We can win in 2020 and turn back the tide of this monstrous regime. But only if we play our cards exactly right, starting now. Here’s a surefire path to victory.
DON’T get distracted. I know there’s a lot going on. Sure Trump is given tons of free air time by a spectacle-loving media, but we’ve got to be laser-focused on what counts. Don’t get distracted by inequality, court-packing, or the hastening pace of climate change. From candidate to president, Donald Trump is really about one thing. I forget what it is, but next time you get riled up about your health care being taken away while your neighbor loses her right to vote, I will remind you not to get distracted.
DO focus on words, not actions. Sometimes we will have to respond to something the president tweets. But let’s leave it there. His actions are too depressing to oppose. Yes, every second of this administration is a full-frontal assault on already weak democratic institutions, climate protections, and basic human decency. But our descent into authoritarianism would not be so objectionable if he acted with a little more decorum. And who’s to say you can’t teach a 73-year-old racist billionaire with a long track record of racist and sexual harassment some manners?
DON’T bring up old stuff. Sure, every single day the president violates the emoluments clause while a slew of his advisors/family members commit routine ethics violations. And sure, there was recently yet another credible accusation of rape against him. But Americans don’t want to be reminded of icky things. Just look at the Iraq War: a cabal of political apparatchiks lied repeatedly to stoke a global war that has killed, traumatized, and displaced millions; destabilized the Middle East that has prompted refugee crises that have, in turn, been seized upon by authoritarian nativists around the world; and given rise to more dangerous extremist organizations. We didn’t hold any of the chief architects responsible for that; hell, we barely held a few low-level soldiers responsible for committing war crimes. And that worked out fine: all of those people have cushy jobs in government, industry, and lobbying firms.
DO fight for every vote of the New York Times opinion page. Winning their approval is our party’s highest priority. We don’t even have to pay attention to all 14; it’s not like Jamelle Bouie or Michelle Goldberg are gonna vote Republican. No, we’re really focused on three, maybe four people: David “Elites Rule, Proles Drool” Brooks, Maureen “Yo No Soy Proletariat” Dowd, Thomas “I Want a High Wall With a Big Gate” Friedman, and Bret “White Nationalist But It’s Cool Cuz He Speaks Spanish” Stephens. Even Ross “I’ve Been Owned By the Onanists” Douthat inveigles against the Left enough to warrant a good listen. They just seem like cool peeps you wanna have a chilled white wine with, and we have to respect our long track record of appealing to the right by attacking the left, then losing to far more reactionary forces.
DON’T set the agenda. The president and GOP are savvy media manipulators; they know how to dominate the news cycle. The best thing we can do is to let them. Stay away from bold plans and don’t even try to reframe the debate. Every time we say one little thing, they go wild for weeks attacking and distorting us. It’s best to just let them have at it. Be sure that 90 percent of what we do is responding to 10 percent of what they do. Our motto must be “React, React, React.”
DO pine for the “Good Old Days.” We’ve got to get back to the way things were — not the 1890s, like the Republicans want. And definitely not the 1930s, when a Democratic President implemented urgently needed and wildly popular policies that secured Democratic rule for decades. But to a more reasonable time, like the 1970s, when we abandoned unions and racial justice for corporate interests and reasonable backlash. Or maybe the 1990s, when we helped conservatives gut welfare, expand mass incarceration and bolster nativism. Or definitely the early 2010s, when we oversaw a record number of both deportations and Democratic Party lost seats nationwide. Obama’s message of hope and change inspired millions of people to believe that they could do something to make the country reflect their values and needs — and many were devastated when it was replaced with humdrum technocrats, bank bailouts, and obstinate backlash. The lesson? Viva la technocracy!
DON’T talk about identity (too much). There are precisely three acceptable moments to invoke identity: 1) when discussing your own hardscrabble roots, real or imagined; 2) when you’re trying to not-so-secretly assure white people that you won’t jeopardize the value of their home by making them live in integrated neighborhoods or send their kids to integrated schools; and 3) when you’re protecting centrist policies or politicians from progressive challenges—in that situation, go ahead and throw in a hand-clap emoji or some teen slang. Otherwise, stick to bland platitudes about “hard-working Americans" and the “middle class.”
DO value bipartisanship. Voters like bipartisanship over results — our consultants assure us of this. The people will appreciate how respectfully we have let Mitch McConnell appoint a record number of troglodytes to lifetime judicial appointments. Already I can hear the chorus of thank-yous: from the 42-year-old mother lying on her death bed after being refused medical coverage for a pre-existing condition (and when she was this close to paying back her student loans too), or the family of four evicted for being unable to repay their predatory loan to the multinational bank we never prosecuted, or the octogenarian couple losing their Meals on Wheels, or the 24-year-old etching another year into the wall of his prison cell after losing his first and last appeal. It’s called “teamwork,” folks!
DON’T do anything too political. Since we won back the House in 2018, it’s been super fun pretending to be a coequal branch of government. We’ve sent out subpoenas, held hearings, and everything! Unfortunately, some of those hearings have been to empty chairs because this administration has boycotted them. But we’ve held our ground and refused to hold them accountable. We won’t sink down to their level by using the power we have at our disposal.
DO be civil above all else. Except when it comes to socialists, of course. Stopping them is our biggest priority.
OK, Dems, follow these steps, and we are on a surefire path to victory in 2020 — a Republican victory, mind you, but a victory all the same. Now get out there and don’t raise hell!