true. But in the end, Senate Republicans chose to back Trump. The Democratic candidates would be wise to highlight that choice and tie the entire GOP to Trump’s brand of politics as they share their vision for the country going forward.
With this strong warning of Trumpism, Democrats can easily turn back to the other issues that have received insufficient attention as a result of the endless chaos generated by the President. Democrats can and should turn the conversation back to health care, climate change, immigration, economic fairness and security, as well as gun control. Democrats need to remember that on many issues, their party has the more popular stand
. Not only can Democrats highlight the differences between the parties on policy, they can connect the dots by stressing how the endless tweet storms and rally rages simply don’t allow the nation’s leaders to deliberate on these vital matters.
There will be many despondent Democrats who feel that the President has their number. Trump has not only survived impeachment — he has emerged with a strong economy, a Republican electorate that remains enthusiastic about his reelection and a campaign with financial resources
that should make Democrats shudder.
Sign up for CNN Opinion’s new newsletter.
Join us on Twitter and Facebook
But Democrats don’t need to take the bait when it comes to the narrative that Trump is winning. What the party needs to do is double down on criticisms of the President, and continue to push key policy issues, showing the same kind of fierce determination that Republicans consistently put on display without tearing each other apart in the coming weeks.
If the Democrats can’t manage to effectively pivot from impeaching the President to winning over voters, then they will fulfill the worst fear of the party: four more years of Trump.
Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/31/opinions/dems-should-pivot-from-impeachment-to-iowa-zelizer/index.html