, 09.02.2019 07:15 AM

My latest: when hating Trump isn’t enough

PORTLAND, MAINE – The woman shrugs. 

She doesn’t mention Donald Trump’s latest outrage – that he’s “the chosen one.” She doesn’t even utter his name. 

She says she thinks she’s going to vote Democrat. Then she frowns a bit. “But I like Collins.”

She’s referring to Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican. Collins is the bane of every Democrat’s existence. She’s the one, more than any other Senator, who got Brett Kavanaugh onto the US Supreme Court. 

She’s the one who generally supports all of Trump’s nominees. She’s the one who claims to be a moderate Republican – and then votes for Trump’s agenda.  

The woman at the door of the bungalow on Hale Street has indicated she’s a Democrat. But she’s ready to vote – again – for a Republican. Susan Collins. 

It wouldn’t be a big deal, but it happens again and again. As my daughter and I move from door to door in this older Portland neighbourhood, volunteering for the Democratic Party, we see it a lot: shrugs. 

Down the street, Thomas, a man in his sixties, says he’ll vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress. Then he shrugs, too. “And maybe Collins for Senate,” he says. 

What we encounter on Hale Street isn’t unique. It isn’t an aberration. Maine Democrats have encountered it so often, an entire section of the script we’ve been given deals with Democrats who are ready to vote Republican. 

Right about now, Trump fans shouldn’t start breaking out the bubbly. It’s not that Americans have grown to love the guy. Polls clearly show they don’t, and in battleground states he won in 2016, too. 

But there’s resignation, now. There’s familiarity. There’s…shrugs. 

The day after my daughter and I knocked on dozens of doors for the Dems, a gifted New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, wrote about exactly what we experienced. “Donald Trump has worn us all out,” read the headline atop his column. 

Wrote Bruni: “[Voters have] binged on Trump and now they’re overstuffed with Trump, and if Democratic candidates are smart, they’ll not dwell on his mess and madness, because voters have taken his measure and made their judgments, and what many of them want is release from the incessant drumbeat of that infernal syllable: Trump, Trump, Trump.”

And it’s true. As this writer said to someone down here, after reading Bruni’s words: “Do you get outraged about Trump anymore? Does he shock you anymore? Do you just change the channel, or flip the page, and move on to the next thing?”

Many of us do, on both sides of the border, I suspect. We simply have become used to Trump’s incendiary tweets, and his politics of division. He doesn’t shock us anymore. We shake our heads, or we shrug, and we move on. 

That creates opportunity for the Democrats, Bruni opined, because he thinks Americans are sick of all the drama and the craziness, and they want stability and civility. 

On Hale Street – and, in fact, on every other street we canvassed in Portland – we saw precious little evidence of that hopeful theory. Why we saw, instead, is that everyday Americans simply aren’t as exercised about Donald Trump as they used to be. 

And that’s translating into expressions of support – from Democrats! – for one of Trump’s enablers, Susan Collins. And that’s opportunity, maybe, for Trump and the GOP. 

Peter Jones, a retired man stands at his front door, and gives us hope. And a warning. 

“I pay attention,” he says to us, finger wagging. “Two things. Point out Trump’s faults, sure. But tell us what you’re going to do, too!”

Have Democrats done that, nearly enough? Have they described the America they want to create? 

Down on Hale Street, not really. 

And not across America, either. 

34 Comments

  1. Gord Tulk says:

    2016 was a referendum on Hillary Clinton- the worst POTUS candidate since McGovern (maybe).

    It is shaping up to be another referendum in 2020 if the Dems pick someone other than Biden. Open borders, Medicare for all (and no employer plans), unlimited abortion and massive tax increases are on every other realistic dem candidate’s platform. So far left it would make George McGovern blush.

    And that’s an option that even as repugnant and base a candidate as Trump is he’s centre-left within the GOP and thus far closer to the political centre and that will give him four more years – God willing.

    • doconnor says:

      So far left it is the status quo in Canada.

      • Jeanbatte says:

        ‘So far left it is the status quo in Canada’. To the point where it is difficult, if not impossible, to see any daylight between the Libs, Dippers, and Greens. What a mess!

