Why the race has become ‘Trump the known’ vs. ‘Biden the unknown’
The Democrats appear to have achieved the near-impossible: They have wrecked their winning hand by making the election not about Donald Trump.
Had they remained calm and above the fray, the Democrats could have focused on the unlimited Trump excesses in character assassination, accompanied by his grating self-congratulation, and skated to a 60-40 electoral landslide. Statesmanship and political sophistication could have assured an overwhelming and sustained victory. But, in a party dominated by childlike impulse and shrill overstatement, largely devoid of political or economic balance, they may have engineered their own political suicide and shifted the electoral balance to Trump.
An increasing number of centrist independents with whom I’ve spoken, who probably would have voted Democrat or at least sat out the election, now indicate that, against their own better instincts, they actually might vote for Trump.
Many American voters, at heart, are slightly right of center. They seek to do good, and to be generous at home and abroad, but they also treasure stability and deeply resent wanton destruction. Most Americans, of all races and genders, have invested a lot in this country and themselves, and want some assurance of what the future holds. Trump, for all his faults, is predictable. Joe Biden, for all his time in the public arena, has become fully unpredictable — and, in the voting booth, that can be problematic.
While both parties have divisions, the deep tectonic fault lines in the Democratic Party were on full display during the primaries and — barring colossal but unlikely electoral fraud — have proceeded to doom their presidential chances far more than any of Biden’s shortcomings. Although the congressional Democrats vote like “1984” zombie robots, and many in the liberal media seem to share verbatim talking points, a deep and fundamental war rages below the surface in the Democratic Party. Even behind closed doors in the fetid, rapidly-depopulating San Francisco, many “Business Democrats” fret over how to wrest control of their party from the “crazies.”
It appears obvious to many that the highly motivated and committed progressive forces propelling Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have so fully co-opted and seized control of the Biden campaign and the party apparatus that he and the infinitely ambitious and malleable Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) lack agency and apparently will agree to support whatever their campaign masters give them. The result is that this year’s existential question — “Where’s Joe today?” — is not just physical but, more importantly, political.
And that uncertainty is fed by the ham-fisted Democratic Party and liberal media. Democrats have become creatures of impulse — increasingly, the worst impulse. Much like Richard Nixon, on the verge of a 50-state electoral sweep, couldn’t resist the tragic step of Watergate, so it seems that Barack Obama, potentially one of the most transformational and respected presidents in history, with control of both the executive and legislative branches, couldn’t resist weaponizing the intelligence and law enforcement agencies to more fully crush his current and future adversaries.
In turn, Democrats have shown a complete lack of impulse control in their attacks on Trump. They have launched what increasingly appear to be largely fabricated attacks involving collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign; Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s background; Trump’s remarks during a phone call with Ukraine’s president; and, now, his reportedly disparaging veterans. The president’s haters have indicted, impeached, slandered, destroyed a record economy, burned cities, intimidated residents. They have blamed Trump for all ills. But it appears they have failed. Part of it is that Trump has so successfully lowered expectations on his behavior that he seems immune to these attacks. But Trump may win reelection because American culture creates an inherent sense of fairness, common sense and, eventually, a capacity to sense nonsense, especially if extreme.
Americans have been given enough time to digest that Sanders’s version of socialism, which increasingly has become Biden’s, has been a disaster everywhere; that most Americans are fully committed to racial progress, but that Black Lives Matter does not speak for, nor act on behalf of, a majority of Black Americans; that Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) does not speak for serious environmentalists with her Green New Deal; that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) probably could not find the Council on Foreign Relations with a map; and that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) does not speak for the average San Franciscan yearning to get her hair done.
A central, emerging question is: For whom, in fact, do the Democrats actually speak? Americans understand that if businesses are destroyed and “protestors” can beat and kill people in the streets, and Democratic politicians do not condemn that and protect residents, then those Democrats do not speak for them.
But the most serious lack of Democratic Party impulse control has been in policy and legislation, where there has been virtually none, other than “resistance” to Trump. The inability to admit any Trump successes did not visibly deter the president, but did destroy any policy platform for the Democrats. The party and its candidates do not stand for anything. Their strategy has left the door open to the radical and unreasonable, the extremists who have filled that vacuum aggressively.
So, the contest has become “Trump-the-known,” with his predictable, often offensive chaos, accompanied by often reasonable and stable results in domestic and foreign policy, pitted against “Biden-the-unknown,” with the backdrop of an economy shut down by Democratic governors, burning cities and beaten citizens condoned by Democratic mayors and prosecutors, and a possible lurch toward socialism, celebrated at the party convention.
Grady Means is a writer (GradyMeans.com) and former corporate strategy consultant. He served in the White House as a policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Follow him on Twitter @gradymeans1.