Shortly after a routine congressional outburst Wednesday from a Trump-aligned Republican, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland uttered a phrase that should quickly become a Democratic staple: the Trump-Putin axis.
The GOP offender was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Who knows exactly what she said—who even cares? It's Raskin's response that matters.
"The gentlelady said something about the Russian hoax—I accept the heckling, Mr. Speaker," Raskin said from the well of the House floor. "If she wants to continue to stand with Vladimir Putin and his brutal, bloody invasion against the people of Ukraine, she is free to do so, and we understand there is a strong Trump-Putin axis in the gentlelady’s party."
For the past several months, I have been trying to identify attack lines Democrats can leverage against Republicans ahead of the midterms, and this particular phrase accomplishes so much in so few words—it's just killer.
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First, linking Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin passes the smell test. Every reality-based voter (the only ones we can reach) knows that Trump has been a loyal and dedicated Putin bootlicker for many years, including using his White House perch to do Putin's bidding on the global stage for four years. What makes Trump’s actions even more grave now is the fact that Putin has turned himself into a global pariah through his butchery in Ukraine.
Second, "axis" is a potent word that Americans immediately get due to its historical underpinnings. From the disgraced Axis powers of World War II to President George W. Bush's "axis of evil," Americans inherently know "axis" is a word anchored in ignominy. Regardless of whether one agrees with Bush's 2002 adaptation of it, his relatively recent usage helps.
Finally, as GOP congressional members and aspiring candidates continue to embrace Trump across the country, frequent reminders of the "Trump-Putin axis" is very simple shorthand for evoking all the turmoil Trump brought into the White House along with the consequences presently playing out in Ukraine. There's no need to belabor the point, Democratic base voters are crystal clear about Trump's corrosive effect on international relations, and at least some Trump-Biden voters actually defected in 2020 for that very reason. Trump's Putin sycophancy may play well to the GOP’s white nationalist base, but it's pretty cringey to that slice of reality-based Republicans. Some of them even voted for a Democrat in 2020 because of it.
So the term is really a twofer, reminding both the Democratic base why their votes matter and reality-based GOP voters why their party's continued loyalty to Trump has dangerous and despicable real-world consequences. Perhaps those GOP voters, particularly in swing districts, will defect again if they find their candidate too repulsive, or maybe they’ll just stay home. Either one is a win for Democrats.
So yeah, Democrats should start hitting the term on the regular forthwith.