Update (June 2020): I really hope I’m wrong. I mention the coronavirus below but the true scale of it is now obvious and Trump’s inept handling could change everything as could an economy in freefall. Also, I didn’t foresee Trump recommending people to drink bleach.
From time to time many of us think, how on earth did Donald Trump become the President of the United States? A major reason was that the Democrats chose a nominee who was one of the few candidates that could lose to Trump.
And they’re about to do it again.
“I’m with her”. That always worried me. Few of us really thought Donald Trump would be elected president but that slogan, from the Hilary Clinton campaign, always seemed a terrible idea and indicative of a campaign with a fundamentally poor strategy. Many voters wanted Clinton as president and of course, finally, to have the first female president. But what about voters who had bigger concerns than who got to make history and move into the White House?
“Who’s with me?”, is surely the natural reaction to that slogan? Aren’t elections about the voters? Trump won through a lot of things, some of them pretty awful such as blatant racism and a media that would never call him out on that racism or the multitude of lies he told. But he gave false hope to a crucial group of voters; desperate people who were desperate for change. He promised them that change and jobs and a different kind of America. Perhaps the disdain towards Trump from the sections of the media and political establishment played into this sense that he was an outsider, offering something different.
One out of every ten Obama voters voted for Trump. I don’t think they became racists over four years, I think they wanted real and substantive change. If your house is on fire, and if somehow you were to have a choice between two firemen, you choose the guy who says he’ll put the fire out.
Jobs and healthcare. Miserable, gut-wrenching poverty. A complete lack of hope for you or your family. Clinton didn’t speak to many of these voters. Too many voted for Trump or didn’t vote at all.
The Democrats are about to choose a second nominee that could lose to Donald Trump. It’s a stunning act of negligence.
Biden is going to make the same mistakes that Clinton did. But Biden also has some serious weaknesses of his own.
The politics of cliches
Healthcare for everyone, we’re going to cure cancer, bring back decency and normalcy. Catchphrases or cliches are not going to beat Trump. They may impress journalists or Democratic voters who were never going to vote for Trump and want their values affirming but are they going to win over swing voters?
Hilary Clinton, of course, won the popular vote, but it was the loss of a crucial section of voters in a small number of states, many in the Rust Belt, that lost the electoral college and with it the presidency.
“Nothing would fundamentally change.”
That’s what Biden said to a group of donors. To all those who argue that Biden is clearly the better candidate, I offer this quote in reply.
It’s not enough to be better than Trump.
The Democrats need to change what this presidential election is going to be about. They need a substantial, radical offer that makes the difference between them and Trump unmistakably clear and is capable of cutting through the scepticism and attacks.
Can Biden beat Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Florida, and Ohio? He may get a majority of Democrats in those states but what about in the general election? He is going to have to win some of these states if he hopes to end Trump’s tenure in the White House.
The Biden campaign is going to run a campaign that talks about a lot of things but is it going to talk to people who will only come out to vote if they believe they are being offered real changes to the status quo?
Joe Biden — The ultimate insider
It’s ridiculous how the rich and powerful such as Trump are ever taken seriously when they run against ‘the establishment’.
But Biden as the nominee plays into this. A former vice-president, a senator for decades with all the complications and voting record that comes from that.
Even Biden’s fellow moderates like Buttigieg or Klobuchar could run as outsiders.
If America wants something new, Biden isn’t that.
2020 — Swing voters or core turnout?
How will 2020 be different to 2016? Which voters will be persuaded to support Biden? Who voted for Trump in 2016, or didn’t vote at all, but will come out for Biden in those crucial states?
Can Trump win in November by this being a base turnout election? In 2004, the campaign of George W. Bush running for re-election decided that there weren’t many swing voters that could be persuaded to back Bush. Instead, it was decided to try and maximise the turnout of Bush and Republican voters. In an uninspired campaign, the Democratic candidate John Kerry got neither swing voters or new voters.
If Trump wins in 2020, it will be a similar strategy to that of Bush. You already see it with the strategy of making everyone look corrupt. If all politicians are the same, why should people care enough about who wins to bother to turn out and vote?
Somehow the electability argument — the idea that a candidate should be selected as a party’s candidate because they can win in the general election — never leads to anyone supporting a candidate that they disagree with on all the issues.
It’s amazing when you think about it — electability is cited as the reason Joe Biden will win the nomination and he’s probably the Democratic candidate who Trump has the greatest chance of defeating, the candidate who best fits into Trump’s strategy. It’s always dangerous to make predictions in politics (see here) but Biden is a candidate with serious flaws and major weaknesses.
If the electability argument is made, it needs to be made with regard to polling and some form of electoral reasoning not a general set of cliches or untested assertions.
Centrists and their mythic electability
A central tenet of centralism is its electability. Centrists, they argue, have an ability to win an election unlike any other strand of progressive politics. Does this stand up to any scrutiny? They lost to Trump. They can offer up Barack Obama, but he was a uniquely gifted politician. What about Gore, Kerry or Hilary Clinton?
Does Biden have dementia?
I have no idea but Biden’s cognitive ability is an issue that isn’t going away. There are several videos of him where he appears confused and unable to speak. Biden’s public visibility has been severely restricted and his only appearances are tightly controlled set-pieces.
My fear is that the Trump campaign and Republicans will say it is irresponsible to put somewhere in the White House who seems to have dementia.
They have a point. It is irresponsible to choose Joe Biden as a candidate for president, especially when the alternative is Donald Trump, which was another kind of irresponsibility, perhaps even greater in its shamefulness.
Expect an awful general election campaign. There will be endless talk about how Biden’s vice-president nominee is the real candidate, as well as talk of shadowy figures behind the scenes who will really run the show if Biden becomes President.
We can also expect the Trump campaign to hammer Biden with his quotes and record on social security.
All this will reduce Democratic turnout.
Could anyone beat Trump?
We’re about to find out. Maybe America is too sick of Trump, maybe the economy will explode or the coronavirus will be a wide-scale disaster and people will want a safe pair of hands. Perhaps it will take more than a safe pair of hands to wrestle the presidency from Trump.
Actually changing people’s lives for the better
If the Left (a very general term if we are including the US Democrats) get in power and don’t actually change things for people, if they don’t make a material benefit to people’s lives, then what’s the point?
Eventually, the Right wins again and gets back in and erases the meagre gains, if any, the Left actually managed to implement.
In the US people are dying because they can’t afford insulin — a vital product inflated to huge prices that far exceed those in any other country. If you don’t have a plan for that, what’s the point?