Beware Democrats, the Hunger Games Are Coming

Dana Milbank has an op-ed in The Washington Post that could well serve as both a bumper sticker and epitaph for the Trump presidency. It’s titled, aptly enough, “Tomorrow will be worse.”

Whenever you are asked to name the lowest moment of the Trump presidency, one answer is almost always correct: Tomorrow. As the nation ricochets between chaos and calamity, the one reliable constant is the near certainty that things will get worse.

It’s time to admit a painful reality. There is no bottom with this president. There never was and there never will be. No amount of racism is enough, no amount of corruption is too excessive. The country is reeling from the effects of a global pandemic that his own inaction and incompetence exacerbated. But rather than pull back and admit he made a mistake, he doubles down by demanding schools open fully. He could care less how many people get sick and/or die. His lack of empathy is surpassed only by his depravity.

When he doesn’t get his way, he threatens; when the facts are against him, he attacks the facts and the fact finders. For those who curry favor with him, he rewards with pardons or commutations; for those who don’t, he destroys. Cult leaders could learn a thing or two from Trump on how to manipulate people. He’s got over a third of the country believing that wearing a simple piece of cloth barely the weight of an ounce across their face amounts to tyranny.

But as bad as it is now, people, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Trump’s transmission is still in third gear. He still has two gears left and the next three to five months will be one for the history books. To put it in perspective, remember the migrant caravan attack ads from the 2018 midterms? That was only Trump’s second gear. Those ads didn’t work because, well, a majority of Americans knew that those caravans were hundreds of miles from the southern border and posed no real threat to the country. Yet that didn’t stop Trump from running that sewer mouth of his. Just wait until you see what Trump has in store for his fourth and fifth gears.

Remember, we’re dealing with someone who is a world-class narcissist and a high-functioning sociopath, according to his niece, Mary, whose new tell-all book is due to hit the shelves tomorrow. He has no shame, no moral compass, no sense of right and wrong, and no one to keep him in check, except the courts, and even they only do it sporadically. The adults in the room – if there were any in the first place – are all gone. Either he fired them or they just outright quit. He’s gotten rid of most of the Inspector Generals who might’ve been able to at least forestall him, his attorney general is nothing more than the second coming of Tom Hagen, and the entire Republican party, sans Mitt Romney, basically enables him. Do not be fooled. Just because some of them have enough common sense to not attend his petri dish of a convention next month in Jacksonville doesn’t mean they’re not in cahoots with him. Like Johan Faust before them, the bargain they made is iron-clad and non-negotiable.

There is one thing that Trump excels at above all else, and it has absolutely nothing to do with performing the duties for which he was elected. He is an expert manipulator. As I mentioned above, he’s managed to convince his supporters that everything they’ve been told by the main-stream media is a lie designed only to bring him down. I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life. Millions of people trapped in an alternative reality where up is down and down is up. Gene Roddenberry, on his best day, couldn’t have written such a scenario, although Mirror, Mirror came pretty damn close.

That’s why it’s crucial that Democrats in general, and the Biden campaign in particular, not get caught up in the coming Hunger Games that Trump will undoubtedly unleash on the country. What do I mean by that? Simple, they can’t get distracted. 

For more than four years now, Trump has been throwing as much shit as he can at the blackboard, hoping some of it will stick. Sadly, a lot of it has. His Republican primary opponents made the mistake of thinking they could go toe to toe with him. They were wrong. Hillary Clinton believed she could go toe to toe with him. She was wrong. The man lives in the gutter; sinking to his level only makes his job easier. And his job is to level the playing field. That’s how he wins.

It’s the job of the Biden camp to ignore the blackboard. That’s right, ignore it. To borrow a line from the movie Poltergeist, “Don’t go into the light.” That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t refute outright lies; we all know what happened to John Kerry when he didn’t speak out quickly enough against the Swift-boat attack ads. But there’s a difference between defending yourself and playing on your opponent’s turf. 

