As on this Memorial Day we contemplate the thought that millions of soldiers and their loved ones suffered the horrors of war to protect the freedom of their fellow citizens to put someone like Donald Trump in office, let’s consider the odds that he’ll be re-elected.
Trump’s approval ratings are remarkably stable: nothing seems to move them out of the low 40s. Another remarkable fact is that about 50% more voters than has been the case with any other president at the same point in the president’s term say that they will definitely not vote for him.
On the other hand: Trump’s approval rating is actually higher now than in the week before he was elected. I don’t for a moment doubt that the right wing scream machine, with its fellow travelers in the Liberal Media (sic), will manage to demonize whatever candidate wins the Democratic nomination enough to allow the supremely lazy Both Sides template to remain intact, thereby saving countless journalists from the unspeakable fate of actually having to work, or, worse yet, think.
On a related note, the 2020 campaign is going to be truly bizarre. Imagine, for instance, the spectacle of the presidential debates. How do you “debate” someone who is constantly demanding that his main political opponents be arrested for treason? How do you “debate” someone who it’s impossible for any decent human being to treat with even minimal respect? How do you “debate” someone who doesn’t even accept the theoretical possibility that he could legitimately lose any contest in which he participates, whether it’s trying to win a golf club championship or the presidency of the United States?
It’s going to be very strange that’s for sure.
In the end, the 2020 election is going to be decided by turnout, and its nefarious cousin voter suppression. The 40% of the electoral public that loves Trump because he makes the libs mad and sad are all going to turn out. Republican judges and politicians will do everything within and beyond the edge of the law to try to make sure that’s enough to win. Non-Republicans need to treat this election as a referendum on fascism, because that’s what it will be.
In particular, the contestable Senate races need to be treated as every bit as important as the presidency. While Trump’s re-election would be an apocalyptic catastrophe, a Democrat winning the White House while the GOP holds the Senate would only be slightly less catastrophic in both the short and the long term.
I have a couple of ideas about how to approach the latter problem, which I’ll share as they get more developed. But winning the Senate is overwhelmingly important, despite the relative lack of attention that effort will receive relative to the presidential election.
In any event, the next 17 months will be a particularly crucial battle in a political war whose outcome will determine whether liberal democracy has any long-term future in this country.