President Donald Trump currently has the lowest average public approval rating of any president since opinion polls were invented. He is poised to lose the popular vote in 2020, as he did in 2016.
The GOP, however, sees a road to the White House, and, again, it runs through the Electoral College. Trump tweeted March 19, “I used to like the idea of the Popular Vote, but now realize the Electoral College is far better for the U.S.A.”
While the Electoral College is integral to a possible Trump re-election, the GOP’s war plans contain four other components.
In a March speech at the Romanian Academy in Bucharest, campaign manager Brad Parscale said Team Trump will keep their man in office by spending $1 billion and mobilizing 1.6 million volunteers in a data-driven, get-out-the-vote campaign targeting the 36% of the electorate in swing states who are “inclined to vote for Trump.” The campaign will also again invest in Facebook ads to reach the “lost, forgotten people of America.” “Millions of Americans, older people, are on the internet, watching pictures of their kids because they all moved to cities,” Parscale said. “If we can connect to them, we can change this election.”
Second, the Republican Party will suppress the vote of Democratic constituencies — with the help of the five-justice conservative majority on the Supreme Court (four of whom were appointed by presidents elected despite losing the popular vote). In June 2018, for example, the conservative justices upheld an Ohio voter suppression law that purges voters who fail to return an address confirmation form. Meanwhile, in the swing state of Arizona, the House voted in March to create new crimes associated with voter registration. Anyone who registers a voter in Arizona but fails to turn in the filled-out registration form within 10 days could face four months in jail. The good news is that groups across the country, like Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action in Georgia, are mobilizing “to ensure access to democracy for all.”
Third, the GOP will try to win over affluent suburbanites by smearing Democrats with the S-word. “We’re going into the war with some socialists,” Trump told GOP congressmen in April. “I love the idea of ‘Keep America Great,’ because you know what it says is we’ve made it great. Now we’re going to keep it great, because the socialists will destroy it.” Fourth, Politico reports that pro-Trump PACs, like America Rising and America First, are spending millions “pursuing a strategy intended to pit Democrats against each other in a battle of progressive bona fides.”
Not that the Democrats aren’t already at odds. Party unity handwringers fear the Left won’t rally to the Democratic candidate should Sanders or Warren fail to secure the nomination. (Yes, in 2016, 12% of Sanders voters ultimately voted for Trump, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. It’s a significant number, but less than the 25% of Clinton primary voters who voted against Obama in 2008.)
Another threat to unity comes from centrists who fume about Sanders at high-end donor soirées. The specter haunting these discussions is Howard Schultz, the plutocracy’s designated spoiler. As novelist Jacob Bacharach observed, the Democratic donor class is not so much worried that Schultz will sabotage 2020 as they are threatening to rally to Schultz themselves, and thereby hand the election to Trump.
A united and broad anti-Trump front will be essential in November 2020. To the extent that a handful of super-rich liberals jeopardize that unity, they should be named and shamed.
In this new book, longtime organizers and movement educators Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes examine the political lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, including the convergence of mass protest and mass formations of mutual aid. Let This Radicalize You answers the urgent question: What fuels and sustains activism and organizing when it feels like our worlds are collapsing?
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Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.