Why the Russia scandal will hurt Democrats more than Trump

Russia's President Vladimir Putin
Mikhail Klimentyev | TASS | Getty Images
Russia's President Vladimir Putin

As I travel the country reporting on injustice and life-or-death situations like big oil trampling on Standing Rock and lead-poisoning clouding minority communities in Flint and East Chicago, Indiana, I've been met by a painful smack of cognitive dissonance.

Establishment Democrats and some Republicans have made a collective mad dash to the cameras to convince the American people that Russiais the source of all of our ills.

Aiding them is the corporate media industrial complex, whose engines are humming along ferociously, offering 24/7 cable news airwaves and print columns to hyperventilate over Russia influencing our elections—allegations still unaccompanied by incontrovertible evidence—and the scary, big bear that is President Donald Trump's inner circle holding untoward calls with Russian officials.

Meanwhile, the blue-collar workers, millennials, and former Obama voters who abandoned Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party in November, remain standing alone at the dance, with scarce outreach to them other than email blasts spinning Trump controversies into donation requests.

Instead, the corporate Democrats are sticking with their failed election campaign strategy: demonize and oppose Trump at all ends, making him so unpalatable to the majority of Americans, that they'll have no choice but to vote for Democrats.

Ask Clinton how that worked out.

Is Trump proving to be a menace to progress and basic American values? Absolutely.

Are the grassroots (no, sorry President Trump, George Soros isn't paying hundreds of thousands of protestors) protests swarming the country against Trump's xenophobic immigration and refugee policies a good thing? Absolutely.

Should the Democratic Party be leading the charge of that "resistance" to Trump's fascistic tendencies? Absolutely.

And should there be a mass pressure campaign to get Trump to release his taxes, so we can see the full extent of his ties to Russia, and an independent investigation into whether his campaign in any way coordinated with Russian officials during the presidential campaign.

Of course.

But, alas, resistance is not enough. On the issues the exploding progressive movement and reignited blue-collar workforce cares about, like jobs, student debt and health care, the Democratic Party continues to be absent.

"Democrats are sticking with their failed election campaign strategy: demonize and oppose Trump at all ends, making him so unpalatable to the majority of Americans, that they'll have no choice but to vote for Democrats. Ask Clinton how that worked out."

Aside from Senators Bernie Sanders and Tom Udall and House Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Raul Grijalva, the Democratic Party has been largely MIA on the Dakota Access Pipeline, a crude oil pipeline currently being routed under the longest river in America, which upon its inevitable spill will poison the drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and 18 million others downstream. (Parent company Energy Transfer Partners has had 69 spills between in the last two years.)

Neither Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi nor Elizabeth Warren—who has proudly boasted about her Native American heritage—have led press conferences or town halls on the desecration of Native American lands by DAPL and other big oil companies; the grave threat DAPL poses to clean water; or the brazen conflict of interest President Trump has considering he's personally invested in DAPL.

There's also been crickets from the Democratic Party regarding a predominately minority community in Indiana being lead-poisoned. East Chicago, a poor Latino and African American community built up for decades on top of lead plants, insecticide factories, and other toxic industrialized plants, now has a lead crisis that may prove to be even worse than Flint.

Lead levels in ground soil have been found to be as much as 212 times the EPA's "allowable limit," and despite the EPA telling me in August that there's no issue with the water, the water is now showing toxic lead levels.

Even more egregious than these facts, VP Mike Pence, who was Indiana Governor when these troubling numbers came out, ignored this crisis in a minority community, failing to visit East Chicago and later denying the city's request to declare it an emergency disaster (which his Lt. Governor, and new Governor, Eric Holcomb just granted).

But Pence acted quickly months before East Chicago's crisis became public. In the face of a less severe water contamination issue in 97 percent white Greentown, Indiana. Pence swiftly met with officials and within two months, the problem was fixed.

East Chicago isn't the only lead and water crisis. As Reuters reported, there are 3,000 other municipalities with lead problems.

And that's not to mention that, despite highly questionable EPA proclamations that Flint's water levels are now under the "allowable" lead limit, the city is still embroiled in a crisis, with thousands of residents still suffering through water-related health issues and still unable to safely drink water.

But Democrats flood the media to rail about Russia, making abstract claims it stole the election—which in reality is the Party's safety blanket to avoid dealing with the fact that they've been exposed as public servants for corporations and special interests—while largely ignoring the suffering of the people they claim to represent.

If Democrats continue to exclusively deploy the obsess-over-all-things-Trump strategy, without simultaneously rallying crowds to offer alternative policy prescriptions for a number of issues, or speaking out loudly on behalf of the movements like DAPL or crises' like East Chicago, they'll continue to simply ride the coattails of organic crowds and activism in opposition to Trump.

But Trump will continue to toss crumbs to organized labor, conservative Democrats, and the blue-collar workers that put him in office, keeping them in his voting column.

And the crowd that really matters—at voting booths in November, 2020—will continue to have the choice of President Trump and a party that stands in opposition, but doesn't stand for much of anything else.

Commentary by Jordan Chariton, a political reporter for The Young Turks, reporting on the presidential campaign trail. He can be seen on TYT Politics. Before TYT, Jordan was a reporter for TheWrap and TVNewser. Follow him on Twitter @JordanChariton.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.

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