        • The Conservatives also plan to maintain immigration levels, medicare for all, the lack of abortion laws. On the issues Gord Tulk’s lists all major Canadian parties have similar policies as the Democrats.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Gord,

      I don’t necessarily agree especially about the so-called open borders. No Democrat with a brain is for that. It’s part of Trump’s Fake News.

      But I will say that if the eventual nominee doesn’t move to the center for the general, then prepare for another Trump win. His people will vote en masse — the Democratic and progressive base will have to outdo that to win, even if Biden is the nominee.

    • Max says:

      Have to disagree Gord – Clinton was not the worst POTUS candidate at all. On the contrary, she was imminently qualified based on her solid experience. I would suggest there was a lot to dislike about HC on a personal level, but her experience was solid. Now if you had said ‘Mike Pence, Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin…. but since you didn’t….. its obvious you’re not a ‘Hilary Fan’. Fair enough, there were trust issues, but not the worst by a longshot.

      • Gord Tulk says:

        None of the people you mentioned ran for POTUS.

        We will agree to disagree on Hillary’s CV.

        Name a worse dem POTUS nominee in the past 100 years.

        • the real Sean says:

          HRC beat Trump by 3 million votes in 2016
          beat McCain by 6 million votes in 2012
          beat WJC by 18 million votes in 1996
          beat WJC by 20 million votes in 1992
          beat Bush and Gore by 14 million votes in 2000
          beat Bush and Kerry by 3 million and 6 million votes respectively in 2004.
          Clearly HRC was a terrible candidate.

          • Gord Tulk says:

            Wow. Pop vote numbers have nothing to do with winning. The electoral college is all that matters.

            She ran against Donald trump and managed to lose. Amazing.

          • Peter says:

            You are right. Clearly she was the perfect loser.

          • Fred from BC says:

            “Wow. Pop vote numbers have nothing to do with winning. The electoral college is all that matters. ”

            Exactly, but the whining has never stopped about her winning the popular vote. The Americans don’t use that system, and neither do Canadians; the last Canadian Prime Minister to win the ‘popular vote’ was Brian Mulroney (the last American President would be Ronald Reagan, correct?).

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:

            Peter,

            Nope. The campaign manager who shall remain unnamed should take the fall. I used to watch him on TV and to put it kindly was usually underwhelmed. I would think, couldn’t she come up with anyone better than that guy???

          • In the US, unless there is a notable 3rd party candidate the winner often gets more the 50%. Obama did it both times and George W Bush the second time.

      • Fred from BC says:

        ” Clinton was not the worst POTUS candidate at all. On the contrary, she was imminently qualified based on her solid experience. ”

        It was never about her qualifications….it was about her being one of the most despised women in America. Almost anyone else could probably have beaten Donald Trump (perhaps even the person she stole the nomination from).

        • The Doctor says:

          Fred’s correct there. I had no issues with Hillary’s resume, clearly she was vocationally and technically quite qualified to serve as President. Much more so than Trump. But her negative ratings in opinion polls were very high, and she had become the bete noire of the American right-wing ecosphere.

          I think in Canada most of us were unaware of just how despised Hillary was among vast swaths of the American electorate. You can whine all you want about perhaps that not being fair or whatever, but life ain’t fair.

          Frankly I think our media let us down on that front and missed the ball. The media was too busy reporting on Trump’s Latest Outrage to notice that a lot of the American electorate despised Hillary.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          Fred,

          You got the first pillar right: just think back to how she treated all of Bill’s women. But some people forget the not so subtle misogny and sexism thast ran rampant from the moment she became the nominee.

          As we would say in this neck of the woods: bonhommes…and if you’re still skeptical, think Pauline Marois and the reception she got from bonhommes. Of course, her own sex didn’t do her any favours either. So much for enlightened Quebec women. I saw the green-eyed monster in so many women in that campaign. They were so jealous and rooting for her to be knocked down. Can’t comment on those same factors re: HRC. Hopefully, others can.

