The Upside of Fixed Opinion

As we head towards the first Democratic primaries in the midst of an impeachment inquiry, I think Democrats should note that they have a tactical advantage: the polling on Trump doesn’t move. He remains around 40%. It may go up to 43% or it may sink as slow at 37%, but despite all the scandals he’s created in the first three years of his presidency, opinion is fixed.

For some, this may seem infuriating and like nothing matters. I would counter that Trump is and always has been a polarizing figure. Clinton miscalculated in 2016 by thinking that Trump’s clear unfitness for the Presidency would sway voters, but she was wrong. She was wrong by a narrow margin in the wrong states, but she was wrong. People in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania knew who Trump was; they just didn’t think it was that bad. They wanted to shake up the establishment and Clinton didn’t provide the change they wanted. Trump was a wild card, but one that white people were willing to play because being white means you’ve got a security blanket to protect you from the societal consequences of your actions.

But the immovability of Trump’s numbers is a boon to the Democratic candidate because they don’t have to try and say why Trump is bad. At this point, you either know it or you don’t, and again, the polling bears this out. And Trump knows it too because the only way he can win isn’t by improving his favorability, but by dragging down his opponent so that the average voter thinks “They’re all crooks, I’ll just stay home.” This makes a course of action dead simple for the Democratic nominee: just run a positive campaign saying what you’ll do for voters. Play up affordable health care. Play up affordable college. Play up rooting out corruption in the system.

The mistake would be to repeat Clinton’s error and make it all about Trump, because when he’s the center of attention, he just counterpunches and makes things uglier. The best thing you can do is ignore him, and I know that’s difficult (I admit to calling him a “whiny bitch” on Twitter earlier today). But fighting Trump directly to highlight why he’s bad won’t work. At best, you have to treat him like a normal candidate, which again seems counter-intuitive, but it’s bad ground for him to stand on because when cast as a normal politician, he’s helpless. He has no command of the issues and can’t fight back because he doesn’t understand anything. So if you’re talking about Trump’s policies, talk about how his trade war harms farmers. Talk about how his tax cuts only benefit the rich. Talk about policy, not the person, because opinion on the person is fixed. It’s not moving, and I hope that the overpaid democratic consultants are smart enough to see why that gives them the advantage.

Friday, November 15th, 2019 politics

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.