Hillary Clinton will be the 45th President. I thought that in January, and the polls show it to be true in August, when it counts. Donald Trump is the most unqualified candidate since Andrew Johnson, and most writers can’t find anyone to compare him with.
But the Republican Party is not imploding. Far from it. What Trump has done is attach a host of moochers onto the Party of Bush, and below the Presidential line that alliance is holding. Trump voters are going GOP down the line, even for candidates who oppose the programs they depend upon, and regular Republicans are planning on showing up for the down-ballot races.
People talk about this being a McGovern election, but they forget that Nixon was so obsessed with his own performance that the Republican Party that year made no gains in Congress. As a result, the Watergate Committee, and then the House Judiciary Committee, both had Democratic majorities. This killed Nixon. Nixon may have thought that the alliance with Southern Democrats that had gotten his agenda through would hold when he was under direct assault. He was wrong.
If we have a McGovern election in November, Republicans will be able to play the same game over the next four years they’ve played over the last eight. Obstruct, refuse, and blame Democrats for the failure to progress. Eventually, they will get their act together, take the White House, and do most of what Trump proposed this year.
There are two ways to fight back, two elements that are essential for the rest of the campaign.
Accentuate the Positive – The negative case against Trump has been made, so stop running negative ads. Run only positive ads between now and Election Day. Hillary Clinton has been tarred with so many phony scandals that even liberal voters are believing there must be some there, there – there isn’t. But she won’t dissuade them from staying home or voting for Jill Stein through simple denials. She has to make a positive case for herself, the kind of case she started to make at her convention.
That means running as a woman, as a person who listens. Bring back the convention testimony from people who have worked with her, who have been helped by her. Even by the Clinton Foundation. Make the positive case for a generous country, and a feminine style of leadership.
Women are the majority, yet even now Hillary Clinton is losing white women to a sociopath. That’s insane.
Tie Congress to Trump – The best place to run negative ads against Trump is in down-ballot races, in House and Senate races. Tie Trump’s unpopularity to every Republican Congressional candidate. Make them either own their support for Trump or disown it, loud enough for Trump voters to hear and resent. No more yeah-buts. And Hillary is the best yeah-but they have, which is why a positive campaign at the top is essential.
Republicans have to understand that their leaders built Trump, that they created him. That may make Trump voters just more desperate for him to win, but it’s their desperation you can use against the rest of the party, which is disgusted by it. Trump’s voters are crazier than Trump and the more they act out, the more inclined regular Republicans are to just stay home, which is what you want. Not voting, remember, is voting, it’s letting someone else’s vote decide the issue.
There are positive things that are going to happen over the next two months no one has yet accounted for in the polls. A popular President is going to get into the ring and make the positive case for his successor. The Democratic ground game is going to get in gear around the country. There really is no Republican ground game to match it. The ad wars will continue to be mostly one-sided. The debates are going to happen, and Trump is going to have to answer for his stupidities. None of those things hold a promise of a closer race.
But there’s a difference between a McGovern election and a Goldwater election. A McGovern election is a win at the top that leaves your opponent’s party intact and leaves you vulnerable to your own scandals and insecurities. A Goldwater election, or a Mondale election if you prefer, leaves the other party in tatters and gives you an opportunity to actually do something.
And there are many things that must be done.
Health care needs new reforms to bend the cost curve, on drugs and hospitals. The election process itself must be reformed so everyone can participate and so that gerrymandering becomes a thing of the past. We need to get started on the work left undone by Republican obstructionism – on the environment, the economy, and on turning non-war into global consensus.
What Republicans have accomplished during the Obama Administration is significant, and the President’s failure to be a party man has contributed. By building an organization tied only to the Presidency, Obama lost Congress, twice, turning what should have been an FDR Administration into more of a Truman experience. He was Reagan at a time when we really needed a Nixon, a Sunny Jim when we needed a hard man.
Hillary is a hard man. She’s hard to love. She’s tough as nails. But in order to be a good President, she needs a Congress that isn’t constantly fighting with her, creating phony scandals that distract attention from what must be done.
Democrats need to Congress, both the Senate and the House, right now. They have to build the Party, not just the Presidential party but the whole party. We need to capitalize on the opportunity Trump has created to build the Obama Coalition into something that lasts a generation, as it is designed to last.
Then we can let the Republicans stew in their juices, figure out their position, and eventually come back with candidates and positions that are reasonable alternatives to the Obama Thesis of Consensus. So long as they’re calling Democrats illegitimate that’s not happening.
None of this is certain to happen. That’s why they play the games.