The absurdity of President Trump picking the Democratic nominee

A recent tweet by Republican Representative Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawLawmakers call for extra security for anti-Erdoğan protesters  Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising Texas investigating parental dispute into whether 7-year-old is transgender MORE of Texas is rather revealing. In it, he wrote, “This impeachment inquiry seems worse for Biden than it is for Trump. Now the Hunter Biden-Ukraine issue is on everyone’s radar AND we know that Democrats overstepped with their ‘quid pro quo’ accusation. Have to wonder whether they did this to help Warren/Sanders?” The proposition here is in itself simply ludicrous.

Even the best Machiavellians could not have contrived a plan where the Democrats got a whistleblower to file a complaint, then arrange for the acting director of national intelligence to withhold that complaint from Congress, and then launch an impeachment inquiry on President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE, all in order to hurt Joe BidenJoe BidenButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California MORE. But the pundits have been breathlessly asking whether the consequence of this crisis helps achieve a long term strategic imperative for the Trump reelection campaign to hurt Biden.

It is clear that this  false narrative was meant to be an October surprise. But it should have happened next year instead of now. Trump stepped on his message, preempting his own reality show when viewers pay the most attention, in the weeks before the election. It is still a fair question to wonder about the impact of the narrative on the Democratic primary.

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The essential point here is that Biden did not pressure the Ukrainian prosecutor to resign because he was too tough on corruption but rather because he was too soft. This is proven demonstrably by his statements at the time and clearly articulated by Obama administration policy. The conspiracy theory is that there is a campaign to slow down Biden in his lead to hand the Democratic primary victory to another candidate.

Just months ago, internal polling from the Trump campaign gave Biden a large lead against the president in the battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida. More recent polling shows Biden ahead of Trump by a greater margin than the other Democratic candidates.

All of this is to say that Biden is arguably the most potent threat to Trump. What does Trump do to credible threats? He projects his liabilities on them. Trump is the original “I am rubber and you are glue, and whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” He excels at creating and sustaining narratives that are false, misleading, and exploitative. Like a boxer, he jabs, jabs, jabs to establish the rhythm and pace of the fight. He throws punches that land powerfully and draw blood for all to see.

Remember Hillary Clinton using a private server for emails? The narrative became so potent that Bernie Sanders himself got the line of the night in a 2015 debate when he said, “I think the secretary of state is right, the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” Trump sustained the narrative months later in 2016 when he said, “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

How about the new narrative that has settled into significant swaths of the electorate that several new Democratic members of Congress who lean far to the left have made the entire House Democratic caucus a bunch of crazed socialists. This message came to be despite the fact that the caucus expanded not to the left, but through the middle, with more moderate candidates who flipped over three dozen Republican seats.

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Political campaigns rest on narrative and counter narrative. A candidate tells a story meant to exude resonance, connection, experiences, and values. The counter narrative is spun by opponents. Trump brilliantly launches the counter narrative with shock and awe. He overwhelms and consumes. His story is “you may not like me, but you must fear them.”

Trump wants a candidate who stirs unease at the dinner tables of swing voters in Kenosha County in Wisconsin, Erie County in Pennsylvania, Pinellas County in Florida, Maricopa County in Arizona, and other critical districts. If Trump can depress Biden in key Democratic primary states early next year, then it could create a second wave narrative about the electability of Biden, despite polls that show he is eminently electable.

The question for Democratic primary voters is whether they will fall for it. Will they allow the lies of Trump to become the narrative of their own primary? Will they yield to him, wittingly or unwittingly granting him outsize status as a Democratic superdelegate who can influence their nomination? Can he effectuate the winnowing out and whittling down of the Democratic candidates that he fears most in a general election?

I have donated to the Biden campaign. But I do not believe that Trump should get to pick any Democratic presidential nominee. Perhaps the absurd tweet by Crenshaw reveals the depths Trump will go to try.

Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelThe bizarre circle of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg The Tea Party has died of hypocrisy Specter of Nixon impeachment looming over Republican Party MORE represented New York in Congress for 16 years and served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.