An influential House Democrat warns that, despite the impeachment inquiry, President Trump could still be reelected if her party’s eventual nominee doesn’t find better ways to address the pressing concerns of working-class voters.
“I think, yes, people have dug in and they’ve made up their minds,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan in an interview on the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast, when asked what voters in her sprawling district west of Detroit think about the president.
“But I do think Donald Trump could win reelection right now,” Dingell said, quickly adding, “I don’t think it’s a given,” since the outcome depends on whom Democrats select as their 2020 nominee.
But asked if Trump could again carry her home state of Michigan, she replied: “I think he could.”
Dingell’s comments are notable given that she was one of the few leading Democrats in 2016 who warned that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was in danger of losing Michigan.
“I knew we were in trouble when I was going into communities and there were Trump signs in every front yard,” she said. “You'd see 20 of them down a street. But Ypsilanti, which is next to Ann Arbor in Washtenaw County, is not a city that you would traditionally think of as supporting a Republican candidate. And I was seeing Trump signs in Ypsilanti.”
Dingell is not sure sentiments about Trump have changed all that much, as she discovered during the recent United Auto Workers strike against General Motors. “I walked the picket line every weekend while I was home, while the GM strike was going on,” she said. “And there were members who were walking those picket lines who were voting for Donald Trump again, and they were very open about it.”
“We did a terrible job” in 2016 talking about issues that connect with her working-class constituents, Dingell said. “I'm point blank about this. Said it right after the election too. Said it before, nobody listened. We got to talk about issues that matter to working men and women across this country. You know, sometimes we forget about what those core issues are. And most voters don't want a lot. They want somebody to care about them. They want to be able to get a job, have a job, hold a job. They want to be able to live in a safe neighborhood. … They want to be able to educate their kids. They want to be able to afford food … and if they're sick, to be able to go to the doctor. And they want to have a safe and secure retirement.”
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Dingell added that she is not sure any of the current Democratic candidates are doing that, citing as an example their performance at a televised debate in Detroit in July.
“They came to Detroit and nobody talked about trade,” she said. “Nobody talked about manufacturing. … And I was pretty blunt about that, so, at least when they went to Ohio, they talked about those issues.”
That’s one reason that Dingell, who is viewed as a leading moderate in her party, has yet to endorse any of the Democratic candidates. Her concerns about the durability of Trump’s support help to explain why. While she recently voted — reluctantly, she makes clear — to authorize the impeachment inquiry by the full House, she has not yet committed to voting for actual articles of impeachment.
“Tom Steyer put 40 ads against me last summer,” she said. “MoveOn.org targeted me. I have people now that are screaming, ‘She hasn’t made up her mind! How could she not make up her mind?’ I believe in due process. … I’m waiting for all of these witnesses to testify, openly and publicly, transparently. And for the American people to hear what’s happened. I did not come out last summer for impeachment because I am worried about how divided the country is.”
Those divisions, she emphasized, may be greater than ever — at least in her district.
“I had breakfast with a group of very solidly conservative guys for 20 years, and they were my friends,” she said. “And about a month ago, six weeks ago … I was at the bagel place that we all met, and you know, maybe 80 people in it. And the whole group broke down and deteriorated, and half the group was yelling at the other … and it just deteriorated into people who didn’t even know each other yelling at each other.”
“I can’t go there anymore,” she added. “It’s so intense. It’s really intense out there.”
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