To Defeat Trump, We May Need BOTH Serious Policy Critiques AND “Mockery...

To Defeat Trump, We May Need BOTH Serious Policy Critiques AND “Mockery and Ridicule”

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Over at Esquire, Charles Pierce worries that to defeat a “rodeo clown” like Donald Trump, you need to “both razor-sharp and incredibly dexterous,” but that “plodder” Hillary Clinton and her campaign might be neither of those things. Here’s an excerpt.

If this year has proven anything, it’s that any Democrat that gets in the race against He, Trump is going to have to run a campaign that is both razor-sharp and incredibly dexterous. After all, you are running against a walking fiction, a performance piece that has had a longer run than anyone could have anticipated. You’re not running against a human being. If you were, the human being that is He, Trump would have been out of the race before Scott Walker was. Instead, you are running against the idea of Trump, against the walking representation of the desire of many angry white people to hock a loogie at the system and then walk away, high-fiving and bro-hugging their way to glory…

…At the moment, I don’t see the Clinton campaign as being quick enough on its feet to do what it needs to do. (“Dangerous Donald”? Really?) Right now, it can’t put away Bernie Sanders, who is the most predictable candidate ever to stand in two shoes. Running as a serious candidate against a rodeo clown is always going to be a struggle. Running as a potential president against a guy who believes that the country can simply walk away from its financial obligations, and that he can, through his own inherent genius, get Mexico to pay for a wall, requires that you walk a fine line between being serious and appearing pedantic. If she’d ever in her life shown any gift for mockery and ridicule, I’d feel a lot better about HRC as a candidate in this election against this opponent. Sometimes, you just have to throw long.

Which brings me to the point of this post: who Hillary Clinton, the almost-certain Democratic presidential nominee (sorry, Bernie fans, it’s just math!) against Trump, should pick for her running mate. What this gets at is the best approach to defeating Trump: a) deconstruct his policy positions as counterproductive, dangerous, disastrous, etc.; or b) “get down in the mud” with him, trading insult for insult, mocking and ridiculing him, throwing it right back in the bully’s ugly face, etc.

The problem with “a” is that there’s no sign that it’s worked to date. Certainly, Trump’s Republican opponents didn’t have any success by avoiding from the “mud.” And then, when Rubio and Cruz finally DID get down in the “mud” with Trump, that didn’t help them either — to the contrary, it appears to have backfired badly. But that was the Republican primary, which presumably is very different than the general election — or at least we’d all better hope it is, or America is f’ed.

So if Hillary Clinton isn’t “dexterous” or “razor-sharp” enough to pull off “b,” can she win simply via “a” (deconstructing Trump’s policy positions) and pushing her own plans for the country? Or does she need a running mate who can be the “razor-sharp” one on the team? If Clinton decides she needs the latter, I’ve seen only one potential running mate engaging with Trump, blow-for-blow, and seriously kicking butt in the process. That would be Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has basically declared war on Trump, and IMHO is doing a fantastic job of it.

But again, is that the right approach for the Clinton/whoever ticket to use against Trump et al this summer and fall? If “a” is more the way we should be going, then perhaps Clinton needs someone more like Sen. Tim Kaine than Sen. Warren? Recall that in 2012, Kaine never raised “macaca” or George Allen being a racist or whatever, yet Kaine still defeated Allen handily. Of course, we can’t rerun the 2012 election as a controlled, double-blind experiment, so we’ll never know how things would have gone if Kaine HAD gone after Allen in a more “razor-sharp” fashion: would Kaine have lost? won by a larger margin? won by the same margin? And maybe there’s no comparison between the Kaine-Allen race and the pending Clinton-Trump war.

Anyway, I’m kind of torn, as for a variety of reasons I can see either Sen. Kaine or Sen. Warren being an excellent running mate for Clinton. The #1 question in my mind, though, is what will work most effectively to defeat the demagogic, know-nothing, neo-fascistic circus clown Trump: a) deconstructing his disastrous policy prescriptions or b) getting down in the “mud” with him, frequent and effective use of “mockery and ridicule” — and (metaphorical) “razor blades,” if need be? Or do we need some combination of “a” and “b” (and if so, can either Kaine or Warren pull that off effectively?). Bottom line question: who would be the best running mate for Clinton to carry out either (or both) of these strategies? Thoughts?

  • True Blue

    Elizabeth Warren’s popularity most likely matches tRump’s unpopularity, although I haven’t checked actual poll numbers. While she is more pointed about her critiques of him, and President Obama and Secretary Kerry more measured, I welcome her challenge. tRump is no leader, just a tweeter!

    I like this take on the reality show: http://www.loudounprogress.org/2016/05/10/reality-check/

  • Andy Schmookler

    I once thought that a Hillary Clinton/Elizabeth Warren ticket would be pushing too far in breaking the barrier to females on the national ticket. We have never had a woman president, and the two women who ran as VP candidates were on losing tickets. So could we afford to put forward an all-woman ticket in a year where victory is really essential?

    But Elizabeth Warren has been so good at standing toe-to-toe with Trump and coming out not only the winner, but completely unblemished, that I think her excellence on that outweighs that other risk.

    She is not stooping to Trump’s level, like Rubio did with his remarks about the size of Trump’s hands. She is finding effective, important, valid ways of scoring off of Trump in ways that matter. (She also did the same with Cruz, when Cruz put out that letter posing as one who is making big sacrifices to run for president.)

    Moreover, I can just imagine how ugly Trump would get if he gets continually bested and legitimately exposed by a woman.

    This is appropriately the traditional role for the VP candidate. The VP is the attack dog, and meanwhile the (presumptive) presidential candidate (Hillary) can be above that fray and put forward a vision for America (with policies, of course, but the emphasis should be on goals and values, on vision– like with FDR’s “I see an America” speech, indicating the destination toward which she wants to lead the nation).

    Until Elizabeth Warren (with the
    exception of one brief episode with Carly Fiorina), Trump — with his
    insults and provocations — has one every battle that he has provoked. That record has worried me: would the Democrats come up with a David to go out and answer the challenge from the giant Philistine, the gross GOP Goliath?

    Elizabeth Warren has shown herself to be that David.

    For months, I’ve thought that Kaine would be an excellent choice for Hillary, and I still do. But Elizabeth Warren seems to me the one that can deliver what’s most needed to assure victory.

    BTW, however, I note that on predictit.com, the futures markets do not include Warren as one of the two most likely VP choices. Kaine has lately moved up to the number one spot, at 21%.