NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T here are many, many ways to try to measure the 2020 presidential race. How well is Donald Trump doing in the states he needs to win compared with Joe Biden, such as Arizona and Michigan? (Not well.) How well is Donald Trump doing with the demographic groups he needs to retain, such as suburban moms and the elderly? (Not well.) Does the campaign have a record of accomplishment that energizes his base and a vision for the future that excites independents? (Not really.) Is the country going through a crisis? (Yes.) But is it giving the incumbent high marks for handling it, indicating an unwillingness to change horses before the race? (No, not at all.)
Those indicators are all ominous for Donald Trump. They’re ominous for Republicans attached to him, and for the conservative causes that rise and fall with the GOP’s fortunes.
Since the beginning of this campaign, I’ve preferred a simpler understanding. Donald Trump was the most broadly unpopular presidential nominee in his party’s history. And, unlike Hillary Clinton, the same cannot be said of Joe Biden. Four years ago, the polls were basically correct. On a popular-vote level, they were well within the most likely scenarios pollsters envisioned. But Trump played a blinder in what Michael Moore called the Brexit States: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Currently polls have Biden up in Michigan by double digits.
There is still time for Trump to turn things around, for events to intervene in a way that favors him. As voters take a closer look at Joe Biden’s record of policymaking, and at his current condition, we can expect the race to tighten up.
But as things are currently proceeding, Trump is an electoral anchor on Republican senators and House members. Republican senators are taking Trump out of their ads. In Maine, Susan Collins is in a very tough fight with Sara Gideon. In Colorado, Cory Gardner took office in 2014 as the Obama years were heading into exhaustion. He also ran as an independent-minded Republican and he once called on Trump to drop out of the 2016 race. He’s now in an impossible position of simultaneously trying to enthuse Trump’s base of supporters in 2020, who consider him a potential sell-out, and all the independent voters he needs who want him to sell Trump out. Republicans could lose up to seven or eight seats in the Senate if all goes poorly. Seats in Montana, North Carolina, Kansas, and Arizona could all be lost in a Trump wipe-out.
Conservatives must steel themselves for the difficulty losses such as these would impose. Though most of us can recall the liberal taunts of fascist and Nazi that greeted presidents such as George H.W. Bush and his son, this time progressives really have convinced themselves that “it’s different.” One can see it in the immense pressure campaign against Silicon Valley since 2016 to tilt the information playing field away from Trump, even though the progressive near-monopoly on mainstream media naturally makes social media friendly territory for the Right. One can see it in the long-term support for conspiracy theories about Trump’s relationship to Vladimir Putin.
A weak Democratic president standing upon a progressive majority in the House and Senate will be pushed by the media and other powerful influencers to begin a campaign of “de-Trumpification” of the United States government. This means not just ejecting the relatively small number of political appointees by Trump, but finding ways to limit the role of the many judges he appointed across the federal judiciary. We should anticipate calls to overthrow the “Trump judiciary,” via court-packing or other means.
For three years, Democrats have been fueling their imaginations with wonky dreams of re-ordering America’s Constitution, and revolutionary passions for shedding it altogether. The rocket engine could be given a jump-start in just a few months.