David Brooks is convinced that by 2020 we’ll be so over Trump and MAGA and angry white supremacists so that we can go back to whatever it is passes for normal here in the good ol’ US of A. So he, like James Comey and other “thoughtful Republicans” is giving Democrats advice on how to win so the fever breaks.
Maybe this year is different, but for 100 years, Democrats have tended to win with youthful optimism and not anger and indignation. The Democrats who have won nationally almost all ran on generational change — on tired old America versus the possibilities of new America: F.D.R.’s New Deal, J.F.K.’s New Frontier, Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century and Obama’s hope and change.
If I had to advise on a Democratic narrative I’d start with three premises: First, by 2020 everybody will be exhausted by the climate of negativism and hostility. Second, the core long-term fear is American decline; are we losing our mojo? Third, communities and nations don’t come together when they talk about their problems; they come together when they do something on behalf of their children.
Well, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? And I suppose there’s a part of me that wants to believe it. But if the past is any predictor, it will not happen even if the Democrats do come up with a well-crafted and meaningful message and candidate that breaks through to the people who need to hear it.
When the change comes, and it could start as early as November, they’re not going down without a fight. If Trump loses in 2020 and the Democrats regain control of both Congress and the White House, there will still be backlash, most certainly from Trump himself who will claim that the whole system was rigged and the election of anyone but him is illegitimate. He’s already started to feed that line to his base. (He even tried it out in 2016 when even he didn’t believe he could win.)
So whomever the Democrats come up with — a supermix of FDR, JFK, and Obama — and no matter what message they craft to unify the country for ourselves and each other, the resentment and push-back will still be there. After all, FDR, JFK and certainly Obama all faced it, and all Trump did was exploit it.
I truly would like to live in David Brooks’ world of rainbows and unicorns, but for the foreseeable future, we’re going to have to live with thunderstorms and jackasses.