Can the Democrats unseat Trump?

We live in interesting times. Our nation is deeply divided. People cannot talk politics at family dinners or friendly get-togethers. Opinions are fixed; relationships are too important to risk a conversation. However, over the next 15 months, we must engage each other, as 2020 is the most important election in modern times.

If the election were decided today, on the economy, trade or immigration, large numbers of Americans would likely vote to re-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE. After all, Trump has an incumbency advantage; the political landscape assures him of winning particular states without a campaign. However, recent events have created doubt in places like Texas, and the Democratic Party has a real opportunity to unseat the controversial president.

Today, the candidate with the best chance to beat Donald Trump is… well… Donald Trump. The president has a solid base of supporters — as candidate Trump once famously said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” So far, this comment has proved prophetic. Over the past three years, Trump’s mouth has been the major news item of the day but has had no effect on his base.

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Long before his presidential run, Trump’s mouth caused controversy. He perpetuated the so-called ‘birther movement,’ suggesting President Obama wasn’t a United States citizen. In 2015, Trump announced his candidacy, calling Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. In 2017, after a deadly ‘unite the right’ rally in Charlottesville, Va., Trump claimed there were ‘very fine people on both sides.’ In 2018, he called Haiti a ‘shithole country’ and expressed his desire for more immigrants from countries like Norway.

July and August 2019 have been unusually active months for the president’s offensive rhetoric. In mid-July, he infamously invited four freshman democratic congresswomen (three of whom were born in America) to go back to the ‘crime infested places’ they came from. Later, the president celebrated ‘victory’ as Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE testified that Russians were prepared to interfere with the 2020 election. Then Trump lashed out at Congressman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsFederal agency to resume processing some deferred-action requests for migrants Overnight Defense: Trump says he has 'many options' on Iran | Hostage negotiator chosen for national security adviser | Senate Dems block funding bill | Documents show Pentagon spent at least 4K at Trump's Scotland resort Top Oversight Democrat demands immigration brass testify MORE, calling Cummings’ Baltimore district a ‘disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.

At the end of July and in the first week of August, the nation was stunned by three mass shootings. The president could have assured citizens that he would work to keep us safe. Instead of condemning high capacity magazines for assault rifles, he blamed video games, mental illness, and the internet. While visiting shooting victims, he spoke against his political opponents, praised crowd sizes, and commended citizens’ adulation of their president.

Donald Trump has serious issues. His offensive comments combined with changing demographics and the increasing popularity of core Democratic issues, make a Democratic victory in 2020 a possibility, but far from a certainty.

The president seems incapable of change, yet Democrats appear unable to unite behind a political philosophy, let alone a particular candidate. Are Democrats progressive or moderate? The answer, of course, is ‘yes’ — and there lies the problem. Progressive solutions include ‘Medicare for all,’ free tuition, college debt cancellation, tax cuts for the middle class, severe restrictions on gun ownership, even an annual $12,000 stipend for all Americans. More moderate positions include health care choice, equal access to education, a fair path to citizenship, and deference to climate science rather than science fiction.

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Many argue if the Democrats wish to win in 2020, they must nominate a candidate who can debate, toe to toe, with Donald Trump. Few remember that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGiuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it Sanders hits 1 million donors Democrats will not beat Trump without moderate policy ideas MORE won every debate. Yet, she still lost the election. Why?

Clinton was a flawed candidate, viewed as dishonest, politically corrupt, snobbish, someone willing to cheat to win. Early on, party leaders foolishly anointed her their candidate. When Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes Krystal Ball calls on Sanders to follow Yang's lead on war on drugs Buttigieg calls Warren 'evasive' on Medicare for all MORE mounted a serious challenge, Clinton began to unravel. In contrast, Trump’s message was blunt and appealed to a voting segment (blue collar white men) that felt neglected by the Democrats.

The 2020 election is already different. Twenty-plus candidates seek the nomination; no one has been pre-anointed. However, there is a disturbing disparity of political philosophy. To win in 2020, Democrats must avoid petty squabbles and choose a sensible path, one that inspires the base and is embraced by independents and moderates.

Here are some suggestions:

Democrats must strike a balance between free trade and fair trade. Trump has struck a nerve on trade, claiming imbalance and unfair rules cost workers’ jobs. Unless Democrats espouse a clear policy on trade that protects American workers, they will lose the election.

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Democrats must dispel the notion they are for open borders and lawlessness. Trump has brilliantly exploited white worker insecurities about immigrants and minorities being provided some type of advantage in securing blue-collar jobs. Democrats need to proffer an immigration policy that provides secure borders, a fair path to citizenship, and reassurance to American workers that electing a Democrat will not cost them their jobs.

Democrats must be the party of health care as contrasted from the one seeking to take it away. They must support tax and wage fairness over greed and the one percent, equal access to higher education without suggesting it should be free. They must support diversity over white supremacy, a global 21st century economy over isolation and protectionism, and safety over weapons of mass destruction.

Instead of keeping his promise to ‘drain the swamp,’ many think Donald Trump has expanded it. Democrats must highlight and hammer at each of Trump’s failed promises. As the grandfather of eight, I have an easy litmus test for any president, regardless of his or her party: Can I tell my grandchildren to look to our president with pride and respect? Today, sadly, I cannot. What will you tell your children or grandchildren?

Mark Bello is an attorney, civil justice advocate, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series. One of the first to sue the Catholic Church over sexual abuse, Bello draws upon 42 years of courtroom experience and a passion for justice.