12 August, 2020

State of play: As election looms, Democratic candidates hold their tongues on Trump

BETHESDA, Md. (Reuters) – After dark vegan meatballs and “Medicare For All” T-shirts, there’s something else notable in a Democratic rally yesterday evening in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland: direct, no-holds-barred condemnation of the president.

“We need somebody who can resist Trump!” one candidate for local office told the group. Another compared Donald Trump with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless they were just warmup acts for any main event, the blunt former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who while technically an impartial is a champion of causes held dear by liberal progressive Democrats.

Trump, Sanders said, was “probably the most racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted president ever sold,” adding later once for all measure that Trump was actually a “pathological liar.”

The crowd thundered in approval.

Sanders, a U.S. senator from liberal Vermont, is expected to win re-election easily in Tuesday’s congressional elections, so he took little political risk in bashing the president. Still, his rhetoric about the stump manufactured for a stark contrast with most Democratic candidates.

Democrats have largely resisted excoriating Trump on his words and actions, although he’s got denounced the party at his political rallies as an angry, dangerous “mob.”

As recently as last week, when Trump was charged with sowing division using his response to the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and harsh rhetoric on migrants visiting the U.S. border from South america, voters heard little regarding this from Democrats running for Congress.

Democratic candidates were more inclined to be dealing with healthcare or economic inequality. Which has been by design. The party, in the beginning this congressional election season, crafted a collective determination not to regularly confront obama, according to multiple party sources.

That leaves many Democrats, particularly those from the party’s liberal progressive wing, frustrated. They accuse the party of getting too timid, too frightened of alienating moderate voters. They believe the party is required to find its critical voice during the things they see as a general national crisis – and they risk not generating a clear case to voters regarding the values is actually the party stands.

“It’s a sign of their weakness. It’s a sign of their ineffectiveness that they’re afraid to accomplish it,” said Ed Mattos, 70, of Rockville, Maryland, who attended the Sanders rally.

Linda Sarsour, a celebration activist as well as an organizer of the nationwide Women’s March, which has been fueled by anger over Trump’s 2019 victory, argued that Democrats must “unapologetically call out the president” while providing his or her vision for the country.

“Home furniture have a very clear alternative,” she said. “We have to give America two choices here.”


By and massive, however, Democratic candidates and party elders just like David Axelrod, the first sort top campaign aide to Barack obama, contend that training course “kitchen-table” issues is the perfect way to attract voters than being drawn into culture wars plus the swirl of controversy that Trump regularly generates.

Independents and moderates, they assert, want candidates who exhibit maturity and stability.

Besides, Trump is really never faraway from voters’ minds, they add.

“Trump is barely so baked into the equation,” said one Democratic strategist creating House of Representatives campaigns, who expected remain anonymous so he could freely discuss the party’s thinking. “Candidates are actually remarkably disciplined about not being distracted by shiny objects.”

Frank Sharry, a longtime advocate for immigrant rights on the advocacy group America’s Voice, said candidates “are typically a really tough spot. For those who engage, offer Trump what he wants, a debate a couple of topic that they can wants to be discussing.”

Even so, Sharry said yet like to see more Democrats address Trump’s “divisiveness and demagoguery.”

Two that definitely have tried are Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Texas, and Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for Florida governor, each whom regularly criticize the president’s policies and tone.

Nevertheless, electoral projections aid the restrained approach. Polls show Democrats on Tuesday should win the 23 seats should be assume charge of the House of Representatives and perchance as many as 15 or 20 seats beyond that. Democrats are expected to miss the two seats you have to reach the majority in the Senate.


The party believes it offers heeded a lesson from Hillary Clinton’s 2019 presidential campaign, which is now viewed by strategists as overly concentrated on finding fault with Trump in place of affirming Clinton’s own agenda.

The map for this year’s strategy was drawn last year by Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, who handily defeated Republican Ed Gillespie by emphasizing economic issues while Gillespie stoked fear among voters over immigration and crime – similar to Trump at his late-stage campaign events.

With Trump’s every provocative word seemingly splayed across cable news daily, the process has often ended in a jarring juxtaposition without using Washington. It offers not been unusual to get a Democratic campaign event the way management with no mention of president.

The Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks campaign ads by subject theme, said in September which the president was mentioned negatively within 5 percent of TV ads to this point – rarer when compared to the previous three congressional midterm elections.

The small minority of ads who do attack Trump includes those by “Need to Impeach,” an advocacy group founded by California billionaire Tom Steyer.

Kevin Mack, charge strategist for the group, said voters it had surveyed were more motivated by antipathy for Trump than anything different, and that Democrats remained too “risk averse.”

If they don’t succeed on Tuesday in almost any regard, he stated, it will be as they held their tongue on Trump.

“You’re able to hold the president accountable and say you’ll fix healthcare also,” Mack said.