After Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was indicted, humorist Garrison Keillor wrote a tongue-in-cheek column titled “Donald Trump is done.” Keillor satirized the sense of triumphalism that arises among liberals every time our corrupt, sleazy president gets embroiled in a fresh scandal—a silly self-assuredness that this could be the one that finally does him in:
He is NOT A NICE PERSON and so the name Trump is as popular as herpes these days. Trumpet players have taken up the cornet. Card players refer to the lead suit as the jump suit. Tramps prefer to be called hoboes, town dumps are now refuse heaps, and girls named Dawn are becoming Cheryls.
This was back in 2017, but the piece is evergreen because the mentality that Keillor skewered persists.
Washington Monthly declared that “Trump is finished” in 2018, when it was revealed that Michael Cohen had actually gone to Prague like the Steele Dossier alleged. He was “finished” again in 2019 in the wake of Lev Parnas’ “bombshell” revelations.
Following Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday victory, Salon ran a column titled “Get on board for President Joe: He’ll win, and Trump is finished.” It’s loaded with every fallacy that drives the absurd overconfidence liberals have about their prospects for beating Trump.
The author Lucian Truscott points out that Biden won in states where his campaign “had either a weak ground game, or no ground game at all.” He notes that “Biden’s fundraising has been soft, and his TV ad campaign has been almost nonexistent.”
Biden won despite his weaknesses, and Truscott concludes that there can be only one explanation: Everyone is so sick of Trump, they’re flocking to Biden in droves:
Biden’s campaign may have been underfunded and limping going into Super Tuesday, but he benefited from something money can’t buy: hatred of an incompetent, ignorant, dictatorial incumbent president. Biden can stumble over sentence phrasing and mistake his wife for his sister until the cows come home, and he looks like a superman compared to Trump.
Truscott credits anti-Trump sentiment with Biden’s sudden surge, while ignoring the more obvious effect of the field inexplicably consolidating behind him and the millions of dollars in free media that resulted from that wave of endorsements.
Democrats literally believe that Trump is so weak and unpopular right now that all they need is a warm body with a D by his name.
This week The Atlantic ran a piece called “Stay Alive, Joe Biden,” the subtitle of which was “Democrats need little from the front-runner beyond his corporeal presence.” The author argued that the “idea” of Biden “as both Trump’s inverse and co-equal” is more important than his platform or his campaign infrastructure or even his ability to do the basic tasks of online stumping that the coronavirus outbreak requires.
Slate published a column along similar lines, making the case that Democrats “got what they bargained for with Joe Biden,” which is “maybe just enough to get by.” The author sets the bar so low that Biden can sleepwalk over it, writing that he gives voters what they want: “A distant presence who will not be actively alienating and who is associated with enough good ideas and capable people that you could reasonably bet on him to be an improvement over the current disaster.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but that’s the case for Joe Biden in a nutshell: Trump is bad and Biden is good enough.
But what if he isn’t?
The Democrats’ plan to defeat Donald Trump is premised almost entirely on the notion that his mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent economic collapse will prompt a GOP mutiny. Truscott began his article in Salon by quoting Republican New York Times’ columnist David Brooks marveling at how voters united around Biden after he won South Carolina.
“Praise be to the gods of political punditry,” Truscott wrote, “but when even never-Trumper poobah Brooks is on board, you know something big is happening.”
Liberals latch onto any cause for false hope whether it’s a trending hashtag like #TrumpRegrets or some random Republican mayor in Michigan saying he’ll vote Biden. The pundit class had the same wishful thinking about “Never Trump” conservatives in 2016, and Trump won.
It might come as a shock to many, but political and media elites aren’t representative of ordinary voters. Biden isn’t running to be the president of The Atlantic editorial board.
The fact remains that Trump continues to receive near unanimous support from voters in his own party, so forget any fantasies about a conservative like Biden poaching from Trump’s base.
And though things might change as the outbreak’s death toll rises, Trump’s overall support is now at his all-time personal best of 49 percent, according to the latest Gallup Poll. At the same point in his presidency, Barack Obama was at 46 percent approval (Note: his net favorability was slightly positive, while Trump’s is negative.)
Democratic politicians, pundits and rank-and-file party members have a blind spot when it comes to Trump. They project their own feelings of disgust and contempt for him onto the electorate as a whole, and that can lead to some misguided beliefs about the ease of defeating him.
