Faced with the baggage of an unpopular president plagued by scandals, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly is making battle plans for retaining control of the Senate and helping President Donald Trump get re-elected -- and one columnist thinks he's betting on the wrong horse.
According to Paul Waldman, writing at the Washington Post, McConnell wants to make the 2020 election about socialism -- no matter who heads up the Democratic presidential ticket.
"Mitch McConnell has a plan. And that plan apparently involves saying the word 'socialism' a lot," Waldman writes. "McConnell isn’t wrong — negative campaigning often works. But you seldom hear politicians proclaim that the only way to win is to relentlessly attack their opponents."
The columnist acknowledges that "In Trump’s case, he’ll have to get Republicans as energized about turning out to vote against the Democrat as Democratic voters will be about voting against him. Anger and fear are the shortest path to that destination," but the battlefield is different this time.
"Republicans may encounter some problems if 'No socialism!' is the essence of their case to the public in 2020. The first is that Americans don't generally think in ideological terms. Those of us who are immersed in politics have a clear understanding of what is meant by ideas like liberalism, conservatism, and socialism, but for most Americans it's all kind of a vague jumble of ideas," he suggested. " Saying 'This policy is socialism' won’t be enough to turn a significant portion of the electorate against it if they weren’t already."
Waldman added that "socialism" also isn't the scary threat it used to be -- mainly because Republicans have been crying wolf about it for decades
"Republicans have spent decades calling everything Democrats want to do 'socialism,' no matter how modest it was. That has convinced many voters that 'socialism' just means 'mainstream ideas that are more liberal than Republicans would prefer." So the word doesn't do the work they want it to," he wrote.
Waldman said cries of socialism might be effective if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the Democratic presidential nominee -- or then again it might not.
"If he [Sanders] wins the nomination, he’ll be biggest ideological outlier since Barry Goldwater over half a century ago, so it’s hard to know what effect it will have when Republicans cry over and over that he’s a socialist," the columnist cautioned.
"But they’ve already made it clear that they’ll say the same thing about any Democrat and any Democratic policy idea, whether it’s genuinely socialist, run-of-the-mill liberal, or even moderate. That’s a big reason why it probably won’t work," he added.
You can read the whole piece here.