Dos and Don’ts for Donald

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Dr. Malcolm Cross

The Democrats have just held their national convention.  President Trump claims it painted a dark and gloomy picture of America today, and that he’ll use the Republicans’ convention, set to open Monday, to present a more sunny and optimistic view of the United States and its future.  We’ll see whether this is the best course of action and whether he can pull it off.  I personally think that if the Republicans want to have a truly effective convention, one that can launch a successful campaign for the President’s re-election, then Trump, Mike Pence, and other participants should take seriously the following suggestions:

Do emphasize policy—what the GOP has done and what the Democrats say they’ll do should Biden be elected.  It’s been noted that the Democratic convention speeches were heavy on discussion of values and character, but light on discussion on policy.  And with good reason.  Democrats want to appeal to a broad spectrum of voters, from Bernie Bros on the left to moderate independents and Republicans right of center.  But they can’t do so successfully if they emphasize specific policy proposals outlined in their platform.  Though the Democrats want to come across as moderate, their actual policy proposals for the most part require higher taxes, more spending, and greater government power to be implemented.  Trump and the GOP should cost out Democratic proposals on taxes, health insurance, student loan forgiveness, and the environment:  Democrats’ ideas tend to become less popular with the voters as the costs are more clearly outlined.

Trump should also emphasize his better policies.  He should remind conservatives of his outstanding record in appointing not only Supreme Court justices but judges to appellate and trial courts as well.  This should strengthen his base and inspire greater voter turnout, as should his promise to restore law and order to cities, mainly Democratic, torn by civil unrest.

And of course there’s Trump’s greatest asset—the economy.  Had the economy not tanked following the onset of the pandemic, he would be sailing to an easy re-election victory now. The fact that it’s in worse shape now and only slowly recovering means his re-election is far less certain as well.  But the public still trusts Trump more than Biden as an economic manager, and a rising stock market and declining unemployment rate may yet put him first over the finish line in November.  

But there are several things Trump and his allies should most definitely not do:

They should not get personal.  Specifically, they should knock off the talk about “Sleepy Joe,” or “Slow Joe,” or whatever.  Each time they question whether Biden is too feeble-minded for the presidency, they make it easier for Biden to show he’s in good mental condition.  Whatever else one might think of his nomination acceptance speech, Biden showed he’s perfectly capable of stringing together enough sentences to articulate coherent thoughts.  The more Trump trashes Biden’s mental acuity, the easier it will be for Biden to exceed low expectations simply by remembering to include both nouns and verbs in his sentences, and to not babble.

Nor should Trump and company question Kamala Harris’s citizenship.  She’s the offspring of a Jamaican economist and an Indian cancer researcher who both came to America on student visas.  But she was born in Oakland, California.  Despite the assertions of a few right wing fringe scholars to the contrary, the general consensus of legal opinion is that by virtue of her birth on American soil, she qualifies as a natural born American citizen under the 14th Amendment.  So no more birtherism.  To question her citizenship and thereby her qualifications for the vice presidency or presidency has no legal basis, is a complete waste of time, risks generating more sympathy for her, and diverts attention from her basic liberalism.

And nobody at the convention should allow within a mile of a microphone right wing nut jobs, especially those affiliated with QAnon.  QAnon is a shadowy group, organized online, claiming that the “Deep State” is controlled by a cabal of Satanists, pedophiles, and cannibals trying to bring down President Trump.  QAnon sympathizers are beginning to win GOP nominations for Congress.  They pose two threats to the GOP—most will lose their elections, thereby adding to Democratic majorities in Congress.  But a few may win, and should they do so they’ll have larger platforms with which to spew out their nonsense, thereby making the GOP look truly bad.  

Since the beginning of the year, the presidential election has gone from Trump’s to lose to Biden’s to win.  But while the polls still show Biden in the lead not only nationwide but in the battleground states, Trump still remains within striking distance.  A successful convention which stresses policy and avoids personal attacks and extremism will increase Trump’s re-election chances.


Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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