I want to offer advice for Democratic candidates, and for journalists who report what Democratic candidates say. Do not:
- Say how appalled you are by President Trump.
- Talk about how he deserves to be impeached.
- Say he is unfit for his office.
- Call him every bad thing you can think of.
- Try to think of ways to remove him from office before the election.
Why? Because none of these things makes a damn bit of political difference. When it comes to Trump, we do not have many fence sitters out there. These pronouncements do not make people on one side of the fence or the other rethink their judgments about the president. Attacks on Trump of this type do not persuade people.
We do know from the 2016 election that a fair number of non-Republican voters were so unenthusiastic about the Democratic candidate, they stayed home rather than vote for her. Many disliked both candidates, for different reasons. Some voted for Trump, even though they did not like him, because they liked Clinton less. Arrogantly, she did not try to win votes among this group. You may remember Clinton’s principal campaign theme toward the end: Trump is unfit and of course you aren’t going to elect him. She seemed to dare voters to prove her wrong.
You may remember Clinton’s principal campaign theme toward the end: Trump is unfit and of course you aren’t going to elect him. She seemed to dare voters to prove her wrong.
Somehow Democrats have decided they can retool failed strategies from 2016 to defeat the same opponent, now an incumbent president. Because Bernie had a lot of success last time around, they sprinkle proposals about free-this and free-that into their anti-Trump rhetoric. We have two dozen new faces out there, and almost every one of them has nothing new to say about Trump. Sometimes they ignore him. Yet returning to the watering hole to say how aghast you are at his Twitter rants does not mean you should ignore his significance.
I cannot imagine we would have a president like Trump if we had not launched numerous wars in south Asia and the Middle East, then managed to engineer a bank panic that made millions of people lose their jobs and their homes. Lost wars, you exclaim? We kicked Hussein’s ass! We kicked him right out of Baghdad, and dangled his corpse from the end of a rope. What do you mean we lost? Bank panic? Whose fault was that but the bankers’, the one percent who try to cheat us every chance they get?
We assassinated guilty and innocent alike, like someone run amok, and called the casualties a necessary part of our global war on terror.
I’ll address the war, then briefly address the bank panic. We accomplished not one of the goals we stated before or during the Iraq war, except regime change that occurred during the conflict’s first few days. We shattered our alliances. We strengthened our enemies. We caused such a contagion of warfare across half the globe, people have called it World War III. We tortured prisoners of war to death. We assassinated guilty and innocent alike, like someone run amok, and called the casualties a necessary part of our global war on terror. We handed world leadership to people and countries we do not even know, or care to know.
As for the Great Recession, that’s harder to understand than misbegotten wars. You cannot tie it to 9/11, or to a single villain. Yet no event or cultural phenomenon, not war or white supremacism, so clearly prepares the way for Trump. The resentments he so assiduously stirs up – against Eastern elites, immigrants, anyone who does not want to make America great – all festered as bankers foreclosed on millions of homes, and companies laid off millions of their employees.
Without Bush’s disastrous war and subsequent panic, without their manifold calamities, Trump would have had no sure entry point in presidential politics, nor a path to electoral victory in 2016.
When you, your friends, and other people in your community lose homes, jobs, savings, self-respect, and often families at about the same time, you want to waste yourself. You might say for many in 2016, people without hope faced self-annihilation – various kinds of medication work well for that – or they could vote for a man who said he would restore their self-respect. If that meant resentment toward people who do not look like you do, so be it.
One would overreach to say: without George W. Bush, no Trump. With more certainty, we can see how Bush prepared the way for Trump. Without Bush’s disastrous war and subsequent panic, without their manifold calamities, Trump would have had no sure entry point in presidential politics, nor a path to electoral victory in 2016. He rolled to victory after victory in the Republican primaries, then to victory in November, partly because people could not believe how incompetent, selfish, and corrupt the swamp-dwellers in Washington had become. It does not matter that Trump displays all these characteristics. Voters would try anyone.
Democrats who campaign for their party’s nomnination no do not seem to grasp obvious ties between Trump’s success, and his predecessors’ failures. They do not appear to care, either. They don’t seem to care why MAGA hats are so popular. They don’t seem to care why Trump supporters have made “Lock her up!” their favorite chant at his rallies. They feel contempt for people who support Trump, and that’s it. If they understood why fellow citizens support the man – if they actually tried to think through this question, then apply what they learn to what they say – they would not talk the way they do.
They would have something to say about hopeless wars, hollowed out communities, families who have attended too many funerals. They would say something about how to recover.