Voters have two things to consider in choosing a nominee to take on Trump: Who is best suited to take on a bully and liar in public, on social media, and on the debate stage? And how to craft a simple message strong enough to neutralize Trump’s use of race and immigration as a bogeyman capable of scaring his base? That message is Russia – a foreign adversary that Trump has made a friend.
A canon of literature exists on how to deal with liars. It unequivocally counsels refuting lies promptly with facts and not necessarily being polite about it. Trump’s lies are predictable. He also makes things up to suit the moment, regardless of the facts. The Democratic candidate has to have the skills to master the rebuttals to his lies, and be able to rapidly, both in person and on social media, respond to them.
In the recently concluded Democratic debates there were barely two references to Russia, and no emphasis on its ongoing attacks on our electoral process. Cory Booker and Bill De Blasio mentioned Russia once. Julián Castro made a reference to “Moscow Mitch”, alluding to Mitch McConnell’s refusal to bring legislation countering Russia’s attacks to the floor of the Senate. This lack of focus on Russia was a huge mistake.
That Russia is an enemy that attacked U.S. democracy by manipulating election messages is a reality reinforced by Robert Mueller’s recent testimony before Congress, FBI Director Christopher Wray and the bipartisan Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee. More importantly, it’s a theme Democrats should use to defeat Trump. Repeating Russia’s cyber-aggression as frequently as Trump says “no collusion” should awaken the American patriotism ingrained in the American psyche. It is capable of galvanizing those swing voters in the battleground states needed to win the Electoral College — Florida, Michigan Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. These voters are patriotic. They will respond to protecting America.
“Nuclear preparedness,” because of the Soviet Russian threat, became a way of life in the 1950s. Communities installed air-raid sirens. Ordinary folks built and stocked bomb shelters in their backyards. And, we oldsters can remember practicing duck-and-cover drills in school and hiding under our desks while covering our heads with our hands (as if that would have worked). Then in the ’60s we lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, literally watching the nuclear showdown on television.
Russia, because of how Americans have internalized the threat, is Donald Trump’s Achilles Heel. It should become a prominent, if not the, Democratic campaign issue in 2020. Despite the facts and warnings, Trump persists in violating his oath of office to protect us from Russia’s attacks on our electoral process. He does this because he believes it will once again assist him in being elected President of the United States. However, his behavior reinforced our fear of Russia as we watched him play into Putin’s hands at both Helsinki and the G20. In Helsinki he sided with Putin over our intelligence agencies and at the G20 he joked with Putin about “not attacking” our 2020 election. This is the same regime that poisons its opponents — how does that sit with the collective American psyche?
Trump’s attacks on African-American politicians (Elijah Cummings and Reverend Al Sharpton) and young women politicians of color (Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, et al.) are part of his propaganda campaign to win the Electoral College in 2020. His failure to protect us from Russia, while not propaganda, is the equivalent of his bogeyman approach to campaigning.
It has become clear that we are now in a fight for survival of the American way of life as we knew it pre-Trump. You can’t fight his kind of vitriol with politeness or policy proposals. He has to be exposed as a liar, and “we” need to begin promoting a simple reason for not re-electing him — the Russian attacks. As some commentators have begun saying: “You can’t bring a knife to a gunfight.”