Change needed for Trump to lose election

As the 2020 U.S. presidential election looms closer each day and Democratic candidates fight for the top spot in the rankings, there is one question on everyone’s mind: who can beat President Donald Trump?

And, as with such broad political questions, the answer is complicated.

The idea of beating Trump is a euphemism for greater political change upon which Democratic presidential candidates have depended throughout this early stage in the primary election cycle. It’s the connotations of this idea that hold power — a Democratic candidate beating Trump in the general election, for many anti-Trump voters, signifies the end of an incredibly corrupt and controversial political era. For the majority of moderate Democrats, simply removing Trump from office is enough to satisfy them. But for many on the left who hope to see Trump beaten in 2020, the overturn of his administration is only the first step.

It’s important to realize that even with Trump out of office, the systemic flaws that allowed him to win in the first place will continue to influence American politics. I’m not talking about Russian interference, gerrymandering or fake Facebook articles; rather, these flaws refer to deeper issues, those that plague every aspect of American life. Racism, xenophobia, misogyny and ostracization of the working-class all made Trump’s ascension to the presidency possible, and these problems will not be solved simply with the defeat of a presidential candidate.

A poll published on Aug. 28, by Quinnipiac University shows that each possible Democratic candidate, as it stands currently, could beat Trump in 2020. But the polls can, and do, lie. I remember the upset of the 2016 election vividly — during the weeks leading up to election night, every poll showed a clear win for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. But, in a surprising upset, Trump captured the electoral votes and won the presidency. During this election cycle, complacency should be a major concern for Democrats.

In 2016, the majority of Democrats (and indeed, much of the Republican base) were absolutely confident that Trump would lose to Clinton, and perhaps this position was justified. When in American politics has such a controversial, undiplomatic, openly bigoted figure successfully ascended to presidential office? Never.

Every former president has possessed at least some sense of decorum fit for such an important position. Of course the Democrats would be overconfident. However, it will be important this election cycle that they do not underestimate the strength of an incumbent with a powerful and influential base.

Incumbency will indeed prove useful to Trump this election cycle. During the 2016 race, Trump managed to accumulate a large, fervent base of supporters, mainly white voters with a lower amount of education. The majority of this base was drawn in by Trump’s promise of a revitalized economy, the promise of job creation and his reactionary image of a “greater” America, according to “Meet the People Behind Donald Trump’s Popularity,” an article published by “lifelong learning” website ThoughtCo. on June 29. Although Trump included traditional Republican values like tax cuts and lower government regulation in his platform, his campaign was also characterized by more extreme messages, such as his plan to “build a wall” between the U.S.-Mexican border to cut down on immigration. These anti-immigrant, nationalist sentiments only escalated during his presidency, inflating the support of those with adjacent ideologies.

Although the ability to unseat Trump in the presidential election is, of course, integral to a Democratic candidate’s platform, some candidates have relied on that sole aspect of their campaign to attract voters. Take, for instance, former Vice President Joe Biden, who stated in the June 27 Democratic debate that his first action in presidential office would be to “defeat Donald Trump,” according to “Meet the People Behind Donald Trump’s Popularity,” leaving aside the fact that if Biden were to attain presidential office, he would have already defeated Trump.

His answer shows his campaign’s desire to appeal to a specific demographic of the Democratic Party: the white moderate, according to the same article.

A common misconception that I have observed when listening to people discuss the upcoming election is that the ideal candidate must be able to reach across the aisle — that is, work with and appeal to those diametrically opposed to their goals. Now, hearing all perspectives is necessary for democracy, and bipartisanship can be a positive step toward a functional government, but there is a difference between genuinely attempting to reach out to those with opposing viewpoints and pandering. It’s impossible for a candidate to secure everyone’s support while they may not even appeal to everyone in their own party. The best strategy for any candidate who truly wants to defeat Trump in the general election is not to dilute their goals to appeal to a demographic that may not even vote for them it is to stick to their message. After all, Trump has never attempted to “reach across the aisle.”

Strong grassroots support from those who truly believe in a candidate will triumph over a broad but weaker base of support. This is the difference between candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren versus those like Biden. Their messages remain consistent and true to the values of those they represent.

The question is not, “Who can beat Trump in 2020?” but rather, “Will democratic grassroots organizing be effective?” No matter how contentious his presidency has been, Trump continues to boast a strong core of support from the right, as an incumbent. To win the 2020 election, the Democratic Party must solidify enough to effectively support its chosen presidential candidate (whoever that may be) while also sticking to its values. “Electability” only means what we, the electorate, want it to mean. The race is never set in stone.