Greg Dennis: Why Trump will lose the election
Fear not, my fellow liberals: Donald Trump is a one-term president.
If you believe, as I do, that anyone who says they know what will happen in the 2020 presidential election actually has no idea what will happen, then you can happily ignore the first sentence of this column.
But if you endlessly speculate about November, then this one is for you. And for all of us who lose sleep over the fact that Donald Trump is still president.
Sometimes we lose sleep over Trump’s personal failings — the incoherent rambling; the personal attacks on women, journalists, decorated military veterans, and even the disabled; his proven tax frauds; the shady personal life.
And of course sometimes we lose sleep over his policies: denial of climate change, eviscerating protections for clean air and clear water, weakening our relations with allies and toadying up to the Russians.
But fear not. Like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush before him, Trump will not win a second term. Yes, the economy is doing OK (though leaving many behind). And yes, there will be billions spent by Republican plutocrats convinced they can buy this election.
Nonetheless, here’s why Trump will lose.
For starters, look at his poll numbers. The latest from 538 shows only 44% of American approve of the job he’s doing while 52% disapprove (with the remaining 4% still trying to decide what they want for breakfast). He’s never cracked a 50% approval rating.
Another number: Trump lost the 2016 popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. He only prevailed through our cockamamie Electoral College, drawing an inside straight in winning Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by a total margin of less than 80,000 votes.
In today’s Trump economy — where promises of more coal and manufacturing jobs have evaporated — he will have to struggle to win even two of those three states and hold on to everything else. Moreover, there are other paths to Electoral College victory for the Democratic nominee.
Then there is the sheer odiousness of the man.
The common wisdom about 2016 — that Americans knew what a scoundrel he was and elected him anyway — ignores a lot.
Many voters didn’t tune in until a few months before the election. At that point FBI Director Comey was smearing Hillary Clinton. Russian hacks were feeding critical polling information to Trump’s team and concurrently revealing the inner weaknesses of the Clinton campaign.
With so much news right before Election Day, it’s questionable how many voters fully factored in Trump’s bankruptcies, divorces, lies about Obama’s birth certificate, outrageous claims that “Mexico will pay for the wall” and the racist and anti-immigrant tropes he trotted out in every speech.
Voters now know that Trump’s campaign welcomed Russian help, that he trusts Putin instead of our own intelligence agencies, that he violated campaign laws by buying silence about his sordid sexual behavior, and that he grossly misused the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into providing dirt on a political opponent.
Yes, the impeachment effort failed. But it left the stench of Trump’s corruption fresh in the minds of many voters.
Democrats worry a lot about who will be their nominee. The primary contests do seem a bit of a circus. But then they always do.
Not long after Super Tuesday on March 3, we’ll probably know who the Democratic nominee will be.
There are eight months from Super Tuesday until the election. Meaning the emerging nominee will have time to solidify the support of a party hell-bent on beating Trump. Eight months to persuade enough voters that he or she will be a better president than the hapless, increasingly erratic and desperate Donald Trump.
And what if Vermont’s own Bernie Sanders is the nominee?
Yes, the Trump machine will rough him up for his supposedly dangerous dedication to what he calls democratic socialism and many Americans call mainstream ideas (e.g., affordable education and healthcare as a human right). But any nominee will face the same propaganda machine.
Bernie will have on his side a united party, the power of his economic message, and his obvious devotion to policies that will provide a better life for most Americans.
Yes, Bernie has his flaws. But let’s remember: Politics is not a game that rewards the timid. As Trump himself has shown, the prize belongs to the bold.
Strategist Alan Jentleson recently put it this way: “The last two Democratic presidents to win were dynamic performers on the stump who inspired people with optimism and were able to assemble a broad coalition.”
In this year’s Democratic field of seasoned candidates, that description fits all of the serious contenders (now that Joe Biden is toast).
There will also be plenty of substantive policy targets for Trump’s opponent.
The president fell “in love” with the North Korean leader. He promised to spend billions on infrastructure, reduce the federal deficit and trade imbalance and provide broad tax relief.
Today, though, North Korea is closer to being a nuclear power. “Infrastructure Week” is a D.C. punchline. The federal deficit is soaring and the trade numbers are worse. Trump’s tax bill, which heavily favored the rich, is unpopular.
On top of that, Trump’s new budget would cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and aid to education. Every Democrat is salivating to run against those policies.
And lest we forget, the administration is also urging the courts to gut Obamacare and leave millions without protection for pre-existing health conditions.
If all that isn’t enough to convince you that Trump is a one-termer, let’s look to recent history.
The Democrats won big in 2018 on a platform of protecting healthcare against Republicans efforts to kill the ACA. The party focused on eradicating the rampant corruption of the Trump presidency and on promoting policies that responded to the economic issues facing average Americans.
The result? The Dems won big — governorships, legislatures and 40 seats in the House of Representatives.
All in a massive repudiation of — you guessed it — Donald J. Trump.