June 25, 2019 by David Silverberg
On Wednesday evening, June 26, Democrats will begin two nights of debate in order to begin distilling down their massive field of candidates into something manageable.
It’s no coincidence that the event kicking off the Democratic campaign will be held in Miami. It’s a bid for attention in the most crucial state of the 2020 election.
Donald Trump knows this. Last week, on June 18, he kicked off his own campaign with a rally in Orlando.
That speech, although discursive, disconnected and somewhat demented, bears special attention because it revealed much about the themes and the angles of attack that the eventual Democratic nominee and, indeed, all Democrats, liberals and progressives, can expect from this Orange Animal—and should be preparing to counter during the long march to the election. (An excellent transcript of the speech, broken into five-minute text, audio and video segments, is available at the website Factbase.)
While Trump has been on a media blitz since the speech, giving interviews that are calmer but no less alarming, the Orlando speech is the kind of red meat emotionalism at the heart of his campaign.
Trump obviously enjoys his rally speeches. He can vent and act out without any contradictions and he doesn’t have to think carefully but can just spew. Whatever is in his head is validated by the roar of the crowd.
The true test of oratory is whether the speaker can bring the listener, not just to his point of view, but into his mind and even personality—to make the audience both think and feel his thoughts and emotions. Adolf Hitler excelled at this. So does Trump. It is the very essence of demagoguery.
So what can the world of thinking people expect from the Trump campaign in the days ahead?
“Hatred, prejudice and rage”
At his speech, Trump declared that: “Our Radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage.”
Trump has a glaring tendency to project his own emotions, intentions and thoughts on others.
“…What he does is, he projects,” House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) pointed out in a June 13 interview. “Like when he says, ‘Nancy’s a mess,’ that means he’s a mess. When he says, ‘Nancy’s nervous,’ that means he’s nervous. He’s always projecting. …He’s always talking about himself, no matter who the subject of the sentence is.”
There is no clearer declaration of the underlying dynamic driving the 2020 Trump campaign than those three words that say it all. Democrats can expect Trump’s “hatred, prejudice and rage” to take the lowest, vilest and pettiest forms imaginable—and unimaginable. Their campaign must be able to counter those powerful emotions and offer an alternative that is more compelling and inspiring.
As Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high”—but the “high” must impel people to act in their own interests and the nation’s.
Trump is still running against Hillary Clinton—and will continue to do so
Trump mentioned Hillary seven times during the course of his speech, before mentioning any other candidate. He has such a deep hatred of her, he so enjoyed defeating her and he gets such powerful emotional satisfaction from denigrating her that he could not stop attacking her during the speech. This will likely continue on the campaign trail regardless of who becomes the Democratic nominee.
In calmer, scripted moments Trump will attack individual Democrats and the party as a whole, as he is already doing. But when he gets wound up at his rallies, when he’s speaking emotionally, he will be turning his ire against Hillary Clinton.
The question is: Will his supporters—and more importantly, independent, undecided and traditional Republican voters—go along with this or become tired of this worn out trope?
Democrats may be tempted to defend Clinton on the campaign trail. It’s a natural inclination against such obvious unfairness and blind hatred. But what’s past is past. Better to let the Orange Animal exhaust his rage against someone who isn’t running and isn’t relevant to next year’s contest.
Trump casts his campaign as a movement
“We are one movement, one people, one family and one glorious nation under God,” Trump told his followers in Orlando. This expression, which has eerie echoes of Hitler’s, “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” (One People, One Nation, One Leader), casts Trump’s campaign as a movement rather than a mere political campaign. Being part of a movement gives followers a sense of being part of something greater and more compelling than just getting an individual elected. They’re trying to change the universe—or so Trump would have them believe.
Democrats—with both a big and small “d”—need to forge more of a sense of themselves as their own movement. Theirs is a movement to preserve democracy in America against the threat of dictatorship and—yes—Fascism.
Right now all the Democratic candidates are offering what they may think are big, positive ideas. But what they need to forge is a movement that is more powerful and more attractive than Trumpism that can preserve the Constitution and democracy in America.
Trumpism versus Socialism
“America will never be a socialist country, ever,” Trump brayed. “A vote for any Democrat in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream.”
Trump and his followers will be casting the choice for Americans as one between socialism versus freedom—or, really, Trumpism. They will use “socialism” as an insult, a threat, a bogeyman, taking the place that “Communism” used to occupy.
The real choice for Americans, however, is between democracy and dictatorship. A second Trump administration could mean the end of constitutional government. If he stays in power, 2020 could end up being the last American election.
Any Democratic nominee has to make clear that this is what’s at stake in the next election. It’s not just about particular policy choices. This election is about fundamentals. It’s about the nature of the United States into the foreseeable future. While those may be clichés spouted about any election, this time really is different. Never have the stakes been so high and never has the threat been so real.
All this is worth keeping in mind as we watch the Democrats mix it up in Miami.
Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg