We just don’t know yet how, if at all, the current crisis with Iran might affect the presidential race. But the Iowa presidential caucuses will be held just a month from now. In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé’s co-founder and executive editor Greg Dobbs writes about what worries him as we fast approach the caucuses, and then for seven months, the cascade of primaries that follow.
I really shouldn’t be worried about the outcome of the 2020 election. Like a lot of President Trump’s antagonists, I can’t help but believe that most Americans will see him as the dishonest, disingenuous, indecent, incurious, unprincipled, immoral, self-serving man he is. Whatever happens with Iran doesn’t change any of that.
Then again, from his life as a businessman and his behavior as a candidate, we knew all about Trump’s ugly temperament and his nasty traits before he ever got to the White House. Those of us who took measure of the man were certain that he would never appeal to the majority of American voters.
And we were right. 66-million Americans cast their votes against Trump, versus 63-million who voted for him. The trouble was, there weren’t quite enough of those anti-Trump votes in the handful of swing states where the Electoral College made its mark and gave the unlikeliest of victors his victory. Sure, some voters were more anti-Hillary than pro-Trump, but in the final analysis that doesn’t matter.
Thus, we were also wrong. He was a liar, a bully, a cheat, and everyone knew it… but as unfit as he was for the White House, he got there anyway.
So I am worried about the outcome this year, because from what we read, those who gave Trump their votes in 2016 haven’t changed sides. And if you paid attention to the way the president’s acolytes in Congress defied the evidence and defended their leader during the impeachment hearings at the end of last year, you know that if anything, his followers are more fervent than ever.
I’m also worried because others are. Others like me. Plenty of pundits who openly declare their disdain for this president also openly utter their fear that he has a fair shot at reelection. Do they know something I don’t?
The answer is no. What they know is that we’re all painting these days on a brand new canvas. With new rules. And new standards. And when we’re talking about an American president who pays hush money to a porn actress to keep a lid on their relationship, new lows.
What they know is, the polls no longer are accurate predictors of peoples’ preferences. For three years now, Trump has never had a majority of Americans approving of his performance in office. Yet he commands loyalty from the core of his political party, even blind obedience, on levels we’ve never seen before. Maybe they’re just a noisy minority but even if that’s all they are, they make enough noise to strike fear in the hearts of the rest of us.
Beyond all that, I’m worried that the Democrats don’t have a standout candidate to beat Trump. From my point of view, all of them would make better presidents and help restore America’s long-respected place in the world— hell, Daffy Duck would be better than what we’ve got— but if we want a better president, first we have to elect one. Which means, choosing a candidate who can beat Trump in November has to be priorities 1 through 10.
Several of today’s surviving crop of candidates probably would stand up to Trump, but several probably wouldn’t. It’s too early to name names, but when each of you is making your choices, think about who might wither under Trump’s unscrupulous attacks on a debate stage, and who might not. Think about who can escape Trump’s inevitable labels of “socialist” and “communist” (which won’t be true but will resonate with lots of undiscerning voters), and who can’t. Think about which candidates most likely will grow stronger and smarter in a grueling general election campaign— let alone during four years in office— and which ones most likely won’t.
I am worried now, because I wasn’t worried last time, and should have been. Too much damage has been done to our nation in Trump’s first term to allow him a second term to do even more. Too much damage has been done to allow ourselves to be myopic again.