The Great 2020 Dilemma

Alan Zendell, March 18, 2019

The dilemma is simple to explain, but don’t let that fool you. It’s extremely serious. Probably as serious as anything we’ve ever faced. The problem, of course, is Donald Trump. The dilemma is how to assure that the Democrats don’t blow the 2020 election and hand him a second term.

The highest priority in the next election for three out of every five Americans is defeating Trump. Trump’s favorable and unfavorable ratings invariably show a double-digit net negative. That ought to create a stiff breeze behind any Democrat’s sails, shouldn’t it? As we saw in 2016, that doesn’t automatically translate to victory.

Conventional wisdom tells us the most critical attribute a Democratic candidate must possess is electability, and therein lies the problem. With roughly twenty candidates having announced their intention to run, as of today, not one of them has a positive net favorability. The only Democrat who does, former Vice President Joe Biden, hasn’t even said for sure that he’s running. That ought to give everyone a chill. Did we learn nothing from the 2016 disaster?

If Democrats expect to defeat Trump, they need to find a “likable” candidate without shooting themselves in all forty feet with infighting. To accomplish that, each candidate must commit to putting his or her personal ideology and ambition on hold if it becomes clear that Priority One is in jeopardy. New Democrats who think they were elected to rebrand their party must understand that if Trump wins re-election, no amount of re-branding will matter.

It’s time for Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and Thom Perez to issue a Joint Manifesto. I’m all for democracy and free speech, but the individual expression of free will without discipline is just chaos. That will not win in 2020, because the incumbent is a master at using confusion and disarray. And hateful as he may be, he knows how to stay on message with his base. If the Democrats allow theirs to splinter, they’re doomed.

The Manifesto should begin by declaring that regardless of the policies they favor, candidates must stop using the word “Socialist” as either a noun or an adjective. The 2020 election will be for the hearts and minds of an American electorate that is woefully uninformed and dangerously susceptible to social media. The truth is that only a small percentage of Americans understand what socialism is, and for the rest it’s a bogeyman that will undermine a candidate faster than shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. No one knows that better than Donald Trump.

Next, the Manifesto must make clear that for the purpose of defeating Donald Trump, fringe theories and philosophies need to be left at the door this year, along with over-sized egos. Candidates have to know that to earn the support of the DNC, their rhetoric has to stay within reasonable bounds. Anything that degrades a candidate’s electability is out of bounds, and should be punished by withholding financial support.

The Manifesto should contain a Twitter section that’s updated daily to remind Democrats of what they’re fighting for. It can begin with the twenty-nine tweets the President posted last weekend. Consider the backdrop:

  • a White Supremacist terror attack against innocent Muslims in New Zealand
  • the disintegration of the national government in Venezuela which, even if we don’t care about Venezuelans, caused gas prices to jump 25 percent
  • flooding that could bankrupt Midwestern farmers
  • announcements that North Korea will likely resume its nuclear missile tests and Russia will begin deploying medium range missiles in Europe that could destabilize NATO defenses
  • an existential crisis at Boeing that shook the confidence of the flying public.

With all that happening Trump used his tweets to attack television shows he doesn’t like and support Fox News commentators he does like, to attack John McCain and General Motors, and to renew his baseless claims of voter fraud and election rigging. As always, Trump’s ego dominated his judgment, canceling out whatever leadership skills he might possess.

Memo to Democrats – that’s what you’re fighting to replace. This president created a national deficit crisis by passing a tax law that to no one’s surprise will threaten Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in this Congress. He started trade wars that have no solution in sight that are hurting Americans. And he has thumbed his nose at everyone who believes our environment is at risk and that our children may inherit an uninhabitable planet. Even worse, he subscribes to no moral code except one-way loyalty to him.

Dear Democrats, if you can’t see what’s really at stake here, or you can’t put the country ahead of your own personal agendas, you’re no better than Trump. God help us if that turns out to be the case.

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