Today’s televised House impeachment hearing wasn’t exactly blockbuster in nature. The witnesses consisted of multiple legal experts explaining why Donald Trump’s Ukraine antics were criminal and impeachable in nature, and one Trump apologist who made a fool of himself by misrepresenting what the Constitution says. The hearing wasn’t exactly anything to write home about on its own – but that’s the whole point.
Today’s hearings ensured that the mainstream media headlines for the rest of week will all have some combination of the words “Donald Trump” and “Ukraine” and “scandal” and “impeachment” in them. Just as the previous televised hearings ensured that those same words dominated the headlines during their respective weeks. The thing is, you see, the Democrats have finally cracked the code – by learning from the Republicans.
If you want a scandal to stick to a politician in the eyes of the nonpartisan general public, the key is repetition. You pick a scandal and you just keep hammering it home, until the average American associates that politician with that scandal. House Republicans did it to Hillary Clinton by hammering email and Benghazi over and over again, until the public was so fixated on these scandals, the media decided to keep running with them, because they were great for ratings. It didn’t matter that they were fake scandals; it just mattered that they were confusing scandals that left the average nonpartisan American with the impression that Hillary must have been doing some shady stuff with regard to email and Benghazi. Nevermind that she ended up being fully exonerated in the end.
House Democrats have chosen a Donald Trump scandal that’s very real, and very criminal, and very impeachable, in the form of his Ukraine extortion plot. That’s because the Democrats are the good guys, and because their own constituents wouldn’t allow them to run with a fake scandal, and because Trump is such a criminal that no one would ever need to make up a fake scandal about him anyway. But the bottom line is that they picked a scandal that resonates with mainstream Americans, and they’re hammering it over and over and over again.
This isn’t for the sake of the Resistance, who will line up to vote against Donald Trump in 2020 anyway. Nor is this for the sake of Trump’s base, who will line up to vote for him. This for two other groups: 1) Those who somewhat dislike Trump and could either end up voting against him or staying home, and 2) Those who somewhat like Trump and could either end up voting for him or staying home. These two groups pay the least amount of first-hand attention to politics, and are thus the most swayed by whatever they repeatedly hear second-hand.
There are dozens of major Donald Trump scandals, and some of them are arguably even worse than his Ukraine scandal. But the House Democrats can’t turn those two middle groups against him by simply pushing the generic mantra that “Trump is bad,” or by pushing a laundry list that gets lost in the noise, or by focusing on a scandal that for whatever reason just doesn’t resonate. The way to change the minds that can be changed is to pick a scandal that resonates and just keep pushing it, until it’s the first thing the voters in the middle think of when they think of that politician. House Democrats have finally cracked the code against Donald Trump. Now they just have to keep hammering away at it.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report