  2. J.H. says:

    If they aren’t as exercised about Trump as they used to be, perhaps the media has created the apathy.
    Newt’s not entirely wrong. The press has not helped the Dems.
    https://www.newsweek.com/richard-nixon-donald-trump-landslide-elite-media-1456991

    • The Doctor says:

      The press has been very hard on Trump, but it’s not like a lot of it hasn’t been deserved.

      IMO Gingrich is out to lunch and dreaming in technicolor. Trump might win because of the electoral college and the way the distribution favours rural, relatively unpopulated areas of the US where Trump is more popular. But if he wins in 2020, it will be a squeaker, not a a Nixon 1972 landslide.

      Take a look at the numbers. Trump’s net disapproval rating at 538 is negative 13, give or take, and has been in negative -11 to -13 territory for ages now. Over at RCP, whose methodology is a touch more cautious, he’s in net negative 10 territory. Those are horrible numbers. All kinds of his numbers are horrible.

      And Trump will not have that gift from God called Hillary Clinton in 2020. Even though he and his core supporters still obsess over her daily.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Doc,

        Trump no doubt prays every night to face Warren in the general.

        But the real factor is GOTV and no one is better at that than Republicans, or here in Canada, Conservatives. They will gladly leave their hospital beds to vote.

        • The Doctor says:

          There’s evidence out there that GOTV won’t favour the Republicans like it did in 2016. First of all, remember the mid-terms, which seem to have flown right over the heads of Trump and his supporters. They ignore the midterm results the way that the Soviet government disremembered Trotsky.

          There is also a substantial “vote Blue no matter who” element among the Democratic Party rank and file and supporters. That’s potentially big trouble for Trump. Remember, the Democratic Party was quite significantly split in 2016 between Bernie and Hillary supporters, and the result was Trump getting elected. Anti-Trump Democrats (which is roughly 100% of Democrats) haven’t forgotten that.

          Polling has shown that there’ appears to be no “enthusiasm gap” this time out between Republicans and Democrats as there was in 2016. If anything, it favours the Democrats because Trump has done almost nothing (short of the Tax cut, which was a bit of a limp noodle) to court moderate Republicans and swing voters.

          I read a very good article, can’t remember where, to the effect that Trump’s focus on his base is rooted in a flawed premise: i.e., that it’s his base that got him elected. It was his base plus moderate Republicans plus swing voters. Trump has spent the last three years raving like a lunatic and ginning up his base. And turning off droves of moderate Republicans and swing voters. That doesn’t bode well for his GOTV effort in 2020.

  3. Eastern Rebellion says:

    It’s not the people in Maine that the Dems need to reach, it’s the people in Ohio. I haven’t seen or heard a single thing from the Democratic Party about how they are going to address the catastrophe that is America’s hinterland. It seems the “Coastal Elites” care about the unemployed blue-collar workers about as much as our “Laurentian Elites” care about unemployed oil-patch workers in Alberta.

    • Fred from BC says:

      “It’s not the people in Maine that the Dems need to reach, it’s the people in Ohio.”

      That was the one of the major reasons for her loss, I think: she ignored the Rust Belt. Barack Obama went through there in 2008 and promised to bring those jobs back…people believed him. Then he came back in 2012 and promised the same…people were not nearly as enthused this time. By the time 2016 came around and Hillary went through those states promising to bring back their jobs, people were like, “Nope…but THAT GUY just might” (pointing at Donald Trump).

  4. Peter says:

    Very well said. What many Trump-haters don’t seem to get is that there are many voters down there who have no use for Trump but who don’t necessarily see him as the always-wrong Antichrist the Dem base wants them to see or who don’t like many of the Dems much better. The Dems are now locked into a year-long primary ritual where the candidates are competing for the votes of a base much more radical than the average middle/independent voter they are going to have to woo in the general election. Plus there is starting to be some nasty hyperbolic rhetoric floating around about how anyone who votes for Trump or wears a MAGA hat is a racist or whatever. 2020 could end up being another own goal for them.

    • Fred from BC says:

      “Plus there is starting to be some nasty hyperbolic rhetoric floating around about how anyone who votes for Trump or wears a MAGA hat is a racist or whatever. ”

      Jesus…they just CAN’T STOP, can they??

