And yet, in the last two weeks, Democrats have handed Trump two issues on a golden platter — and it’s already clear he is seizing on them. Bigly.
Just as that was happening, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) went on a local radio station and tried to explain his support for legislation that would have loosened current strictures on late-term abortions in the commonwealth.
“[Third trimester abortions are] done in cases where there may be severe deformities. There may be a fetus that’s nonviable. So in this particular example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
Republicans immediately reacted, insisting that Northam sounded like he was advocating for infanticide. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, insisted that what he was describing was only in instances of non-viable pregnancies or “severe fetal abnormalities,” but the damage was done.
“A 10-year ‘economic mobilization’ that would phase out fossil fuel use and overhaul the nation’s infrastructure while building whole new layers into the existing social safety net. … The 14-page resolution envisions a shift to 100% renewable and zero-emission energy sources, and calls for the creation of millions of new high-wage jobs to help wipe out poverty.”
Trump, repeatedly, hammered at the “Green New Deal.”
“I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights, of, ‘Let’s hop a train to California,’ of … ‘You’re not allowed to own cows anymore,'” he said.
He also went after Democrats on abortion.
Democrats are in favor of “allowing children to be ripped from their mother’s womb right up until the moment of birth,” Trump said at one point. Talking about Northam in particular, Trump said: “The governor stated that he would even allow a newborn baby to come out into the world and wrap the baby and make the baby comfortable, and then talk to the mother, and talk to the father, and then execute the baby. Execute the baby.”
Just in case you missed the point, Trump drilled it home this way: “They’re becoming the party of socialism, late-term abortion, open borders and crime.”
But politics is often won by the simple argument or the easier-to-remember summation.
I can imagine the eventual Democratic nominee trying to explain that the “Green New Deal” represents a radical — and necessary — rethinking of our energy consumption habits and what they mean to the long-term health of the planet.
And Trump responding by saying: “How am I going to get you to Hawaii? By train?” (A line he used to poke at Sen. Mazie Hirono in Monday’s speech.)
And the debate audience erupting in laughter.
For those of you — and I know you are out there — who respond to that hypothetical scenario by yelling “IT’S YOUR JOB TO FACT CHECK THAT,” I would remind you of the 2016 campaign. And of the myriad fact checks that news organizations did on Trump. And how, for lots and lots of people who voted for him, the fact that he quite clearly lied, repeatedly, didn’t matter at all. In fact, the idea that media fact checkers often said Trump didn’t deal in actual facts made some decent chunk of people more likely to vote for him.
Why? Because Trump effectively painted Hillary Clinton, the media and everyone else who didn’t support him as uncaring elites. As the “other” — people who thought it was their right to tell the average person how to live their lives, even if those same people had zero clue about how average people lived.
At the root of this strategy is a concession: Trump knows he can’t win if the 2020 election is any sort of referendum on him. A majority of Americans simply do not like him or think he is doing a good job. The one path for him to win is by painting his eventual Democratic opponent as not only deeply out of touch with the average American, but also more than willing to install a value system that makes the US look a whole lot like the less savory parts of Europe.
Cynical? Mightily so. But also Trump’s most plausible path to a second term. And one that Democrats are unwittingly aiding and abetting at the moment.