The Corner

1992 in Reverse

Last week I reviewed the strategic options available to Clinton as she prepares to run against Trump. I suggested that many Democrats would be tempted to run against him as an extreme right-winger and expressed doubt that this strategy would work. Sean Trende points out that Clinton could be making the same mistake Republicans did in 1992:

From 1968 to 1988, Republicans basically ran cookie-cutter campaigns against their Democratic opponents: They are liberal.  It worked magnificently, until 1992, when they suddenly encountered a candidate against whom the shoe didn’t really fit.  Democrats moderated their positions on certain issues and flipped the narrative.  For the next 20 years, the generic Democratic campaign became one where Republicans were depicted as agents of the rich, of social conservatives, and of reckless foreign policy adventurists.  It was effective, in part because the shoe often fit.

It’s become obvious that, at least for now, Clinton is running the same sort of campaign against Trump. It isn’t clear, however, how well it works against someone with such a strong nouveau riche affect (at best).  Trump isn’t campaigning (anymore) on massive tax cuts for the rich.  He’s against free trade, and is arguably more of a dove on foreign policy than Clinton.  And the two obvious themes against Trump — that he doesn’t know what he’s doing/is erratic/is inconsistent and that he is actually a right-wing ideologue – are actually in tension with each other.  Because Trumpism is such an odd mishmash of beliefs, it’s hard to run the generic Democratic campaign against him.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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