By Maribel Hastings
Unless Congress steps in and impeaches him, Donald J. Trump is getting ready to seek re-election in the 2020 general elections. In theory,
The Democrats will put up a powerful fight that ensures Trump is on the list of one-term presidents.
But going from theory to practice, and from here to 2020, is a long stretch. And the Democrats could, as they have so many other times, once again earn their reputation as experts in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Trump already showed part of his hand for 2020. He will continue using immigrants and immigration as a battle cry against the Democrats who, according to him, “hate” the country and want “open borders.” This week he will present his budget and ask for $8.6 billion for a useless wall–despite the fact that Congress already rejected this request–reviving his campaign against the Democrats with the sole objective of convincing his base that he is accomplishing his promises, even though it is not true.
On the other side, he is already branding the Democrats as “socialists” who want the government to run our lives. The irony is that one sector of the country believes this, despite the fact that it is Trump who has an affinity–not for socialists, but for dictators and autocrats, most of all the Russian Vladimir Putin, whose one dream is for Russia to become a type of Soviet Union-lite with a huge presence and dominion on the world stage.
But none of that scares or worries Trump’s faithful followers, like those in Alabama who asked the president to autograph their bibles. Or the dying man whose last wish was to speak with Trump, and it came true.
The question is whether with just the support of his loyal base, approximately 40% of the country, Trump can repeat the feat of 2016 when he won the Electoral College by just 80,000 votes concentrated in three states: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
If the results of the 2018 midterms offer a sign, the Republicans lost ground in those three states thanks to voters’ support for Democratic candidates in cities and suburbs, while the rural areas remained in Republicans’ favor. This is indicative of the fact that in 2020, the route to 270 votes in the Electoral College is complicated for Trump, who would have to maintain and add other states to his list.
But as I said at the beginning, there is a long way to go and we still do not know who will emerge as the Democratic standard-bearer among the many who aspire to the nomination, and we still do not know if an Independent candidate will rise up and complicate the situation even more.
That is to say, the good thing about democracy is that the electoral process is open and anyone, within certain parameters of course, can aspire to be president. If you do not believe it, just look at who occupies the White House today.
But the problem is, it is not just “anyone” who can bring the pain to Trump. It has to be a viable candidate, capable of motivating not only the Democratic base, but also disaffected Republicans who have distanced themselves from the Party, in silence and in horror, at the spectacle that is the Trump presidency, as well as Independents and minorities.
But ever since the Democratic wave in 2018, one sector of the Party feels invincible and thinks it is a good time to undergo an introspection and decide what it is. Is the Party moderate and centrist, or is it progressive–as if an entity as diverse as this could have no space for all of these tendencies.
I understand perfectly that, in the face of a Republican Party that bowed to Trump’s extremism, they want to respond with a Democratic Party where progressives hold the baton and direct the orchestra. How I would like this to be the case!
But the reality is, now is not the best time for introspections and power struggles because, to beat Trump, the Democrats needs to close ranks and demonstrate a united front that attracts both the most progressive of the progressives, as well as the moderates and Republicans who also want to kick Trump out of office.
The lesson of 2016 cannot be forgotten. The strategy based on the assumption that voters would not support Trump because of his many scandals and excesses did not work. The “Big Idea” of thinking that Trump had no possible chance of winning meant that many voters stayed at home or refused to vote for Hillary Clinton because they supported Bernie Sanders. Ultimately, Trump won and here we are.
I do not think that politicians have to back down when they are branded as socialists, if being a socialist is wanting all of us to have access to medical care and a high-quality education, or wanting to attack climate change.
But it doesn’t seem to me that now is the right time for a bloody ideological battle among Democrats that has the potential of disenchanting those voters who do not operate in the extremes, and could decide the election.
In the face of 2020, the Democrats must focus on nominating a credible and viable candidate who appeals to the largest diversity of voters possible, because what is at stake are another four years of Trump in the White House, despite his low approval ratings and his legal scandals.
The ideological differences among Democrats can be settled once they take back the White House.