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
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.