Faced with a GOP nominee like no other in modern political history, the Democrats have a problem: They lack the words to describe him. Donald Trump is a unique threat to American democracy? That’s how they describe every Republican nominee. He’s divisive, racist, and plutocratic? Ditto.
The Democrats have cried wolf so often that they don’t know how to effectively attack Trump, an actual beast growling at the door. Doubt me? Consider this infamous NAACP campaign commercial from 2000. The ad is directed at that notorious racist monster George W. Bush. Its voiceover is done by Renee Mullins, daughter of murder victim James Byrd:
On June 7, 1998 in Texas my father was killed. He was beaten, chained, and then dragged three miles to his death, all because he was black.
So when Governor George W. Bush refused to support hate-crime legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again.
Call Governor George W. Bush and tell him to support hate-crime legislation.
We won’t be dragged away from our future.
The images accompanying Mullins’ narration were dark and disturbing, showing the back of a pickup truck with chains leading off the screen. A radio version of the ad was even more vivid, with Mullins describing her father’s death: “I can see skin being torn away from his body. I can hear him gasping for air. I can feel the tears in his eyes.”
It’s horrifying stuff. And reading or hearing it could easily give you the impression that Bush let white supremacists get away with murdering a black man. In reality, two of the three perpetrators in the Byrd case were sentenced to death, and one was sentenced to life in prison.
The NAACP flogged Bush with the most inflammatory language imaginable. Never mind that the hate-crime legislation at issue could not possibly have punished Byrd’s killers more, because they were already receiving the law’s ultimate penalty. There was an election to win, and that meant boosting black turnout. If that meant painting Bush as a monstrous racist, so be it.
Such inflammatory dishonesty is a common Democratic campaign tactic. Remember this, from “Uncle” Joe Biden in 2012?
#share#Watching day one of the Democratic convention last night, I was struck by the fact that the speakers were describing Trump as simply a normal Republican, using the same rhetoric they’d use if the nominee were Marco Rubio or John Kasich. If anything, the rhetoric was less inflammatory than the rhetoric used against Bush and Romney.
Oh, Elizabeth Warren tried to paint Trump as a unique danger to the country. She even went so far as to claim that she’s “not someone who thinks Republicans are always wrong and Democrats are always right.” But then she proceeded to resume the standard attacks on Republicans, tying Trump to a fiscal conservatism he’s never embraced.
If there exists a formula for Democratic defeat, this is it. If they turn Trump into a normal (albeit larger-than-life and more entertaining than usual) Republican, then millions of GOP voters are apt to see him that way and come back home. As someone remarked on Twitter last night, it’s almost as if the Democrats would rather lose than admit that not all Republican politicians are racist, misogynistic know-nothings.
#related#If the race is just “Colorful Republican versus Hillary,” the Democrats court disaster. In a change election, they represent the status quo, and with one of the least likeable nominees in a generation, to boot. Hillary just almost squandered a second massive polling advantage in a Democratic primary to a self-described socialist. She’s the liar so brazen that not even many Democrats believe what she says. As I remarked yesterday, one can never overestimate this woman’s capacity to underperform.
And yet, Democrats’ hysterical rhetoric could make Donald Trump president. Not the rhetoric they direct at Trump, mind you, but the rhetoric they’ve directed at Republicans from Reagan to Romney. Their attacks have been so over-the-top for so long that they can’t stop now, after crying wolf so often that millions of voters no longer believe wolves even exist.
They had better hope Trump beats himself, because the old tactics won’t work in the new reality. They’ve played the hate card too many times before.
— David French is an attorney, and a staff writer at National Review.