The Democratic Party in this coming election seems to be set on a campaign strategy of "no Trump", implying that whatever kind of alternative the Democratic Party offers, it will be better than four more years of Trump. They continue to provide arguments and compile evidence and statistics to show how destructive the Trump presidency has been over the last four years and how some of his most destructive policies and plans will be changed when the Democrats win. However, there is little momentum or passion connected with those words and statistics, as though everyone will simply see that anything is better than four more years of Trump.
What the Democratic presidential campaign does not emphasize is any clear vision about what new direction the nation will have to take, not only to deal with future pandemics, but also to deal with the looming effects of climate change. Much of this is about the unwillingness to question the assumptions of the extreme fundamentalist economic theories which have come to dominate the US and the entire planet, making wealth the means of determining worth and any hope of access to the necessities of life. The resulting monetizing of life and its resources has led to huge income inequalities as well as the undermining of the structure of democracy. That economic ideology has destroyed the foundations of social justice and the basic human services needed to deal with climate disasters and health challenges.
One might think about this strategy as being like a no-trump strategy in bridge, the card game. First is the continuing desire to see the entire electoral process as an old-politics game, easily forgetting the human toll of the potential outcomes. But, back to bridge, the no-trump is about not holding enough cards in any one suit to be able to win and since you hold high cards in several suits, you think you can take enough tricks to win without having just one winning suit. In other words, you do not declare yourself with any one suit. That means that all suits are of equal value for that hand.
If we might translate that into politics and we see the suits as representing different political positions, the red hearts and diamonds are the more human and liberal grassroots, side of politics. The black clubs and spades are the more conservative, top-down, more authority-based side of politics.
If you follow a no-trump strategy you try to meld the two sides together, offering some of each so you can operate in any of the suits, offering something to everyone. In other words, you do not actually have to commit to any one direction. The problem is that your commitment ends up being rather amorphous and simply taking enough tricks is the goal.
Back to politics now. An "anyone but Trump" approach does not inspire much passion for any major change and suggests that simply going back to the old normal of the Obama years will be enough to deal with the new realities and the extreme challenges we now face. Trump can always induce passion by playing to the frustrations and fears that exists within the society and by insisting that the old ways are tired and outmoded and not up to the challenges of the new realities.
The gamble is that is there will be enough anti-Trump sentiment to carry the no-trump bid and that even those who support the darker suits will see the wisdom of defeating Trump, while those on the progressive side will not get too distracted by the lack of enthusiasm for the changes and the social transformation necessary to create a sustainable human future.
Do the Democrats hold enough of the right cards? If the old politics formula is still true, that money is the determining factor in elections, then the Democrats may do just fine. However, no one knows what strings are attached to that money. The other old measure is about the coverage by the mainstream media, which seems to be quite extensive. Will the voting public see those two cards of money and media as being enough to convince them to go back to the old ways of a kinder and gentler future with no major shifts except some moderate changes in approach?
I remain skeptical. This is too much like the Democratic Party in 2016 with their overconfident support of Hillary Clinton (see "Saving Democracy: The 2016 Presidential Election"). Trying to be all things to all people and not to rock the economic boat does not engage too many hearts and minds. I believe it would be a mistake to underestimate the ability of the Trump faction to create enough momentum for his reelection if the Democrats do not provide a clear and compelling alternative vision and pathway back to a sustainable democracy.
What is missing is a powerful vision for a sustainable future that will capture the hearts and minds of the citizenry. Where is the bold new vision that will inspire us to transform our society in time to meet the existential challenges with which we are now confronted. Even if their gamble pays off, where does that leave us for a vision of a vibrant and viable future?
The simple "no-trump" gamble may not be the best tactic for these times.