You’re with me or you’re against me. Donald Trump’s 2020 strategy.
From the media to international organisations, Trump’s targets go beyond the challenge of Joe Biden.
Less than an hour before tweeting out a video taking targeted aim at Joe Biden, his rival, Donald Trump told us that he is in fact not running against the former Vice President. This time, he will be running against the ‘Radical Democrats and the Lamestream Media’. Based on his recent episodes, one can assume he is happy to throw Obama, international organisations, and even some members of his own party into that list as well. A bold approach for a man on 44% approval.
But it is one that could make sense. Not least because its ridiculousness is enough to drive anyone mad. With the exception of Obama — whose popularity is at a height Trump could only dream of — the other attacks seem to be fair game. For example, Gallup polling shows the Democrat party have a lower approval and higher disapproval rating than the Republicans and there is ample evidence to demonstrate a declining trust in the media. HERE, (The Hill) HERE (The Brookings Institute) and HERE (twitter).
All the while, Biden’s most recent Real Clear Politics polling averages are Wisconsin, Biden +2.7%, Pennsylvania, Biden +6.5%, Michigan, Biden +5.5%, Arizona, Biden +4.4%, and Florida, Biden 3.3%. I can understand why Trump doesn’t want to run against that.
Once more, the Trump team is betting on the fact that Biden’s machine simply isn’t big enough to bite back and compete with him against this assault of issues. This stems from two things. Firstly, the Trump campaign has a ‘vast cash advantage’, according to the New York Times, ‘Mr. Trump and the R.N.C. had nearly $187 million more in the bank than Mr. Biden and the D.N.C.’ and can use that to run Biden in circles. Secondly, they will (perhaps fairly) assert that Biden lacks the agility to keep up. By offering up multiple, moving, proxy targets, Biden will struggle to get a shot in before the conversation has turned to China, or the WHO, or back to Obama again (repeat until November 3rd).
What Trump’s campaign is therefore seeking to do, is not just present his own ideas to the American public; ideas that have no doubt been conceived a mere five minutes before he has thrashed them out, typo-ridden, on Twitter. But to attempt to drag Biden into this incoherent quagmire of pseudo-debate, using his superior financial heft to steer the direction of conversation wherever they want it. This probably does nothing for Trump’s popularity but it might cause Biden to eventually snap and demonstrate behaviours antithetical to that of which he is known and loved for.
Now, therefore, is not the time for him to engage in complex debate with Trump about America’s changing role in the world; where, if at all, it leads; what are the values it wishes to portray to an increasingly disinterested global society; who are its allies and what are its threats?
It is of deep regret that General Election campaigns are no longer the arena to discuss issues of such salience. One only has to look at the first debate between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960 and hear Kennedy’s opening statement where he pitches his idea of what the world will look like with him as President to see how corrosive campaigns have become.
But despite the temptation to engage, Biden needs to make sure he does not rise to the bait.
Because, if we are honest, Biden is not at his most coherent either. Two old men yelling at each other isn’t a great look. A nominee like Clinton or Obama, or even McCain or Romney, evidently did have that capacity to articulate their positions. With Biden, perhaps less so. But also, these debates are difficult to have because Trump, the one so seemingly eager to discuss the issues, has an even more incoherent view. One that fluctuates beyond the comprehension of logic. It is impossible for Biden to keep up even if he had the resources to.
So the simple solution is: Don’t bother. Don’t try and keep up with an approach that has been designed to keep you in second place. Biden can cut through all of that with a simple focus on Trump, asking: What does America stand for, and using Donald Trump’s own words and actions against him.
We are entering a time where Americans are set to lose so much. Their jobs, their healthcare, even their family members. If anyone has witnessed loss before and knows how to come out of it on the other side, it is Joe Biden.
But what is the alternative? Biden is sitting pretty in key states. He is open about the realistic possibility of expanding the map away outwards from the Midwest, and 74 staffers have come forward to corroborate his story against the Tare Reade allegations, and he is on his way to assembling a broad coalition of policy ideas using brains from across the spectrum of the party.
No one is pretending it is an easy road ahead, not least because it seems he can’t even get his Zoom to work properly, but the alternative is he defies John Carney’s stay at home order and comes out swinging all because the goading from Donald Trump got too much to resist. That is not the temperament of a President.