It’s not guaranteed that his ineptitude will translate into a loss of support—and it would be safer to assume that it won’t. It would be foolish to underestimate what political scientists refer to as the “power of incumbency” even when the incumbent is someone so reviled as Trump.
Further, the public tends to rally around the president in a time of crisis. George W. Bush’s net approval shot up 60 points overnight after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
This can also have a chilling effect on criticism from political opponents, who might not feel free to condemn the president in harsh terms. In an appearance on The View earlier this, Biden expressed reluctance to call Trump out directly.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace that same day, Biden made a relatively mild statement that Trump wasn’t acting “like a president,” then meekly walked it back, saying “That’s a stupid way to say it, sorry.”
It’s been said over and over that Trump is an “existential threat to the republic.” That is true, so why aren’t Democrats taking that threat seriously? The cold hard facts don’t justify the confidence that Biden will “decisively pound Donald Trump in November,” to quote Trucott.
If he is the nominee, it won’t be a cakewalk for Biden the way it was in the primary thus far. His high-level endorsements, which helped him so much in the primary, will do him little good in the general. Biden also can’t count solely on free press from liberal outlets like MSNBC in lieu of ad buys, since they don’t have as much sway outside the Democratic electorate.
Independents, who make up 40–45 percent of voters are less likely to care who Jim Clyburn endorsed or who Chuck Todd thinks looks the most “presidential.”
To beat Trump, any candidate is going to need the basic prerequisites of a campaign: money and labor.
Biden is in trouble on both fronts.
The Trump campaign has more cash on hand (110.4 million) than Biden has raised over the course of his entire campaign (98.2 million). By comparison, Barack Obama’s pre-nomination receipts in June 2008 totaled $400 million when adjusted for inflation.
Five reasons Biden isn’t electable
Joe Biden’s entire sales pitch is that he’s the guy best suited to take on Donald Trump. But pull on any loose thread…
Biden got a $30 million boost in March—thanks mostly to big business donors—but he’s still has yet to catch up to where his opponent Bernie Sanders was at the beginning of February. To make matters worse, the outbreak poses challenges for his fundraising model, which relies on $10,000-a-plate dinners.
At the same time that he’s hustling to bring in more money, Biden is scrambling to flesh out his skeletal campaign staff. According to Politico, Biden only has less than 500 staff on his payroll, whereas Sanders had 1,200 at the start of February. In the words of one Democratic strategist: “He just needs more of everything.”
The national lockdown will mean he’ll have to focus on virtual campaigning, which isn’t exactly his strong suit. By contrast, the Sanders campaign, with its legions of chronically online youth, is well adapted to precisely this circumstance.
Sanders has over a million volunteers, many of which have been phonebanking and texting since last year using a sophisticated distributed system that enables people to do some campaigning whenever they have spare time. With many furloughed right now during the outbreak, volunteers are putting in more hours than ever.
Trump famously bested Hillary Clinton in online strategy and he looks poised to do it again, with his 2016 digital specialist Brad Parscale at the helm of his reelection campaign. However, Sanders is just as formidable in this regard. His campaign dominates on Twitter. Pro-Bernie hashtags are trending almost daily. On Reddit and Facebook, there are highly active pro-Bernie groups with members numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
Biden’s digital presence is only a fraction of Bernie’s on every platform. For comparison, Bernie’s Facebook page has 7.4 million likes; Biden’s has 1.6 million. Biden’s recent youth-oriented “Happy Hour” livestream only had 2,800 unique visitors.
That brings us to another potentially fatal shortcoming of Biden’s campaign: a lack of youth engagement. Clinton’s failure to capture the same share of the youth vote that Obama may have cost her the election, and early polling suggests that Biden’s on the exact same track—maybe even worse.
But the Biden campaign is still relying on the same flawed logic that Trump is going drive young voters out, according to a report from NBC News:
The Biden campaign sees three major differences with Clinton’s 2016 campaign, according to a source familiar with its thinking. The first is that Trump is president, unlike four years ago when many young people were complacent because they assumed he’d lose.
Biden’s campaign is catastrophically unprepared to face Trump. No general has ever won a war by simply wishing—and expecting—that their well-armed enemy would just fall apart on its own.
This campaign will be won by the factors that have always won campaigns: money, labor, organization and enthusiasm.
Bernie has these. Biden doesn’t.