So here it is, convention week. Yes, it will be weird, without the crowds and the applause. But we’ve gotten used to a lot of weird things, and we’ll get used to this. There are many more important things about this convention to discuss than its virtual-ness.
We have 80 days to go until Donald Trump and his propaganda network try to steal the election. There are no ifs here. If it looks like he’s losing—and it does—he’ll cheat.
So Joe Biden and the Democrats need to spend 80 days saying two things relentlessly: one, warning the American people about his electoral intentions; and two, warning them that if Trump gets a second term, his assault on democracy will just get worse.
Oh, and I guess a third thing, the normal thing of saying his policies are bad and ours are good. But that normal politics, to which Democrats have a tendency to revert, isn’t nearly enough right now. We are right on the edge of becoming an authoritarian semi-democracy. We’re probably that already.
We’re the frog, and that water is getting hotter every week. So here, in no particular order, are the seven things I want hear Joe Biden and other speakers say:
1. Catalogue Trump’s lies. Don’t assume people know all this. Remind them. Show clips of him telling obvious whoppers on a number of topics, from the important things like the wall and the border to stupid things like the Sharpie-Hurricane Dorian fiasco.
2. Be merciless about his coronavirus response. Tens of thousands of people are dead because of his incompetence and denialism. There was a study showing that lockdown delays cost at least 36,000 lives. And that was back in May. It’s surely higher now. Show and show and show those clips, like they do on Morning Joe, boom-boom-boom, of Trump saying it’s under control, it’s one guy from China, it’s 11 people, it’s 15 people and will soon be zero, it’ll go away like a miracle, it’ll go away when the weather warms up, and maybe most famously of all, “it is what it is.”
3. Talk and talk and talk about the post office. Connect the dots. Make it crystal clear to people what Trump is doing here and why. Explain who Louis DeJoy is and where he comes from. Emphasize that he’s given more than a million dollars to the Trump Victory Fund. Name and shame the USPS board of directors, who have the legal power to fire DeJoy but won’t—they are six older men, five of them white, all appointed by Trump. Promise to haul them, and DeJoy, up before Congress. And say that if they don’t show, they’ll be arrested. Yes, arrested.
4. Talk and talk and talk about Bill Barr. Make damn sure that everyone watching the convention will know the name John Durham by the time the week is done and will know what he’s up to. They desperately need to pre-spin what they think Durham might do between now and Election Day in order to diminish his credibility. Re Barr, they should definitely talk about impeaching him. There’s no risk here. Barr is not popular. Most people see him for the hack he is. This is exactly the kind of matter on which the Democrats’ instincts, and Nancy Pelosi’s in particular, are way too cautious. Yes, the right will explode if they talk about impeaching Barr. So what? He is a dangerous man. Make sure America knows.
5. On policy, beat the living shit out of him on this recent payroll tax elimination proposal. I can’t believe Trump said this. He’s such an idiot. Gambling with Social Security three months before an election! It’s going to be funded out of general revenue, and it’s going to be fine he says because growth is going to be the greatest thing you’ve ever seen. Right. Remember in 2016 when Trump was promising 4, 5, 6 percent growth? Well, it hasn’t even hit 3 percent for any of the years he’s been president. It’s usually been around 2 percent—which, by the way, is generally worse than Obama’s second term. Run nonstop ads about this on Law & Order reruns and all the other shows that old people watch.
6. And speaking of economics, yes, as I wrote back in June, for the last half-century, by a number of metrics, the economy has performed far better under Democrats than Republicans. They need to say that and say it and say it every night at the convention and every day until Election Day. Dear God, I wish I knew how to make TV commercials and had a few hundred million of other people’s dollars to spend. I’d make an ad that would crush Republican economic arguments.
7. Tell people, in a sober and non-sensationalistic way, about what Trump will likely do in a second term. This starts with the Supreme Court, where it’s very possible that he’d get two more appointments in the next four years, and explain the consequences: Obamacare will die, Roe will be overturned, and we’ll soon have an executive branch that won’t be able to enforce the Clean Air Act or any law passed by Congress (this is a prize right-wingers have had their eye on for a long time; it’s called non-delegation and it’s not too hard to explain).
But the Supreme Court is a partisan concern. A lot of other things Trump will do go beyond partisanship. Will he try to find a way to seek a third term? Eliminate elections altogether? Shut down newspapers or otherwise silence critics? Use the Justice Department and the FBI as tools to go after his perceived enemies? He’s capable of all of these things, and more. Obviously, this list could be much longer, but that’s enough for now. The point is that Democrats need to spend these next 80 days behaving as if democracy itself is on the ballot, because it is.
I was reading a Times article Sunday morning about the mess in Belarus. Trump wants to be like that guy, Lukashenko, who has made himself president for life.
After what was obviously a fraudulent election two weeks ago, even workers at state-owned plants are now striking. One was quoted as saying: “People refuse to have this president. He is illegitimate.” As I read those words, I thought to myself: I’ve read hundreds of news stories like this in my life. But this is the first time I’ve read one and thought: Dear God, this could be us in three months.
Democrats, you have to save the country.