Thursday, March 15, 2018


Philippe Reines, who's been an adviser to Hillary Clinton for many years, is offering election tips to Democrats who hope to beat Donald Trump in 2020, some of them clearly based on Clinton's failure to close the sale in 2016. I think some of Reines's advice is a bit dubious:
●Go high when you can. But when he goes low, take advantage of the kneeling to knock his block off.

●Don’t apologize. Ever. Not over money you took from Harvey Weinstein. Not even for attacking the pope. In fact, proactively attack the pope. Your kid is a shoplifter? You’re proud of them for exposing inadequate security.

●A lot of industries are going to want to hedge their bets. Don’t declare you won’t take money from lobbyists. Take cigarette money. Counterfeit your own.

●Swing at every pitch. Trump never says, “I’m not dignifying that with an answer.” He has no dignity. He leaves no attack unanswered. I spent 15 years recommending ignoring stupidity. “It has no legs. Don’t give it oxygen. There’s no pickup.” I was wrong....

●Boast. Gloat. About your accomplishments. Your biceps. Your everything. You didn’t co-sponsor; you got it done on your inevitable path to Mount Rushmore.

●Don’t wait for post-debate polls. You won. It’s obvious. Everyone saw. Say it onstage....

●Don’t hire anyone who says they’d rather lose than stoop to his level. If you say it, get out of the way for someone living in the real world.
Okay, I get it: To beat Trump, act just like him. But I think that's an absurd strategy. You'll never out-Trump Trump, and you can't fake being like that -- either your personality is Trump-like or it isn't. Besides, you're not competing for the voters who like Trump's personality -- you're competing for the people who find it repulsive, or at least queasy-making, some of whom voted for him anyway in 2016.

I agree that the Democrat running against Trump can't become the butt of his jokes. But there are other ways to respond when Trump attacks. When Trump went after him, Barack Obama didn't get in the mud or turn into a chest-thumping blowhard. He didn't respond to every birther moment. He maintained his dignity, with a touch of swagger. He didn't send out all-caps tweets when he released his long-form birth certificate -- he just did it, and then delivered a deadpan, subtly devastating anti-Trump monologue at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner.

Oh, and there was the death of bin Laden right after that. Mic drop!

Trump got the last laugh five years later, though we don't know what would have happened if Obama had been able to run against him. We can guess that he wouldn't have behaved like Trump -- he would have continued to act like the adult in the race, but with a significant amount of cool. He might have made Trump seem desperate, flailing, and out of control. Bill Clinton did that to George H.W. Bush in 1992 -- it's hard to remember now, but in 1992, for all the questions about his past, Clinton came off as both charismatic and mature, an appealing young candidate with a lot of good ideas and the right temperament to get the job done.

What worries me about the 2020 Democratic aspirants is that I'm not sure who among them has the charisma and the presence to face down Trump without getting in the gutter with him. I don't know what charisma is, but Obama has it, Clinton had it in his youth -- and few Democratic contenders have it now.

Joe Biden has an oddball appeal, but does he engender trust or is he just seen as a figure of fun? Bernie Sanders inspires a lot of people (and infuriates some others), but can he keep his head when he's under attack the way Obama does, and the way Clinton did in his prime?

As for the rest of the men who are considering a run ... I'm not so sure. The women impress me, and I'm sure they impress a lot of you, but I worry how the general public will feel about them. There are dudebros in the electorate (including the Democratic electorate), and there are other voters (of both genders) who still have problems with educated, forthright white-collar women, women who don't smile a lot and try to make everything nice. I hate that there are still voters who might find Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand or Kamala Harris "harsh" or "shrill" or "pushy," but they're out there.

Can any of those women go head to head with Trump and make 51% of voters in states with 270 electoral votes like them instead of Trump? I think they'd try to do it without losing their dignity, or playing by Philippe Reines's rules. I just hope it would work.

I worry that the best candidate to beat Trump would be another Obama. I hope I'm wrong, because I don't see one in the candidate pool.

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