Juan Williams: Dems must not be complacent against Trump

Juan Williams: Dems must not be complacent against Trump
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The GOP convention was a disaster.

Now the Democrats are going to try to tell everyone it was a success.

The message from Democrats at their convention in Philadelphia will be to ignore last week’s mess of plagiarism, along with the total lack of GOP unity behind Donald TrumpDonald TrumpFormer defense secretary Esper sues Pentagon in memoir dispute Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' MORE — including Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGermany calls on Congress not to sanction Nord Stream 2 pipeline: report Fauci says lies, threats are 'noise' Biden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress MORE’s refusal to endorse the nominee.


Job number one for every Democrat will be to drive home the idea that Trump, for all the mistakes by the lake in Cleveland, is a legitimate political sensation, a giant ready to bestride his critics and claim the White House.

The point is to jolt Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCountering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Poll: Democracy is under attack, and more violence may be the future MORE’s voters, funders and young activists out of any illusion — any comfortable condescension — that it will be an easy win in a presidential race against an opponent they regard with disdain: Trump.

With pre-convention polling showing Clinton with a lead between 2.7 and 3.5 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics average, the race remains very close to a statistical dead heat.

That’s why the Clinton campaign is aiming its convention message at young voters. The takeaway is that even if Clinton doesn’t make your heart skip a beat — like President Obama or Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersRestless progressives eye 2024 Key senators to watch on Democrats' social spending bill Five ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan MORE (I-Vt.) — it is time to get serious about defeating Trump.

Even a comically bad convention does not help drive up turnout among potential Democratic voters with a complacent attitude.

A June 15-26 Pew poll found that the youngest voters, under the age of 30, gave Clinton 47 percent support, Libertarian Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonBiden broadened Democratic base, cut into Trump coalition: study New Mexico lawmakers send recreational marijuana bills to governor Judge throws out murder convictions, releases men jailed for 24 years MORE 22 percent and Trump 21 percent. These strong numbers come with a big caveat: young voters have the lowest rates of turnout of any age group.

Trump’s base, by comparison, is older, whiter, attends church more regularly and includes many of the most reliable voters. He set a record for turning out Republicans to vote for him in the primaries and caucuses.

In this year’s primaries, 14.8 percent of Republicans voted, according to a June Pew report, compared to 14.4 percent of Democrats. That amounts to about 800,000 more Republicans voting than Democrats. Consistent voter turnout among Republicans in midterm elections has helped the party’s fortunes greatly in those “off-year” contests.

It’s no secret that Democratic voters are unreliable. Political hands in D.C. joke that Republicans pray for rain every Election Day because bad weather is more likely to make Democrats stay home.

Another factor is the television ratings bonanza that has the networks addicted to Trump.

In May, it was estimated that media fascination with Trump’s outrageous statements had resulted in the equivalent of $2.8 billion in free media. Trump’s campaign does not have to raise much money because it does not have to pay for advertising, given all the free television exposure the nominee enjoys.

In the last two election cycles, GOP voter suppression tactics, including stringent voter ID laws, have been put in place to keep Democratic turnout low. Four years ago, the top Republican in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives even bragged to a state GOP convention that restrictive new voter ID laws were going to help 2012 nominee Mitt Romney carry the Keystone State in the presidential election.

Since then, a federal court struck down the Pennsylvania voter ID law as unconstitutional. Tom Corbett, the GOP governor at the time, didn’t even bother to appeal. Last week, a federal appeals court invalidated a 2011 stringent Texas voter identification law.

But according to the Brennan Center for Law and Justice, 16 states will still have “new voting restrictions in place for the first time in this presidential election.”

Those states’ voter suppression efforts are aimed at young and minority voters. They are tougher to defeat after the Supreme Court’s 2013 vote to weaken the Voting Rights Act’s Section 5 pre-clearance provision. Congress has not been able to restore the provision.  

In Ohio, for instance, the Republican secretary of State had cut early voting days and cracked down on voters’ ability to get absentee and provisional ballots, making Election Day turnout all the more important.

Both actions have been thrown out by the courts. But the fight goes on.

That’s why the Democratic convention will amount to a multi-million dollar “Get out the Vote” effort. That is why there will be a mosaic of black, brown, female and LGBT speakers to provide young voters a powerful contrast to the near snow-white, largely male, slate at the GOP convention.

Clinton’s selection of Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos Senate advances defense bill after delay Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Senators to take up defense bill Wednesday MORE (Va.) was largely about driving up turnout too. A white man who is a fluent Spanish speaker, Kaine — who is also a former governor — has consistently performed well across racial and class lines in all of his elections.

The same motivation lay behind the decision to give plum primetime speaking slots to Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenRestless progressives eye 2024 Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Biden eyes new path for Fed despite Powell pick MORE. The idea is to stir up liberal activists who might be inclined to stay home because they judge the Clinton-Kaine ticket to be too moderate.

The ultimate shot in the arm for turnout among likely Clinton voters was giving primetime speaking slots to President Obama, first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson Obama'Car guy' Biden puts his spin on the presidency Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Son gives emotional tribute to Colin Powell at service MORE and former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFederal judge changes his mind about stepping down, eliminating vacancy for Biden to fill Joe Biden's gamble with history Can America prevent a global warming cold war? MORE. That sets them up as MVP surrogates to get Democrats to the polls.

Among Democrats, Obama enjoys close to an 87 percent approval rating, according to Real Clear Politics. Among African Americans, it is even higher.

In December, I wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal saying that for this reason, Obama would effectively be Clinton’s running mate. The Clinton camp now embraces that idea.

No matter how Democrats look at the election, the whole game comes down to one issue: turnout.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel. His latest book, "We The People: The Modern-Day Figures Who Have Reshaped and Affirmed the Founding Fathers' Vision of America" published by Crown, is out now.