Make Amer­ica HATE again

Democrats are squab­bling for the right to take on Trump, in an elec­tion that threat­ens to divide Amer­ica, re­ports Sarah Blake

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD -

FOR many of the thou­sands of sweaty fans who waited more than a day for a seat at US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s 2020 cam­paign launch last week, the en­emy’s name was fa­mil­iar.

Among the taunts that sparked the loud­est chants in­side Orlando’s packed Amway Cen­tre were Trump’s eight ref­er­ences to Hil­lary Clin­ton. As the red-hat and cam­ou­flage-clad au­di­ence roared: “Lock her up, lock her up”, Trump smiled and pumped his fists.

It didn’t seem to mat­ter that Clin­ton, the Demo­crat can­di­date who Trump beat in 2016, is nowhere to be seen in this new pres­i­den­tial race. She has be­come a by­word to Trump’s base of how they emerged to take the White House and, to them, the Demo­crat’s new con­tenders are just more of the same.

“I don’t care who they put up,” Orlando me­chanic Tom Williams said when asked about Trump’s op­po­nents.

“I don’t know their names and I don’t care to lis­ten to them. There is noth­ing some­one who isn’t this Pres­i­dent can of­fer me.”

In the 24 hours fol­low­ing Trump’s 75-minute stump speech, his 2020 cam­paign raised $A36 mil­lion, adding to the $A144 mil­lion war chest al­ready locked in be­hind his bid for a se­cond term.

But while Trump’s ruste­don sup­port shows no sign of back­ing off, there is no short­age of op­po­si­tion in the United States to the 45th Pres­i­dent, whose ap­proval rat­ing has strug­gled to get over 50 per cent since he as­sumed of­fice and whose dis­pens­ing with pres­i­den­tial norms is, at best, a daily tor­ment to de­trac­tors.

Democrats will now turn their at­ten­tion to the bell­wether state of Florida — where less than five per­cent­age points has de­cided six of the past seven pres­i­den­tial con­tests — for their first round of pri­mary de­bates.

On stage in Mi­ami over two days will be a record-sized field fea­tur­ing 20 of the 23 Democrats who have nom­i­nated for 2020, from mod­er­ates Joe Bi­den and Pete But­tigieg to prom­i­nent far-left fig­ures Bernie Sanders and El­iz­a­beth Warren.

Stand­ing out in this crowd that in­cludes a for­mer vicepres­i­dent and sev­eral so­cial me­dia dar­lings won’t be easy, ac­cord­ing to vet­eran Demo­crat strate­gist Peter Emerson.

“The winners are go­ing to be the peo­ple who demon­strate and project en­ergy and strength and hu­mour,” Emerson said. “Hu­mour is incredibly im­por­tant, par­tic­u­larly with the lim­ited time pe­riod that each of these can­di­dates is go­ing to have.”

While some re­cent polls have shown Trump trail­ing lead­ing Democrats by as much as 10 points, Emerson said there was no com­pla­cency in the party, which is driven by ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences and runs the danger of only be­ing united in a “vis­ceral” op­po­si­tion to Trump.

“The re­al­is­tic strate­gists, both those elected and those be­hind the scenes, agree any­one who says that Democrats can eas­ily beat Trump is delu­sional,” Emerson said. “They can. That doesn’t mean they’re go­ing to.”

Among the main in­ter­nal con­tests fac­ing Democrats is the ques­tion of seek­ing im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against Trump fol­low­ing the find­ings of the re­port by Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion. Trump was cleared of col­lu­sion but the Mueller re­port ar­guably left open the ques­tion of whether Trump or his cam­paign acted to ob­struct jus­tice. Sev­eral Democrats have called for im­peach­ment, but there is lit­tle elec­toral will for this bat­tle.

“It is a sim­pli­fi­ca­tion. But it does come down to (the ques­tion of whether) you want to be right or do you want to win,” Emerson said.

“If you want to be right eth­i­cally, mo­rally, then you’d want to pur­sue in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

“But if you want to win and main­tain con­trol of the House, then you have to give the vot­ers what they want.”

An­other ten­sion for Democrats is the sheer size of the celebrity Trump persona, which is able to draw and en­gage sta­dium-size crowds.

Sen­a­tor Amy Klobucher, who is polling around sixth among Democrats, said en­thu­si­asm in her party wasn’t lack­ing.

“I am not one bit wor­ried about the ex­cite­ment on our side,” she said.

“We just have to unite be­hind a can­di­date, and that’s what these de­bates are all about.”

An - other uph i l l bat­tle comes in the form of cur­rent frontrun­ner Joe Bi­den, the Obama-era vice-pres­i­dent who is fac­ing at­tacks from within and out­side the party.

Bi­den, a pre­vi­ously beloved fig­ure for the left, has been tripped up by al­le­ga­tions of racism in the form of pre­vi­ous sup­port of seg­re­ga­tion­ists, as well as al­le­ga­tions of in­ap­pro­pri­ate phys­i­cal con­tact with women. The 76-year-old is re­port­edly strug­gling with the fact that al­though his be­hav­iour hasn’t changed, com­mu­nity ex­pec­ta­tions have.

Who­ever the win­ner of this week’s de­bates, Trump is ex­pected to con­tinue his ap­proach of not of­ten re­fer­ring to his cur­rent op­po­nents. In Orlando this meant just one men­tion of “so­cial­ist Bernie Sanders” to the eight times he talked about Clin­ton.

This ap­proach presents both a chal­lenge and an op­por­tu­nity for Democrats, ac­cord­ing to Emerson.

“I think that the ob­ses­sion with Hil­lary al­lows Trump to keep his sup­port­ers in the past, which is where he wants them, be­cause ul­ti­mately for many of them to come to the present there is the fear of the recog­ni­tion that Trump has failed them,” Mr Emerson said, point­ing to farm­ers suf­fer­ing from tar­iffs, auto work­ers and steel work­ers who had voted to keep jobs in the US but were now dis­af­fected.

“But the Democrats haven’t of­fered them a place to come home to, and they need to be­cause many of them were Democrats long ago. And they also need to pro­vide a first-time home for peo­ple who now recog­nise that the poli­cies that they voted for in 2016 aren’t work­ing for them.”

He said the party that would ul­ti­mately win next year was the one which of­fered the great­est “re­turn to the Amer­i­can dream”.

“Un­der­ly­ing ev­ery­thing is peo­ple go to the polls, both of the pri­maries and then the gen­eral elec­tion, look­ing for the an­swer that to­mor­row will be bet­ter for their chil­dren than it was for them,” he said.

Ka­mala Har­ris ( left), and (right) Bernie Sanders.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and First Lady Me­la­nia Trump greet sup­port­ers at a rally to for­mally an­nounce his 2020 re-elec­tion bid in Orlando. Pic­ture: AP For­mer Obama vicepres­i­dent Joe Bi­den. El­iz­a­bethEl­iz­a­beth Warren.

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