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Just as we can analyze why Trump behaves the way he does at a summit meeting, we may want to think about the way he responds to political challenges in Washington. We want to look at the world from his point of view.

Here is how one observer explains the matter:

At the most fundamental level, the reason why the president struggles so much with this in general is he cannot separate the accusations against him of collusion from the fact that Russia meddled in the election, and he feels like if he were to give an inch on meddling, they’re gonna take a mile on collusion.

Put another way, Democrats aren’t too concerned about where the Steele dossier came from, but they care a great deal about any lever that offers even an incremental increase in their ability to remove the president. They will take a mile in any direction that holds promise.

So a few points about how we define Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 campaign may help out:

  • Meddling and collusion differ. Accusations of meddling concern Russian interference in American elections. Accusations of collusion concern internal operations of Trump’s campaign. The existence of one does not imply the other, nor does one depend on the other.
  • Robert Mueller, James Comey, Department of Justice, FBI, CIA, or any other agency cannot reveal classified evidence, or information from classified sources. That means they will not tell us what they know. If the investigation withholds evidence, whether at trial or in its report, Mueller’s team cannot expect the rest of us to have confidence in their work.
  • Trump resists the FBI and CIA when he says he believes Putin before he believes his intelligence apparatus. In plain, strong language, he suggests the agencies that investigate him are not trustworthy. We well know these agencies regard truth instrumentally. As a matter of history, the last time a president took on the intelligence agencies, the CIA took out a contract on him.
  • As we witness this investigation, counterfactual suppositions, what-if questions, alternate histories, and other techniques of inquiry help analysts develop questions, find evidence, and reach conclusions. Hypotheses and lines of reasoning about what may have happened do not tell you what actually happened. Yet we have witnessed an astonishing wellspring of rumors about possibilities.

Democrats have wasted nearly two years in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections.

All these points lead to insight about the way Mueller’s investigation affects Democratic leadership, ideation, and plans. Because Department of Justice’s special inquiry appears to offer the surest path to provable charges that support impeachment, Trump’s opponents have placed a big bet on a report that fulfills their hopes. They do not, apparently, have a back-up plan should Mueller’s report disappoint them.

Democrats have wasted nearly two years in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. They have not even tried to develop a coherent alternative to Trumpism that appeals to anyone outside of the Sanders – Warren – Ocasio-Cortez cohorts in the party. They lost their majorities in both houses of Congress under Obama, they lost an election they expected to win in 2016, yet the party has no plan to recover! If more-of-the-same counts as a plan, let’s see how many votes they win that way.

The only novelty Democrats offer is a willingness to call Trump a traitor in the open. Whether or not you believe the president actually betrayed his country in 2016, or since, Democrats have staked their electoral success on a serious charge they cannot substantiate. Substantiated or not, they clearly want to maneuver an accusation of treason into a successful impeachment. This strategy displaces normal political activity, the kind that motivates citizens to vote for your candidates.

The only novelty Democrats offer is a willingness to call Trump a traitor in the open.

As a result, the party has nothing beyond further elaboration of the welfare state to offer. It is pleased to call these proposals, collectively, democratic socialism. The roundly rejected ACA could count as democratic socialism. So could various plans to increase the minimum wage, make a college education free, protect public education, increase the size and power of labor unions, ban plastic straws, and force business corporations to relinquish more of their profits. If you think any of these ideas have a chance to win electoral majorities outside of the west coast and the northeast, you have a different political map than I do.

Calling Trump a traitor and a fool, while you push the same kinds of programs that caused Obama to lose so much support, might seem a good strategy from inside the party. Yet it sure looks headed for failure from the outside. We could watch our rotund strongman get old in the White House while his opponents continue in their disbelief that he actually occupies that spot. Eighteen months into his first term, they still cannot comprehend it.

Meanwhile Democrats simply look desperate, as they neglect the basic hard work required to defeat a shrewd opponent who does not care that much how he comes across. A lot of people voted for him in 2016 because he would not play by anyone’s rules but his own. Democrats have not given those people a good reason to change their minds. They have not even thought about whether they should change their own minds.

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