How to lose to Trump again.

Published August 22, 2019

By Thomas Mills

Mark Halperin, a very prominent journalist who got caught in the #MeToo movement, is set to release a book called “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take.” He interviewed 75 Democratic strategists and the blow back has been fierce. Halperin sexually harassed or abused women for years. The 75 Democrats are getting slammed for helping in his attempted comeback because he has done little to make amends for his past behavior. 

Another book that could be written is “How to Lose to Trump Again.” Despite the polls that show him trailing badly in the states he needs to win, his path to victory runs through a shifting national conversation and political left that is misreading the country. Instead of staying focused on Trump and his miscues, progressives are starting a national conversation about race that could polarize the electorate and demanding big changes that will disrupt the lives of virtually every American. I don’t think that’s  what most people want. 

The rise of white nationalism deserves pushback and denunciation. Seeing white supremacist groups openly marching and threatening people is one of the most disturbing developments of the Trump years. However, the spurious accusations of racism from too many people, especially on social media, threatens to give Trump and his supporters a rallying cry that drives turnout in 2020. 

The New York Times’ 1619 Project opens a conversation that the nation needs. It gives voice to African American writers and intellectuals who can help the country understand how slavery and racism shaped our nation and how the contributions of black thinkers, inventors, entrepreneurs, scientists and workers were instrumental in building this country despite, and possibly because of, the obstacles they faced. The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow policies still affect our nation and black families. We need to do more to fix the problems.

Still, the reaction from the right could galvanize support for Trump as conservative journalists portray the 1619 Project as an attempt to demonize our country instead of an effort to set the record straight. Some on the left will amplify their criticisms by demanding the conversation turn to reparations and embrace polarizing rhetoric that, ironically, casts white working class people as “others.” If low-information white voters who otherwise might stay home because of Trump’s policy stumbles and childish rhetoric feel victimized, they might show up to vote for him out of a misplaced sense of self-preservation

Another way Democrats could alienate much of the electorate is to embrace change that more people don’t want than do. In response to Joe Biden’s claim that he’ll “restore the soul of the nation,” a progressive twitter personality wrote this morning, “We don’t want to ‘restore the soul of the nation’ we had. It…wasn’t good. We want something different and better. We want big structural change.” I don’t think that’s what most people want or believe. I think 2020 is a change election and the change that people want is a rest from the mood swings and twitter feed of Donald Trump and some calm in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

I’m not saying don’t have a national conversation about race. I am saying don’t throw around accusations of racism lightly. I’m not saying don’t revisit our history and see the errors, and even horrors, of the past more clearly. I am saying don’t demonize our country because we’ve done a better job than almost any other in lifting people out of poverty and working toward a more just and perfect union. I’m not saying don’t promote policies that will improve the lives of working class families. I am saying be aware that many of those families want stability more than “big structural change” after eight years of recession and four years of Donald Trump. 

If too many people believe the Democrats’ message is that we’ve been an evil nation and we need huge changes to atone for our sins, then I suspect we will re-elect Donald Trump.