THE PUBLIC EYE:What to Expect in 2018

Bob Burnett
Friday January 12, 2018 - 04:54:00 PM

As we slosh into 2018, it's clear that while there are some negative carryovers from 2017, there's a lot that has changed for the positive over the past 12 months. We're still stuck with predator Trump and the associated madness. On the other hand, there has been a huge wave forming for -- lacking a better term -- a new women's movement. That bodes well for 2018. 

If you were one of those who, a year ago, expected Trump to "grow" into the job, you've probably abandoned hope for real change. The publication of Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury" has enhanced the great Washington debate: Is Trump crazy or just unbelievably stupid? You decide. Either way he's "a clear and present danger." 

It's painfully obvious that Trump has confirmed our worst expectations. Looking at the downside, 2018 will be difficult because Trump is maddeningly erratic. (Don't ask me why, in the face of this, the stock market has done so well. It reminds me of the famous REM lyric, "It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.") 

For several months, Trump's approval rating has averaged around 38 percent. ( ) Within the American electorate, Trump's base is a hardcore 33 percent. They're not going to be swayed by any foreseeable political event. Trump supporters are a cult; they're with him all the way to Armageddon. (Bring it on, Jehovah!) 

This means that in any competitive 2018 election, Trump-supporting candidates can count on 33 to 38 percent of the vote. Therefore, Democrats can win these elections if they mobilize their base and Independents. (That's the take-home message from the Doug Jones victory in Alabama.) 

Never underestimate the ability of Democrats to screw up an advantage. Nonetheless, at the moment, things like good. In the latest CNN poll ( ), when asked, "Which Party are you most likely to vote for in [the] midterm election?" 56 percent responded Democrats and only 38 percent answered Republicans. 

Democrats have been mobilizing since early 2017 -- thanks to groups like Indivisible and NextGen -- and should have competitive candidates in most races. What could go wrong? Lots of things. 

Early in 2002, George W. Bush's approval ratings started to decline -- despite the boost he had received from 9/11 -- and so he decided to boost his poll numbers with the Iraq invasion. Trump could attempt adopt a similar tactic by launching military action against North Korea. (Recently, there's been a fair amount of chatter about this ( ).) 

Of course there is a government shutdown looming on January 19th. Many Dems expect their Party to hold out for some kind of dispensation for the Dreamers. (Trump has been maddeningly inconsistent about this subject.) There's always a possibility that Democrats will screwup what should be their tactical advantage and the public will blame them for what happens. 

Assuming that the national Democratic leadership doesn't screwup too badly, Dems should have a substantial advantage going into the November 6th midterm elections. But there is a slight matter of message to consider. Neutral observers -- all two of them -- fault the Democrats for not having a unified message -- other than, "Lock him up!" 

Actually, "Lock him up!" isn't a bad message as, in his first twelve months in office, Trump has managed to piss off every segment of the electorate other than his adoring base (and Wall Street speculators). Having Trump as President is like babysitting a hyperactive toddler who methodically poops all over your house. 

Democratic candidates can run with the message: "Trump is a treacherous incompetent who threatens our _______", where they fill in the blanks with the relevant local issue: healthcare, security, good jobs, clean water, (black and brown) neighbors, national parks, or whatever. 

In the midterm election, the interesting races are likely to be decided by competing personalities. The Republicans will run an elderly white male who will do his best to defend his support for DT. The Democrats, in many cases, will run a woman. For example, in the Nevada Senate race, opposing incumbent toady Dean Heller is Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen; in the Arizona Senate race, opposing the loathsome Joe Arpaio -- or whoever else the GOP nominates to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Flake -- will be Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. No doubt Jacky Rosen will emphasize Heller's unwavering support for Trump's attack on healthcare and other issues that matter to Nevadans. Kyrsten Sinema will attack Arpaio on immigration (duh). 

To the extent that Democrats run female candidates they can take advantage of the momentum from the #MeToo movement. Running against Trump, and his supporters, is running against sexual harassment at all levels: from physical violence to employment discrimination. 

However, the new "feminization" of politics strikes a deeper chord. Throughout the country, Restaurant Opportunities Center ( ) are running campaigns for the benefit of America's 14 million restaurant workers -- the majority of whom are women. (BTW: two-thirds of these women report being sexually harassed on the job.) In 2018, ROC is focussing on Michigan where state law permits restaurants to pay workers as little as $3.52 per hour. ROC is organizing workers to put a "fair wage" initiative on the ballot and to vote in 2018. (In 2016, Trump won Michigan by 12,000 votes.) 

There's a potent coalition forming that should sweep Democrats to victory on November 6th. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and activist. He can be reached at or @BobWBurnett