Democrats need to look at strategy
Once again Democratic strategists have become entranced with the idea that if they dominate the middle in the 2020 campaign, they will defeat Donald Trump. As in 2016 when they believed Hillary Clinton was a sure bet, Democrats assumed all voters live in their political universe. Indeed, they believed that this analysis of why voters chose Trump was flawless.
In their assumptions, they envisioned Trump supporters as Xenophobic, militarists addicted to a right-wing agenda. Perhaps many did, but they fail to include those voters who embrace a traditionalist agenda. Democrats have moved the goal post so much that they fail to realize that their party opposed many of the tendencies fashionable now. In the 1980s, protectionism was all the rage, social conservatives were still active in the Democratic party. Indeed, you even had a southern wing that managed to be competitive in 1992 and 1996. Even in 2008, Barack Obama took Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida. Conservative voters were not necessarily seen as aberrant or particularly mean spirited.
So the general picture of a Trump supporter suffers from a great deal of prejudice based on false assumptions. Many Trump supporters are not particularly fond of their candidate. But in 2016, they liked Hillary Clinton less. By definition many Trump supporters were moderate — not seeing traditional social values as extreme. So the attempts to demonize Trump as on the edge of American society will come to nothing.
Since 1964, Democrats have desperately sought a split in the GOP. Lyndon Johnson’s landslide over Barry Goldwater is the only election in the last 54 years where this succeeded. In 1980 when Jimmy Carter tied to re-run 1964, he had his head handed to him by Ronald Reagan. Even in 2016 where it appeared to many that Clinton had a shot at a Johnson moment, the Republicans won.
For members of the GOP, the Democratic analysis of their behavior does not match their own view of themselves. They do not regard themselves as bigots but as law abiding tax paying Americans. Also, Independents are not that easy to divine. To those voters, an expanding federal government is the last thing they prefer. If anything, they regard government actions as objectionable.
Which gets us back to Joe Biden Democrats who regard a campaign based on civility and sentiment as a sure winner. Mike Dukakis in 1988 ran as a Democratic moderate which Republicans quickly converted into ultra liberal. For voters less convinced that expanding government is a good thing regard doing less as moderate. So much for Biden’s attempt to erase the lines between Democrats and Republicans. In 2016, a few Republicans and Independents voted for their dog or Aunt Nell rather than vote for Clinton. Which indicates that they really did not care who won.
Perhaps the Democrats would be wise to adopt Reagan’s call in 1975 for a Republican party not noted for “pastels” but by “bright colors.” A campaign based on a “choice” rather than a referendum on Trump’s character. He is not going to go away or surrender. If Democrats do not try to define the party along understandable lines, they will most certainly lose. If Trump thought that being a perceived nice guy in 2016 was a winner, he would have never made it to Cleveland. It is incumbent for Democrats to confront Trump’s stances rather than rely on the Boy Scout handbook.