Democratic candidates: 'It's Trump, stupid!'

Democratic candidates: 'It's Trump, stupid!'
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James Carville, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonJuan Williams: Don't count Biden out Consensus forming for ambitious climate goal: Net zero pollution Democrats' choice: Unite or go down to defeat MORE’s political director, famously said, “It's the economy, stupid,” in trying to bring laser focus to a winning message. As the Democrats ramp up for the next presidential election, to them, “It’s Trump, stupid!” The president is their one and only issue. Sure, he is abrasive and awkward, thin-skinned and often embarrassing, and any credible, experienced, articulate and slightly left-of-center Democratic candidate could seize the middle, attract independents and surely win. Which leads to the obvious question: Why are the Democrats blowing it so badly and launching themselves into hyperbolic, extremist space, which in all likelihood will lose them the White House?

Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Warren: Bloomberg making debate will show how other candidates handle 'an egomaniac billionaire' HuffPost reporter: Sanders could win plurality of delegates but lose nomination MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHouse Oversight accuses Border Patrol of blocking investigation into secret Facebook group Company to provide free clothing to any female candidate The Democratic demolition derby MORE (D-N.Y.) will not lead Democrats to the Promised Land. You can't be both extreme and wrong. The “12-years-until-doomsday” speech won’t work for presidential candidates. For example, anyone who has actually read the five United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports knows several things.

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First, these reports always express certainty. Second, they drastically change “certainties” and predictions from report to report — the science is anything but “settled.” Third, they do not say that “time’s up” in 12 years; they say that we need to begin to reduce carbon emissions after 12 years. That means the premise of the Green New Deal is nonsense. Fourth, there is not universal, scientific consensus on the assertions in the changing IPCC reports. And fifth, it is very rude to ask presidential candidates, or “environmentalist” dinner party guests, if they have actually read these reports.

The other problem with the candidates is that they overuse the word “existential.” Never ask if they’ve read Sartre or Camus and understand that a central existential principle is that you need to be authentic. Making massively incorrect assertions, drawing hyperbolic conclusions, and proposing ways to wreck a very well-running American system is neither authentic nor good politics. As Sens. Sanders, Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren: Bloomberg making debate will show how other candidates handle 'an egomaniac billionaire' Klobuchar campaign gets first super PAC HuffPost reporter: Sanders could win plurality of delegates but lose nomination MORE (D-Mass.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHow the media fall in and out of love with candidates Conway: Trump is 'toying with everybody' by attacking Bloomberg for stop-and-frisk comments The Hill's Campaign Report: New challenges for 2020 Dems in Nevada, South Carolina MORE (D-Calif.), and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBloomberg set to debate in Nevada after qualifying in new poll Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Conway: Trump is 'toying with everybody' by attacking Bloomberg for stop-and-frisk comments MORE (D-N.J.) try to take even more extreme positions, one wonders if they really think this will defeat Trump. Or does anyone really think that Joe BidenJoe BidenBloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders HuffPost reporter: Sanders could win plurality of delegates but lose nomination Meghan McCain to Joy Behar: 'You guys have done a piss-poor job of convincing me that I should vote for a Democrat' MORE — arrogant and snarky in the 2012 vice presidential debate with Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Paul Ryan says Biden likely won't get Democratic nomination Judd Gregg: Honey, I Shrunk The Party MORE, and who claimed that Republicans want to put African-Americans “back in chains” — is the calm voice of truth and reason?

In the 1960s, I took courses at Stanford on the population bomb. At the time, it was “settled science” that by 2020, humanity (at projected rates of population growth) would form a crust around Earth accelerating outward at a radial velocity of the speed of light. Huh? The progressive Dems could have run with that one! It also was accepted wisdom that communist China and socialist India would starve to death by the year 2000 (Mao Zedong, of course, facilitated that forecast with centrally directed socialist policies that starved nearly 50 million of his fellow citizens to death). Ironically, the sale of state-owned companies to the private sector, more open markets, and capitalist policies made India a net exporter of food by 2000. Similar policies set the stage for China to become the dynamic economy it is today.

How did American politics get to this strange state of affairs? Part of the problem is that America has spent trillions of dollars since 1960 to deal with “social justice,” the environment and other serious problems. In the 1960s, many people faced grinding poverty and major shortages of food and housing, the air in Los Angeles burned your lungs, fellow students from Stanford went to the Deep South to protest huge civil rights issues and some were killed, and the Soviets really considered using nuclear weapons on us. Today, lower-income Americans are more likely to die of obesity than food shortages, the air is relatively clean, nuclear war is unlikely, and the major civil rights issues of the 1960s have been addressed through laws and huge social change. And it certainly is not “the economy, stupid,” because the economy is doing well, unemployment is at record lows and wages are rising.

Manufactured issues are nothing new and people love “causes,” but most Americans are smart enough to see through them. So what should Democrats do? Exactly what most Americans want them to do: Abandon divisive identity politics and absurd calls for socialism. Stop hearings and start hearing the people. Go off script and quit trying to find elusive or non-existent micro-issues, or yet another example of “unfairness.” Recognize that the American system has been working very well — certainly better than any other system — and inflict optimism on the voters. Find a smart, happy, confident, experienced, tough, moderate candidate and win.

Grady Means is a writer and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Nelson Rockefeller and as a staff economist for Secretary Elliott Richardson of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.