With the Democratic primary looming, I think it’s important for Democrats, liberals, and progressives to understand what draws so many people to Donald Trump. Because unless that’s understood, there could easily (some would say likely) be a repeat of 2016.
Trump’s power and 2016
At the moment, if the Trump administration played it right, Trump could livestream himself assaulting someone in Time Square and many (if not most) of his supporters wouldn’t bat an eyelash. All that would need to happen is for Trump to Tweet that the person — described as a Democrat, illegal immigrant, foreign agent, or some other out-group designation — was accosting him before or immediately after the event and whether it was true or not, the controversy would be over for people who still support him.
This may seem far fetched, but I feel it’s a reality that Democrats, liberals and progressives should consider if they’re interested in winning the 2020 election or at least winning it by more than a tiny margin.
I think anyone who’s been in a discussion with a Trump supporter over the last few years can attest to the fact that one thing all Trump supporters care about is that he’s not the status quo and that he shakes things up. And I don’t blame them.
Trump won the 2016 election because the political system in this country needed to be shaken-up after the Obama years. The naked obstructionism of Republican lawmakers and the inability of the Obama administration to deliver on “Yes we can,” created a political stalemate that needed to be broken. Add a political divide that’s so bad that accusing lawmakers of racism, corruption, or just plain old partisan politics — even if it’s true — at best gets us nowhere and at worst has itself become a bias worthy of being pointed out, and the ground was ripe for something radically different.
This is why Bernie had a much better chance, and why Hillary lost, in 2016. Bernie was the radical candidate who was interested in changing something meaningful in a seemingly radical way. Hillary was Obama 2.0 and stood for a continuation of the same stale partisan and ineffectual politics that dominated the Obama presidency. Whether Bernie could have actually gotten everything he wanted is almost irrelevant because the desire for a shakeup in American politics is what would have gotten him elected and what ultimately led to the Trump presidency.
The more things change…
The need for a shake-up of American politics is still just as strong as it was during the 2016 election. If anything, the Trump presidency has intensified the desire. And even with an extremely crowded field for the Democratic Primary, there are few candidates that are setting themselves up to capitalize on the current zeitgeist in American politics.
Joe Biden, the current frontrunner in polls, is openly running on a campaign that relies almost entirely on Obama-era political clout and popularity; one of the major reasons we’re in this mess in the first place. The touchy-feely (sometimes to the point of being creepy) politics he seems to embrace seems like a step backward to 2012 and the short-lived sense of relief many of us felt when Obama was reelected that ended in a Trump presidency. He was a great VP, but he’ll give us 4 more years of Trump if he wins the Democratic primary.
Bernie Sanders was an amazing candidate in 2016 and a good candidate for 2020. His passion and vitality are infectious, and his vast experience in politics puts him in a position to get things done. The only reason why he’s not my first choice is that 2020 is a different race from 2016. It’s going to require different ideas or at least a different package, and it seems like Bernie has just changed the shipping label. His ideas aren’t radical anymore because we’ve been talking about them since the last primary, and the aim to catch the US up with the rest of the developed world seems small after the damage MAGA has done.
Elizabeth Warren is a great politician and as a presidential candidate seems a lot like Bernie Sanders if he were repackaged as a female law professor. In fact, besides gender, the only real difference between the positions of Warren and Sanders on the major issues seems to be mostly semantics generated by their different educational and professional backgrounds. Which is why Sanders and Warren have been, and why they’ll probably continue to be neck and neck all the way until the primary if one of them doesn’t drop out: The way they talk about the issues, speaks to a slightly different audience.
Unless the Democratic candidate runs a campaign that promises to shake things up instead of a return to the status quo (Biden) or rehashing 2016 (blame the rich & healthcare for all), Trump has a chance of winning in2020.
Based on what we know about human psychology and economics, UBI would cost less and be more effective at addressing poverty (as well as a number of other societal ills) than topheavy, bureaucratic and inefficient social and welfare programs. And the experiments that have been performed all over the world, including the US, show that UBI is not only successful at addressing poverty but also reduces abortion rates, murder rates, school drop out rates, petty theft and drug overdoses while boosting the economy, AND the effects of the experiment continued to have positive effects after the experiments ended.
Besides Biden, ANY of the democratic candidates has the ability to beat Trump running a smart campaign. But only Yang has the capability of pulling in swing voters from the middle and the center-right that might still be persuaded to vote for Trump in 2020 by voting against a Democrat.
Like Trump, Yang is a non-politician, a businessman, and he’s not afraid to be edgy. But unlike Trump, he’s not a misogynistic asshole, he’s had many business successes that aren’t marked by dubious bankruptcies and corruption scandals, and Yang’s edginess isn’t distasteful. And a great argument can be made for UBI that appeals to voters on the right because it eliminates government waste and oversight into people’s everyday lives, as well as bureaucratic and inefficient government programs all while stimulating the economy. And running on the radical platform of UBI is what puts Yang in the best position, above all the Democratic candidates, to take advantage of the desire for radical change in government and forge a path that’s not left, not right, but forward for politics in the US.