2020 has been a terrible year. But it can get worse. Trump could get re-elected. Is 2016 about to repeat itself?
Recent revelations by former National Security Advisor John Bolton and others have confirmed that the President will do anything to get re-elected. While it is unclear whether he understands it is wrong to seek foreign help to get reelected, that’s what he is doing. And because Trump has done more than any foreign adversary could to undermine our role in the world, plenty of countries are more than happy to oblige.
Evidence of foreign interference already has been documented with no meaningful response. Don’t expect one from the White House. That’s about as likely as expecting Trump to turn himself in to the IRS for cheating on his taxes. Vice President Biden has raised the issue, but it sometimes seems no one’s paying attention. Biden and most other Democrats are closely watching the polls. There’s a lot to like. So far, the election appears to be Biden’s, and the Democrats, to lose. If that’s the case, what should a gaffe-prone candidate do? Lay low? Be careful?
And therein lies the problem. Democrats again have counted chickens before they’re hatched. They look at Trump’s blunders, lies, crimes, and chaos and are unable to imagine him getting re-elected. And because the polls suggest they are right, they are not doing enough to ensure the right election results. They are making the same mistake they made in 2016, when pretty much every Democrat, from Hillary on down, assumed the election was a formality.
What if the polls are wrong? What if overconfident Democrats assume the polls are right and, wanting to avoid the risk of contracting the virus, stay home? What if Trumpers, motivated by what they see as an unfair attack on the President and their priorities, turn out in unexpectedly high numbers? What if vote-by-mail proves to be a fiasco, as Trump and others predict? What would Trump do if evidence, even scant evidence, suggests that the election outcome is unclear? Add to this the unfortunate possibility of Biden becoming incapacitated in some fashion between now and election day.
Are these real worries? Maybe not all of them, but there is certainly enough to cause one to worry. Democrats, independents, alienated republicans, and everyone else eligible to vote must get in gear to minimize the possibility of a disaster in November.
Necessary actions include the obvious tasks of voter registration but also should include getting everyone to focus on the election. Think about it. Discussions of Biden’s agenda have taken a back seat to the issue of racism. These discussions are important and overdue but not to the extent that it blinds voters to the possibility of Trump winning in November. Put in other words, progressives need to broaden their focus beyond police brutality, racism, and economic justice and start focusing on Trump’s record and what a new, sane administration might look like.
The leadership of the Democratic party needs to do something it hasn’t done this year to date—take risks. Those risks include getting Biden in front of the key issues of the day. He should lead calls for racial justice and criminal justice reform, rather than throwing his support behind the proposals of others. He also needs to take Trump on. What if Biden challenged Trump to a debate now? It could be a win for Biden if Trump declined. It would also be a win if Trump embarrassed himself in such a debate. It would be a win if it re-awakened the public to the pending election. The only loss would be if Biden wasn’t up to the task. I think he is, but the Democratic leadership and Biden himself need to take the risk.
Hillary Clinton, whether you like her or not, should have been elected President in 2016. Democratic complacency is what let Russian interference and other shenanigans help Trump win. If democrats and other anti-Trump voters had been on the job in 2016, Trump would have lost and returned to reality TV and real estate fraud, clearly his strong suit.
Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant. For more than 30 years, he advised clients on federal education and social service policy.