Eric Hubner: Elitist Democrats will still be vulnerable to Trumpism

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) A group of Trump supporters wave flags on the corner of 2100 S State Street in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Joe Biden won the presidency by receiving more votes than any other presidential candidate in U.S. history. But let’s not overlook another candidate, Donald Trump, who received almost as many votes as Barack Obama’s record breaking numbers when he became president.

Historians may have rated Abraham Lincoln as the nation’s greatest president, but in 2019, 53% of Republicans surveyed believed Donald Trump was doing greater things than freeing slaves.

Coronavirus handed Joe Biden the presidential election. Yes, Democrats went all out. Yes, Joe Biden campaigned smart and hard, but if it wasn’t for Americans' fear of death, as they watch hundreds of thousands of people die from an out of control, virulent virus, Biden would be back in Delaware, having fought the good fight. And Donald Trump would be in his glory, looking forward to four more years in the White House.

Trump couldn’t beat the coronavirus because, like many authoritarian populists, he’s incompetent. Trump could promise a miracle, but he couldn’t deliver. Trump wanted to rule, but he couldn’t govern a nation to save our lives from a deadly virus.

Democrats have been handed a one time presidential miracle. COVID-19 unseated a popular president. Now let’s see if Democrats squander their win by not learning to understand Trumpism.

Trump had been grooming voters for years. His fortress persona was unbeatable until COVID-19. The rules didn’t apply to Trump. Trump was and is an incorrigible liar, a cheat, a rogue, an autocrat who took children from parents and an impeached president who failed to protect Americans from a deadly virus, but all is forgiven by those who love and trust him.

Joe Biden is a good man, a caring man and the presidential candidate most qualified to heal a divided nation. Yet it took the equivalent of the plague to unseat Donald Trump.

Democrats are no longer the political party of the working people they once were when Franklin D Roosevelt or Jack Kennedy were around. Leading Democrats sold out to big money interests long ago. Yes, Bill Clinton and other Democratic leaders talked a good line, but Democrats morphed into “Republicans Lite,” and proved to be just as corruptible.

Somewhere between Vietnam War protests, Bill Clinton and the 2020 election, the Democratic Party became an infighting club for frustrated students, liberal professors, intellectuals, guilt ridden capitalists, suburbanites, inner city residents and a collection of special interest groups, mostly an east coast-west coast crowd. The average southern, church-going, white male or midwestern, conservative, working man or woman need not apply. If you don’t have the correct opinions, aren’t pro-abortion or favor of pushing against some social norm, you are out of step and don’t belong. And people feel that. Yes, big generalizations, but there’s some truth there, too.

A comment by Hillary Clinton to donors at an LGBT fundraising gala in New York City, didn’t help party recruitment efforts either:

“... [Y]ou could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right,”

[Laughter and applause] “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it.... some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.”

Wrong, Hillary! They are America.They fight our wars, put out our fires, police our streets and grow the food that we buy in our grocery stores. And some of Trump’s supporters also voted Barack Obama into the White House, too. Some Americans may do deplorable things, but we have to believe that almost all Americans are redeemable.

I’d like to see the people’s party include all the people again, but I’m not holding my breath. I don’t know if the Democrats are up to it. Democrat neglect may put another populist, autocratic Republican in the White House in 2024, a candidate as conniving as Donald Trump, but more competent and calculated. A real danger to our democracy.

Why? Because as Democrats watched in disdain and horror as Trump won the presidency in 2016, Republicans watched the master salesman seal the deal with conservative Americans. Republicans know what works to get elected. They know how to activate large groups of motivated voters who are brand loyal. The Republican Party of elites knows how to play the people and they will go on from one victory to another as pseudo populists who continue to engage in voters suppression and deny people affordable health insurance. They will do this while Democrats continue to disregard voters who could elect them to public office.

Trump won in 2016 because he spoke the language of the people that the Democrats left on the curb. Trump was and is an effective demagogue because, even though he is an elite, he “speaks” multiple codes. Trump speaks working class, farmer, and factory worker. He speaks black unemployed and gay. He speaks evangelical and white nationalist.

Biden may be caring and sincere, but Trump is a political polyglot who knows how to entertain as he moved large crowds to vote in person during a deadly pandemic.

Trump is whatever you want him to be. Trumpism is a tribe and Trump is chief. You’re part of the tribe because you know he understands you. You know he’s in your corner. You feel Trump and Trumpism in your gut. Democrats had to beat the bushes two and three times to get reluctant voters out. If you’re a Trump supporter, there was no obstacle you didn’t overcome to vote for him on Election Day 2020 and you’d likely run into gunfire for Trump to save our country from socialists. Sorry Dems, your club’s got nothing on Trumpism.

Republican politicians are brand loyal opportunists. They will successfully invoke Brand Trump to win even when they no longer have to bow and kiss his ring. And Democrats will remain vulnerable in spite of demographic changes that favor them.

If there is one Democrat who can create a blue wave across America, it will be Stacy Abrams. Abrams learned to beat conservative political strategists by playing hardball with Georgia Republicans. Abrams successfully played the long game.

“The key to winning Georgia, she wrote, was engaging new voters, establishing strongholds in Georgia’s demographically changing suburbs and protecting voters' access to the polls.”

Abrams' “full investment” strategy would likely focus on treating Trump supporters as “persuasion voters” with an eye on the 2024 presidential race, starting right now.

Brand Trump is a threat to the future of our democracy, our families and our American Republic. That should provide any budding Democratic politician with sufficient motivation to play the long game, the smart game, the hard game and the inclusive game.

Eric Hubner

Eric Hubner, Volcano, Hawai’i, received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Brigham Young University, as well as a master of social work degree from the State University of New York. He is a retired mental health therapist and school social worker, who also worked in the addiction field and coordinated services for families at risk of child abuse and neglect.

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