• Ryan O'Connell

Darth Trumper Shows the Power of the Dark Side

August 30, 2020

The Empire struck back last week, trying to regain momentum after the Democratic convention, which managed to be entertaining and hard-hitting at the same time. The Democrats hammered Trump for bungling the virus crisis, and their criticism clearly stung.

So the Republicans put on an alternative reality show, in which the plague is over, the economy is roaring back…. and the Democrats plan to impose socialism on the United States.

A Three-Pronged Strategy

The Republican speakers followed three main strategies at their convention:

  • Ignore the coronavirus or, alternatively, declare the crisis over

  • Accuse Democrats of defunding the police and supporting anarchy

  • Paint the Democrats as wild-eyed socialists who want to abolish the “American way of life” and ruin the economy

The first prong of this strategy is not likely to work. The second two strategies are pure propaganda, but, unfortunately, they could be very effective lines of attack. Biden and his team must fight back and control the narrative on these issues, or the Democrats could lose the election.

Declaring “Mission Accomplished” on the Virus Won’t Work

Most speakers at the convention glossed over the coronavirus. After all, why dwell on bad news?

Vice President Mike Pence gave a surreal speech, praising Trump repeatedly for his brilliant response to the pandemic. In Pence’s world, the virus is winding down and America is re-opening. But, just in case, Pence promised that a vaccine would be available by year-end. At that point, Pence grew so emotional that one of his eyebrows actually moved.

The problem for the Trump/Pence ticket is that so many Americans are dying--about 1,000 a day. That is a highly inconvenient fact. Too many voters know someone who is sick or has died. About 27 million Americans are out of work because of Covid-19. No amount of happy talk will change that.

It’s bizarre that Trump still engages in magical thinking about the coronavirus. It was shocking to see the 1,500 people in the audience for Trump’s speech at the White House, sitting close to each other, with almost no one wearing a mask. The crowd included numerous Cabinet members, such as Steve Mnuchin (Treasury) and Betsy DeVos (Education). In effect, Trump was putting national security at risk: what if they caught the virus? If the Administration won’t even take measures to protect its senior officials, we should expect the death toll from the virus to keep rising steeply through Election Day. Over 300,000 Americans will die from Covid-19 by December, according to projections from The University of Washington. That’s terrible for our country…and very bad for Trump.

Trying to Win Back Suburban Voters

The Republicans know that they are in trouble with suburban voters, particularly moderate Republican women repelled by Donald Trump’s personality. Trump and his advisors adopted two approaches at the convention to reverse this trend:

  • putting on a parade of Black speakers who praised Trump (he’s not really racist, after all, so it’s okay to vote for him)

  • stoking fear and stressing “law and order” (you have to vote for him, to be safe)

Trump and Pence followed the same playbook that many Republican politicians have used since Richard Nixon’s appeal to anxious white people 50 years ago. Trump and Pence have even started referring to the “silent majority”. They have just slightly modified the code words.

Four years ago, Donald Trump said at the Republican convention, “I alone can fix it.” Now, Trump’s pitch is that only he can prevent anarchy and riots…and a leftist takeover… in America.

photo: Gettty Images/Bloomberg

Both Pence and Trump painted apocalyptic pictures of an America under a Biden administration. Trump’s 70-minute oration was as dark as his “American carnage” speech at his inauguration, and he delivered a stunningly vicious attack on Biden.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, this is what Trump does best. Trump’ speech was full of lies and distortions, which we should expect him to repeat ad nauseam for the next 68 days. He understands the power of the dark side in politics.

Blaming Democrats for Anarchy in the Streets Trump claimed “Joe Biden wants to defund the police” and referred several times to rioting, arson and looting in “Democrat-led cities”, implying that liberal mayors were responsible for the chaos.

In fact, Biden has consistently opposed defunding the police. While Biden has expressed support for the Black Lives Matters movement, he has strongly condemned the violence that has occurred in some cities.

Biden has to be loud and clear on these points, especially because some progressive Democrats (including elected officials in New York City) have called for defunding the police.

Trump will make these false accusations against Biden a key theme of his campaign, as he tries to scare suburban voters into voting for him. And if more riots break out, as they did in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that could play into Trump’s hands.

Fortunately for Biden and the Democrats, Kamala Harris, the candidate for Vice President, was a prosecutor, and a tough one. Biden should highlight her background, even though it turns off some progressive Democrats. Harris should stress that she and Biden reject defunding the police.

Seeing Socialists Everywhere

In his speech, Mike Pence claimed that “Joe Biden would set America on a path of socialism and decline”. Trump attacked Biden as “a Trojan horse for socialism”, a puppet for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. A parade of speakers warned darkly that the “radical left” Democrats would take away Americans’ freedom and their way of life.

Exactly how the Democrats would accomplish that feat was not clear, though the Republicans referred frequently to the Second Amendment, the sanctity of life, and “defending Western civilization” (i.e., Christian values). In one far-fetched example, Senator Jodi Ernst of Iowa even claimed that Biden and Harris wanted to abolish “animal agriculture” and “gas-fueled cars”.

The reality, of course, is that the moderates won the Democratic primaries. Sanders and Warren lost. Progressives, including “democratic socialists” like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, get a lot of ink from the press, but they are not running this campaign.

And, fortunately, Biden did not pick Warren as his VP candidate. Warren proudly calls herself a capitalist, but she would have been a useful target for the Republicans, with her sweeping plans to “restructure American society”.

The Democrats are not proposing that the government take over any industries—which is the correct definition of socialism. Biden won partly because he opposed Medicare for All, Sanders’ budget-busting plan for a nationalized health care system. Biden should loudly proclaim his support for the capitalist system and remind voters that he played a key role in saving the auto industry during the Great Recession.

It’s Time for Biden to Hit the Campaign Trail

Biden has to refute Trump’s “socialist label”, no matter how absurd it is. Biden and Harris must make it clear to voters that they are proposing pragmatic policies on medical care, tax increases and other hot-button issues.

In this campaign, what Americans have to fear is not socialism, but fear itself. It’s a powerful factor in politics, and the Dark Lord knows how to use it. It’s time for Biden and Harris to take their show on the road—get out of Delaware—and set the record straight. The Wall Street Democrat

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