The Democrats loss to Donald Trump in 2016 was impossible and unforgivable. It required staggering incompetence and detachment from people’s concerns. Walter Mondale could have beaten Trump. Michael Dukakis in a tank could have won that election.
Now Hillary Clinton has authored a book about it–as if anyone wants to relive how a pacifier-sucking megalomaniac ascended from bankruptcies, racism, and sexual assault to the presidency. Every cringe-worthy moment from his ominous descent on the escalator to the media’s infatuation with him (which gave him rise) to the gut-wrenching map on election night occupies our minds like a poltergeist.
It’s important to reflect on the mistakes of that race and to consider significant changes in its aftermath. Here are a few suggestions to retake the White House in 2020.
Don’t nominate a robot. Al Gore lost to George Bush and Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump because neither candidate connected with voters. Bush is dumb as dirt and Trump is a narcissistic con man, but it didn’t matter. Millions of people perceived them as more authentic than their opponents (Bush to grab a beer and Trump for his real talk–never mind it was real propaganda). Democrats need to read from scripts less and have more organic conversations with voters. If you can’t talk to strangers without looking like you’re passing a kidney stone, or if a recording of your voice could be used as a replacement for melatonin, you can’t have the nomination.
Forget celebrities. If you think unemployed people in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida care about Jay Z, Beyonce, and Katy Perry, I’ve got a 10% off voucher for Trump University to sell you. Hobnobbing with the rich and famous alienates voters and sends an elitist message that Hollywood comes first. People resent celebrities living in grotesque excess–unless they run for president. Make unknown Americans into stars. Tell their stories. Prop them up as examples of the people you want to help.
Stop voting for third-party candidates who can’t win. Voting for Jill Stein was the ultimate exercise in white privilege. I wanted to vote for Clinton like I wanted a hole in my head. I did it because there were two viable choices–and they were incomparable. That election was not the time to make a statement; it was the time to save our democracy from a xenophobic, racist, climate-change-denying, animal-hating, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, pathological lying, know-nothing, sociopathic, con man. Nobody who voted third party could explain their conscience in good conscience to the people and animals whose lives have been negatively impacted or ended by Trump’s disgraceful policies.
Prepare to combat actual fake news. Foreign adversaries will work tirelessly to destroy candidates they oppose with fictional stories. Develop a war room to combat the damage. Millions of people are not media literate and don’t fact check or search for verification from multiple, reputable sources. In their minds, if it’s in print, it’s true. People believed Clinton was operating a child sex trafficking ring in a pizza restaurant during her campaign.
Model appropriate behavior. Criticizing Trump for bullying while making fun of his comb-over, orange skin, small hands, spelling, and weight, or Barron’s clothes is senseless, ineffective, and juvenile. Trump’s supporters view it as degrading and elitist. Many of them like that he can’t spell or speak–qualities that attracted them to President Bush. Millions of Republicans don’t identify intelligence or experience as a necessary requirement to run the country. Stay focused on Trump’s stance on the issues. People knew he was mentally unfit to serve and morally bankrupt and still elected him. Advocate for issues like consumer protection, effective health care improvements, better schools, equality, compassion for animals, and clean air and water that affect everyone. Posting photos of Trump’s stomach playing golf will not win independent voters in 2020.
Inspire people to vote. Most Trump supporters wouldn’t abandon him if he shot them. He would blame it on the media, and his voters would agree. Don’t expect to change their minds. Democrats need to outnumber Republicans at the polls. Registered voters who didn’t vote likely cost Clinton the election. The votes are there. It’s a matter of getting people to the polls. Make the case to people why voting matters.
Stop demonizing police, guns, and the military. Republicans own the patriotism card because Democrats have ceded it by allowing Republicans to paint them into a corner on these issues. Police brutality is a serious problem, but not every shooting of a suspect is a case of police brutality. Many people own guns to protect themselves from intruders. Gun owners value that constitutional right. Democrats need to do a better job of convincing law-abiding citizens they support common-sense regulation and will not confiscate their guns. Democrats also need to successfully convey the message that Americans can be patriotic without dropping bombs or wearing a flag pin on their lapel. A cerebral, diplomatic approach to solving problems is not a sign of weakness. Saving the lives of American soldiers by not immersing our country in unnecessary wars is patriotic. And patriotism should not be defined by symbolism. Democrats should think critically about these issues and maintain their positions, but show understanding of opposing points of view.
Change congressional leadership. People on the fence in swing states don’t identify with San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi or New York’s Chuck Schumer. The Democrats need to diversify the geographical origin of their leadership. In other countries, when a party loses seats, presidents resign. In the United States, members of Congress hold on like blood-sucking leeches. Schumer reads every word he speaks. He should sign up for Toastmasters and let someone with a trace of panache take the helm. Boring matters.
Donald Trump is an empty shell. He epitomizes the worst traits in a person and serves as a non-example for the world. The right candidate will dismantle him.
Eventually, this hideous experiment will end, but it’s unlikely Trump’s most ardent supporters will ever recognize they elected a man who spends every waking hour thinking about how he can enrich his bank, feed his ego, sink a putt, destroy free press, dehumanize, and preserve his facade at the expense of the people he was elected to represent.
But this rabid beast will not go quietly into the night. Trump will flash his teeth and unapologetically lie through them to retain his throne at the first whiff of 2020 opposition. Democrats need to be prepared with a candidate who can think critically about how to defeat such a menace to humanity.