Alan Zendell, June 2, 2019
To listen to the pundits with their prediction models, defeating Donald Trump in 2020 will be a monumental task which is made worse by our outmoded Electoral College. Those same pundits told us Trump would never win the Republican nomination, and up until a few days before the 2016 election, assured us that he had little chance of beating Hillary Clinton.
Almost every House and Senate Republican seems to be telling us that Trump’s base is so strong, it makes a mockery of integrity. They fear his base so much that they never speak up and tell the truth about the president when the cameras are rolling, as many of them do in private, off-the-record remarks. Trump’s shameless pandering and bullying, his willingness to do anything to win, regardless of how venal and immoral has made them forget why they were elected.
While it’s true that short of a smoking gun proving Trump committed felonies, the core of his base is immovable, Republican cowardice in the face of existential necessity is actually an affront to the other two-thirds of the electorate. Those people who voted for Trump hoping he would grow into the office, those who didn’t vote because they disliked both candidates, and those who bought into the right wing’s twenty-year long hate-Hillary campaign couldn’t care less about who Trump’s base supports.
Beyond that, we can at least hope that those Americans who were willing to believe anything they read on Facebook last time have learned something. Far too many people in this country displayed a frightening level of intellectual laziness combined with a herd mentality that made them easy to manipulate by fake news and Russian bots. Those who realize they were suckered in 2016 are angry now, angrier than they’ve been since they were lied to about Vietnam and the misguided decision to fight in Iraq.
There have been many times when we doubted Americans’ ability to get it right when things looked bad. In the 1970’s I was among the millions of people who feared that our system was being undermined and it might collapse. But American voters have always shown great resiliency when it mattered most, and they will this time, too. Forget all the nonsense about how difficult it will be to defeat Trump. Ignore the people who are paid handsomely by the media to get it wrong, as long as they stir up controversy and increase ratings. Think for yourself. It’s not that complicated.
Despite all the factors working against her, including Russian interference and James Comey inexplicably and irresponsibly inserting himself into the campaign weeks before the election, Hillary Clinton still won the popular vote in 2016 by more than three million. She ran an abysmal campaign that was rife with tactical mistakes, she was abandoned by many Bernie Sanders supporters who felt the Party had rigged the primary, and her strategists completely missed what was happening in the rust belt states. It was a perfect storm of incompetence and unanticipated events.
The fact is, Trump’s base hasn’t grown since he took office – it’s still barely more than a third of the country. Trump only wins again if all the things that went wrong for Clinton in 2016 happen again. But of the Democratic candidates with enough name recognition to matter this time, none has a disapproval rating remotely as negative as Clinton’s was. With Trump’s continued attacks on women’s rights, immigrants, and refugees, it should be child’s play to energize voters sympathetic to those issues. 2020 is the Democrats’ election to lose, which they might do if they fail to heed the wise counsel of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and keep trying to sell Socialism to an electorate too ignorant to even know what it is.
Given the 2016 debacle, 2020 should be easy. As James Carville might say, it’s the Electoral College, Stupid. 2016 was lost in the rust belt states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Democrats should easily be able to take at least three of those states back, and possibly all four, given former Ohio governor Kasich’s disdain for Trump. How? By showing voters how they’ve been hurt by Trump’s trade war, and how Trump’s tax bill will not help working people as their temporary benefits are sunsetted. By asking rust belters, as Ronald Reagan did successfully, if they’re better off today than they were four years ago, and tellling them how Democrats will do better..
If Democrats want to win the rust belt back, their best hope is a team of Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar. They’re both popular in those states, and they’re centrists who avoid the extreme positions that marginalize large segments of the electorate. Priority number one is defeating Donald Trump. Democrats should save their policy debates for after they win.