Trump doesn’t want this election to be a referendum on him, so he will move heaven and earth to make it about “the radical left,” “Hunter Biden,” “the Russia hoax,” anything and everything that can deflect away from his own gross incompetence. And like any politically wounded animal fighting for its life, Trump will throw the kitchen sink at Biden. Before he’s through, Trump will have his staunchest supporters believing Biden is a cross between Stalin and Hitler.

The good news is that the majority of the population won’t believe a word Trump says. That’s the problem with being a compulsive liar. It catches up with you eventually. After a while, only the most gullible sycophants are still drinking the Kool Aid. The bad news is that that won’t keep Trump from trying. That’s where the fourth and fifth gears come in and where Biden’s discipline will be put to the test.

Of all the things that worry me most about Biden, it’s his tendency to veer off into tangents which have absolutely nothing to do with what he’s trying to say that keep me up nights. It plagued him during the primaries, and it’s plagued him all throughout his political life. Put succinctly, he’s the epitome of the dog who, while in the middle of a walk, eyes a squirrel and takes off after it. My fear is that during one of the debates, Biden won’t be able to resist the urge to chase after one of Trump’s squirrels, and he’ll get bogged down in some ridiculous minutia that allows Trump to portray him as confused. And the media, which has an even bigger problem chasing squirrels, will spend the next few days talking about Biden’s “confusion” rather than Trump’s deflection.

That’s why it is vital that Biden stay focused and disciplined over the next three and a half months. He and his party need to stay on message and keep it simple. No distractions, no getting caught in the weeds. Make this election about Trump. Period. If they’re successful, Biden will be the next president and Democrats will likely control both Houses of Congress. If they’re not, Trump and the GOP will get to finish the hit job they started on America four years ago.

So how does Biden keep it simple? The same way Democrats did it in the 2018 midterms. By talking about the issues that voters care most about. In 2018, that was healthcare. Guess what. It’s still healthcare. Just last month, the Trump Administration petitioned the Supreme Court to undo the Affordable Care Act. A decision is expected in the next term, most likely right before the election. If Trump prevails, millions of people will lose their healthcare insurance, and millions more will not be covered from illness due to pre-existing conditions. The Biden camp should be all over this like white on rice in every campaign ad it runs between now and November.

It’s nice that Democrats are applauding the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the Manhattan DA to see Trump’s tax returns, but a real kitchen table issue that will negatively impact almost half the country is flying so low under the radar it’s practically getting carpet burns. This is inexcusable and it must stop now. It is imperative that the DNC and the Biden campaign coordinate their efforts to target Trump where he is most vulnerable. Stop obsessing about Roger Stone’s commutation or Mary Trump’s book. Neither will help come November. At this point, virtually everyone not in a coma knows who and what Trump is. I doubt if the total “undecided” vote comes to more than 2 or 3 percent of the electorate. Seriously, if you need to read one more book about how screwed up Trump is in order to make up your mind about who to vote for, you probably weren’t going to vote for Biden anyway.

And you can also stop obsessing about all those “Never Trump” Republicans who voted for him in 2016 and who are now supposedly on board with Biden. Ask Hillary Clinton how chasing that rabbit down a rabbit hole turned out four years ago. Mark my words, by election day there won’t be enough of these voters to fill a Starbucks in mid-January. You can be as impressed as hell with the quality of the Lincoln Project ads all you like – and for the record, they’re quite good. The fact is the target market for those ads will be pulling the lever for the candidate with an R next to their name come election day. That’s how this works, people. The R’s stay with the R’s, the D’s with the D’s. It’s up to Biden and his party to ensure that they get as many D’s to show up as possible.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. This is going to be a turnout election. Trump knows that. That’s why he’s going to put the transmission into overdrive in a last-ditched effort to get his base motivated to vote for him on November 3. The more red meat he serves up, the more motivated they become. It’s sick, I know, but at this point, it’s his only chance of winning.

That he’s willing to risk the lives of students, teachers and even his own supporters to do so, shows just how desperate he really is.

Author: Peter Fegan

Progressive but pragmatic. Lover of music, die-hard Giants' fan and reluctant Mets' fan. My favorite motto? I'd rather be ruled by a smart Turk than a dumb Christian.

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