If you’re a Republican Cowardly Lion Member of Congress, you aren’t scared of Democrats. Protests are a nuisance, but you have to be betting that Trump will do all his dirty work quickly, and once that’s done, the protests will stop. By the time 2018 rolls around, you’re counting on the usual apathy of off-year Democratic voters, as well as the historic lack of quality opposition, to power you back into office. Traditionally, you’re far more scared of the 27% – Breitbart-reading, Fox-watching old people who will support an even more feral right wing candidate if you show anything less than total devotion to the Dear Leader.
In my experience, the only way to change this is for a loud-mouthed, proud Democrat to start campaigning in the Cowardly Lion’s district this year, the sooner the better. This candidate needs to be papering local media with press releases criticizing every vote that Rep. C. Lion makes, and pointing out all the hurt that kissing Trump’s ass is causing the district. This candidate also needs to go to every Rotary, Kiwanis and other social group and make a broad-based appeal stating his or her case to the group. She or he needs to march in parades, meet with local committees, push a broom at clean-up day, and generally be present in the district. This is hard work. It requires a skeleton staff (volunteer or low-paid), charisma and organizational skills. It requires money – not millions, but certainly tens of thousands.
I’ve seen it happen here in Western New York, in the former 29th Congressional District. Eric Massa, a good candidate who turned out to be a terrible human being, absolutely fucked with Rep Randy “Cowardly Lion” Kuhl’s mojo. Every morning, like clockwork, Massa (or, later, his bulldog press secretary) would push out a press release that pointed out something wrong with the Bush Administration and how Kuhl supported it. He also had weekly media calls, which at least a few reporters attended. In addition to getting some free media, Massa’s efforts also served to inform other Democrats, giving them talking points for their morning coffee or with their Republican relatives. Massa lost to Kuhl in 2006 but beat him in 2008 in a R+5 district. Watching Kuhl dance around trying to distance himself from his pro-Bush voting record in both races was worth the price of admission, and it worked.
Trump is far less popular than Bush, but you still need someone to hang Trump around the neck of every Cowardly Lion in the House. The only way to do that effectively is to get candidates in the field now. Easy for me to say, but hard to do.