Who Can Beat Trump in 2020?

03Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris should take note.

They need to understand who won the 2016 election. The latest NBC poll shows these four lead the Democratic pack.

Biden scored 25 percent with those asked two weeks after the Miami debates. Warren and Sanders had 16 percent and Harris had 14 percent, making one of them the most likely to become the Democratic nominee.

If your taste runs to dark horses, Pete Buttigieg had 8 percent and Texas’ Beto O’Rourke was at 3 percent. The rest of the field polled 2 percent or less. In order to spot who may have a chance against President Trump next year, an understanding of what went wrong for Democrats in 2016 would be helpful.

In Ken Burns’ epic series on the Civil War, historian Shelby Foote speaks wistfully of Southerners thinking about July 3, 1863 and the moments before Pickett’s Charge. Perhaps, Hillary Clinton has mused along the lines of what went wrong during the last two weeks of the campaign.

The first point to ponder for Clinton, Biden, et al is that Hillary Clinton did not lose to Donald J. Trump. To say she lost to James Madison is perhaps not totally accurate, but she certainly fell victim to a bunch of old white men.

Hillary Clinton received 65.8 million votes to Trump’s 62.9 million. Trump, however, received 304 electoral votes to Clinton’s 227. The person with the most electoral votes gets the keys to the Oval Office.

Madison and other framers of the Constitution in 1787 created the Electoral College to balance the scales and get the country moving. The Constitutional Convention was divided along two lines – small states versus big states and free states versus slave states. Historians credit the Electoral College as an important compromise over slavery.

The institution lingers today as power amplifier for small states, with each state getting an electoral vote for each U.S. representative and senator. Northern states did not want slaves counted as residents to determine the number of congressmen and subsequently the number of electoral votes.

Southern states, naturally, had a different view. The compromise was to count each slave as three-fifths of a person. This sounds abhorrent in our ears, but the compromise kicked the slavery can down the road for another generation to solve.

The Electoral College also gave the Founding Fathers a new method to solve who should be president. They knew they did not want a king or a political strongman. No one in the world directly elected their chief executive.

Fear the general population in the 18th Century was not informed adequately to cast an informed vote was also pervasive. Instead of one extreme or the other, delegates designed a method where citizens would select respected members of their community to vote for them.

I am not implying that Clinton did not understand that the Electoral College chose the president. She failed, however, to campaign as if she knew that fact. On Election Day, Trump flipped Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – all states that voted for Obama in 2012.

While sideshows like Russian bots, smashed email servers and Bill Clinton’s two-for-one offer played a role, larger, more lethal forces were at work. Hillary Clinton’s team made some bad calls during the closing days of the campaign.

A busload of union volunteers were headed to Michigan to provide a much needed boost to the ground game. The Clinton campaign sent them to Iowa, instead. “They (the Clinton campaign) believed they were more experienced, which they were,” Donnie Fowler, a consultant with the Democratic National Committee, said.

“They believed they were smarter, which they weren’t.” As it came time to vote, Trump’s issues of economy, strong national defense and return to traditional morality resonated enough to eke out Republican wins in those “battleground” states.

If a Democrat wins in 2020, it will not be because he or she gave away the most free stuff. Free education and free health care may appeal to some, but others may find it scary. A strong economy is what voters want.

A winning Democrat will embrace this brave new world of diversity without being condescending to those who go to church and value their Second Amendment rights. The winning Democrat will also campaign vigorously across the country, particularly in the battleground states.

That’s not to say, the 2020 Democratic nominee should be tricked out in a Republican suit. As Harry Truman said, “You let voters choose between a fake Republican and a real Republican, they will choose the real Republican every time.”

Beating Donald Trump will not be easy. That Trump is an offensive, misogynist, racist buffoon will sway few voters. You would think that at least one of these top four or five Democrats could understand these election truths. Based on their debate performance, so far, it does not seem likely.


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