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Est. April 5, 2002
June 20, 2019 - Issue 794

Trump’s Campaign Kickoff
Democrats’ Non-Response

"Democrats appear to have a limited understanding, or
ability, to respond to Trump’s mendacity, political strategies,
and his stranglehold on the Republican Party.  He has unified
Republicans in a way that Democrats can only envy as the
more than twenty 2020 presidential candidates
prepare to take the debate stage."

President Donald Trump’s Florida campaign kickoff Tuesday night reminded me of a scene from the movie, Godfather I, when Michael Corleone and Tom Hagen were at the cemetery for the burial of Michael’s father, Vito Corleone. Tom whispered to Michael: “How will they come at you,” in reference to the five crime families who would try to assassinate him to take his power.

In the aftermath of the Corleone family’s refusal to provide judicial protection for the crime syndicate’s cocaine distribution operation, it was clear that a violent response was forthcoming. But Michael had already devised a plan to thwart its attempt at retribution. His henchmen would liquidate the heads of the five syndicate families, almost simultaneously, before they could take any action against him, thus eliminating the threat.

The Democrats are in a position similar to Michael Corleone’s with the exception that they have a clear understanding of how Trump is coming after them in 2020. He is using the same strategies that he successfully employed to defeat them in 2016: xenophobia, misogyny, a focus on national and border security, anti-immigrant and anti-minority tropes, and a specific promise to overturn Roe v. Wade via his appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democrats appear to have a limited understanding, or ability, to respond to Trump’s mendacity, political strategies, and his stranglehold on the Republican Party. He has unified Republicans in a way that Democrats can only envy as the more than twenty 2020 presidential candidates prepare to take the debate stage.

Climate Change is not a big enough issue to galvanize the Democratic base. Democratic candidates have unanimously embraced climate change as one of their major issues. Yet the general electorate does not list it as a high priority. Health care remains an important issue across party lines and was one of the key factors in the Democrats’ 2018 midterm victories. Therefore, they must pursue other issues to expand and energize voters to support them.

Black females (and their turnout) remain the lead demographic in the Democratic base. However, African American males also turned out and voted in large numbers for Democrats in Obama’s 2008 and 2012 runs for the presidency. They were critical to the election of Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate from Alabama, the first Democratic Senator from that state since 1997, and of Ralph Northam and Justin Fairfax as Governor and Lt. Governor, respectively, of Virginia in 2017.

In Alabama, Joe Reed, former head of the Alabama Democratic Conference (created by black political leaders in the 1960s) was a key strategist in getting black males out to vote while former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder (the first black elected to that office) got black males to the polls in Virginia. In addition, African American males were central to Democratic victories during the 2018 midterms.

The national and state-level political polls are leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates down the same political rabbit hole that Hillary Clinton fell into in 2016. The print and broadcast media persists in hyping their importance when they mean almost nothing as to who will win the nomination at this point. Democrats need to focus on engaging their voters rather than following the polls.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is beginning to surge among different groups within in the Democratic base by bonding with the voters aspirations. After listening to their concerns, she has created easily understandable plans that have elicited their support. If she combines this approach with a dedicated get-out-the-vote (GOTV) plan, she has a good chance to topple Joe Biden for the nomination. She is currently out-performing Sens. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker among African American voters.

The 2018 midterms are not a precursor to 2020 election outcomes. Unless the ultimate 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and other Democrats running for election and/or reelection reestablish strong relationships with their base, they will lose the presidency and the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats remain na�ve as to how to beat Trump and his minions.

Obama’s success in his two elections to the presidency is replicable by Democrats if they put in the political work. Obama outworked Hillary Clinton and John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. He did so by reaching out to large numbers of irregular Democratic voters, moderates, and Independents, and also putting large amounts of money into GOTV strategies in majority and minority communities in the 50 states. He generated an historic turnout among voters of color and among whites who voted for a black candidate for the first time.

Hillary Clinton, although she had the financial resources to implement the Obama model, chose to rely on President Obama and First lady Michelle, and other surrogates, to do the hard and respectful work of directly asking voters for their support. She overlooked the fact that Obama was not successful in turning out the vote when he was not on the ballot as demonstrated in the 2010 midterms when the Democrats lost the House.

The Democrats are allowing Trump to get away with the lie that undocumented Mexican immigrant are overrunning America. According to a recently released study by the Pew Research Center, less than half of the approximately 10.5 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S. are from Mexico. Their numbers have declined by 2 million since 2007. This drop is a result of the improved economic conditions in Mexico and the already improved U.S. border security. Moreover, more Mexican nationals have left America than have arrived.

Trump’s proposal earlier this week to deport millions of undocumented Central American immigrants (which is unlikely to be implemented due to the logistics) is another example of his regular feeding of his nearly 35-40 percent atavistic, racist base. It constitutes the point of the spear of his support to which he plans to add a sliver of ethnic minorities, Independents, conservative Democrats, and moderates who like his economic policies.

As noted at the beginning of this column, Michael Corleone in the Godfather I movie was able to discern how his opponents were planning to come after him and was able to counter their plot. Trump has told his Democratic opponents publicly and directly—straight up-- how he plans to destroy them politically. So far they have not developed a scheme to stop him. We have seen this movie before, and the result will be the same unless the Democrats revise the ending.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




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