      Not for any reason…not even when you tell them they are hurting their own reputation…not even when you tell them that their insults and accusations are actually angering people into *supporting* Trump, not opposing him.

      If he wins, this will be the reason why. 🙁

      • Peter says:

        When Trump won in 2016 and the earth stopped turning for progressives, there was a brief flurry of vows from their side (the ever-insightful Matt Taibbi comes to mind) to look in the mirror, confront the painful reality that they had lost the support of so many they used to champion and start the hard, grinding work of winning them back. But while individuals can sometimes repent and change, mobs rarely can and it only lasted a few weeks. Since then it’s been pretty much non-stop collective demonizing of the rubes, louder and more scurrilous with each passing week. If Trump ever stops enabling them with his foolishness, they could well pay for it big time.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          Peter,

          I couldn’t care less what AOC and company think. What matters is what Dem candidates say. The truly smart, electable ones won’t go off the rhetorical deep end cause as Fred said, it’s like cutting off your nose despite your face.

  5. WestGuy says:

    The Dems have been going at this wrong right from Nov 10. What they seem to fail to realize is that Trump isn’t the cause, he’s the symptom. So they’ve spent the past three years agonizing about what to do about the symptom.
    What they should have done was gone out to those states that voted Trump, shut up (important) and listened (very important). Find out why they voted for him and then develop a platform that resonates with them. (And before someone posts the obvious comment about enabling racist policies, remember 60 million people voted for Trump, the vast majority of which are no more racist than most other Americans) That should have been the strategy. Those voters sent them a message and they’ve spent all this time focussing on what kind of paper the message was written on.

    • Fred from BC says:

      “The Dems have been going at this wrong right from Nov 10. What they seem to fail to realize is that Trump isn’t the cause, he’s the symptom.”

      Totally agree.

      How is it that so many people on this website (you, me, Peter, the Doc, E.R., Gord, etc…) are able to recognize the problem and figure out the obvious solution, but the Democratic Party itself can not? I just don’t get it.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Fred,

        Red-meat generally wins elections but rarely on the left. That’s why it’s smart strategy for Trump and pretty much a loser for Democrats.

      • Peter says:

        I have a few thoughts on that.

        A) Despite all the smiles on stage, the Dems are in a near civil-war for control of the party that is only going to get worse as the primaries continue. Civil wars are notoriously bloodthirsty. One reason they are relying so much on anti-Trump rhetoric is that they don’t agree on much else. For a lot of their base, especially Sanders and Warren supporters, I’m not convinced winning in 2020 actually is their number one priority.

        B) American political rhetoric is much more Manichean in tone than ours. Let Freedom Ring, etc. In a part of their heads, they are still fighting their Revolution. We put great stock in just getting along and not alienating regions or large swaths of the population, which is why the Cons and Dippers always have to tread carefully with their “principles”. But you don’t hear too many Dems say things like “We must reach out to our southern brothers and sisters”.

        C) As thousands of airport thrillers show, Americans love a good conspiracy, and they are prone to believe them. Just not the same conspiracies. Not a great recipe for bringing everyone together as one big happy family.

  6. Miles Lunn says:

    Problem with Democrats is they are trying to move too far to the left in a fairly conservative country. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren might be electable in Canada, although even that would depend a lot on who their opponent was, but in US there is no way their policies will sell in Middle America. They might be popular in the liberal coastal cities but you cannot win the White House by running up the margins there.

    I am fairly confident the Democrats will win the popular vote, but I still believe Trump has a good chance at being re-elected as its Electoral college not popular vote that determines winner. Much like Tories in Canada, Democrats have a problem with vote efficiency. They are great at running up the margins in coastal states just like Tories do in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but struggling in the Rust Belt and Sun Belt states they need to win. In the midterms, most Democrat pick-ups in the Rust Belt and to a lesser extent in the Sun Belt were moderates, not staunch liberals so that should tell them where they need to go. Democrats need to focus on pocket book issues and how to help those left behind, not big grand schemes that will cost a fortune.

    • Health care and university costs are pocket book issues that the left Democrats are trying to address that the Neo-liberal Democrats have failed to.

      The US is so far behind other developed counties in social prograns, they require big schemes to fix it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


*