The efforts to argue “in fairness” to Trump fall, as they should, on deaf ears. His “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” would have been the end of any other presidency in memory, but Trump’s strategy, assuming it was more than accidental, was to make himself so repugnant that nothing would be stark and awful enough to take him down.
His supporters’ efforts, taken from the same playbook as used by both tribes, to parse the words, argue over whether it’s discrimination by race or national origin, get as deep into the weeds so as to not see the swamp, convinces no one disinclined to be convinced. It was outrageously offensive and flagrantly unAmerican no matter what you want to call it.
On the other hand, it’s not as if Ilhan Omar or the rest of the Mod Squad is acceptable either. Had Trump’s #resistance been even remotely tactical and saved its bullets for the moment when there was no dispute across the middle of America that his repugnancy was too much for anyone to stand, this might be the topic of discussion at the moment.
We knew it would come, as what else could a vulgar, amoral ignoramus do but be himself? But they squandered all their ammo shooting wildly, constantly, passionately, and so one more scream of racism sounded like all the others and will have no greater impact than the Mueller Report, the last absolutely certain thing that would bring Trump down. Remember the Mueller Report?
Trump went on to pander to his base, courting (and laughably denying) the “send them back” chant. Jamelle Bouie questions why the media obsesses over Trump’s base and ignores that they are, “in fact, the minority.”
The anti-Trump vote is the single largest coalition in American politics. That was true in 2016, despite Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the Electoral College. It was true in 2017, after Democrats won major victories in Virginia and Alabama. And it was true in 2018, when the anti-Trump coalition gave Democrats a majority in the House of Representatives.
Despite their influence, however, anti-Trump voters are practically invisible in recent mainstream political coverage. Instead, the focus is the president’s most fervent supporters, as it has been since 2015, when Trump came down his escalator and announced his campaign for the White House. This past week is a prime example.
Whether that’s correct is highly doubtful, but he’s certainly right that Trump voters are a minority. So too are progressive voters. Here’s the trick being played, that the alternative to Trump voters is anti-Trump voters. But these are also the anti-progressive voters. They may poll against Trump, but they don’t poll for the great reinvention of America into a quasi-socialist state for the benefit of the marginalized. This isn’t an invitation to argue whether they should be; they’re not and screaming at them about how horrible Trump is won’t work. They already know how horrible Trump is. They just don’t want you either.
So there is the Trump base on one side, the progressive base on the other side, and neither is sufficient to prevail. Both sides need the middle voter, the one who finds Trump utterly repugnant, but has no intention of voting to tax themselves into oblivion or the re-education camps for not using the correct terminology for manholes. To even caution moderation today is to be viciously attacked by shrieking scolds reading moderation as total racist capitulation. They passionately believe this is going to win over hearts and minds?
The middle will vote in one way or another. They will go to the polls and vote for the lesser of evils, or they will stay home and utter “a pox on both your houses.” They will not vote for either, but against one.
As has been clear since the midterm elections, the left sees this moment in history as the most opportune to fundamentally re-engineer our social structure. When will they ever again have a president so despised, so beyond the pale offensive, as Trump? The strategy is to bootstrap the majority of voters, the anti-Trump majority, into a wave that will bring social justice, identity politics, socialism, into power.
Trump has no potential to capture the affirmative vote of the middle. There is absolutely nothing he can say or do at this point to change who he is, despicable, not that he appears to care. But there is no will on the other side to offer an alternative to the fundamental shift in American society.
Even if the candidate mouths the words of moderation, that she will be a president for all the people and not favor one race over another, one gender over another, and crush the hopes of Americans, especially those who risked so much to come here from other places, to achieve success for themselves and their posterity, no one will believe them. But they won’t say that, as their base will hate them for it. Both bases, despite their denials, are remarkably similar in their simplistic understandings, their viciousness and their demand for authoritarian control of the others.
The more Trump talks, the more repugnant he gets. But neither the Squad nor the 32 flavors of candidates are helping themselves. They want their revolution. The middle does not.
Conventional wisdom on 2020 is that Democrats will lose if they can’t get their progressive wing under control. This overstates the leftward swing of the Democratic Party and understates the distance between the center of American politics and the president’s right-wing policies. It also misses another, crucial dynamic — that by trying to court and convert voters who backed Trump, Democrats may sacrifice an opportunity to deepen support among their existing voters, to powerful electoral consequences.
Most people want to believe they’re fairly normal as opposed to some freakish outlier, and Bouie is such a person. But even if he can fool himself, it’s not going to fool anyone else. Elections are a numbers game, no matter how many words are murdered to argue otherwise. Just as Trump plays to the sort of person who would want to attend a rally where people chant “send her back” or “lock her up,” Bouie argues that the biggest mistake the Democrats could make is to forsake the extreme.
Yesterday, I watched as a guy stated on twitter that he would vote third-party, as he could not support Trump or any of the Democratic candidates. He was pounded by progressives with the argument that if he didn’t vote Democratic, he was effectively voting for Trump the racist, and that made him a racist. There is no middle ground to either extreme, and yet that’s where the voters are that are needed and neither side seems to grasp the math.