Focus on His
And it is far more likely to succeed if Democrats can connect it in voters’ minds to a larger argument about the substance of Trump’s presidency.
The most promising version of that argument revolves around corruption: The Ukraine quid pro quo matters because it shows how Trump has reneged on his promise to fight for ordinary Americans and is using the power of the presidency to benefit himself. As Leah Greenberg, a co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, says: “This man is not working for you. He is working to put his own interests first. And he is endangering the country to do it.”
Corruption is one of the public’s top worries, surveys show. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last year, people ranked the economy as the country’s most important issue, and No. 2 was “reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington.” It’s a cross-partisan concern too, spanning Democrats, Republicans and independents.
The corruption argument can appeal to the swing voters who helped elect Barack Obama in 2012, flipped to Trump in 2016 and flipped back to Democrats in 2018. And despite wishful thinking by some progressives, winning swing voters — rather than simply motivating the base — will again be crucial in 2020. “You have to build a bridge for people to walk across,” said David Axelrod, the former Obama strategist, referring to Trump’s 2016 supporters. “If you say the guy is a reprobate and a sleaze and all of that, it’s harder for people who voted for him to walk across that bridge.”
Casting Trump as a reprobate is tempting because, well, he is. He is a “pathological liar,” as Ted Cruz said during the 2016 Republican primaries, as well as a “con artist” (Marco Rubio’s description) and a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” (Lindsey Graham’s). Mick Mulvaney, then a Republican congressman, had the simplest summary: “He’s a terrible human being.”
But none of these descriptions has proved to be an effective political tactic against Trump. He easily defeated all the other Republican candidates who called him nasty names, and Mulvaney now serves Trump as the acting White House chief of staff...”