His message here was the subtext of all of those skeptical CNN and MSNBC soundbites after night one of the debate this past week, as well as the subtext of Obama’s “exasperation” with various candidates’ attacks on his record: Democrats, run to the center. Swing voters are aching with “Trump fatigue,” as Maher calls it. All Dems need to do is seize the opportunity Trump has offered them to frame the election thusly:
Four more years of crazy or a return to normal?
Four more years of Trump laughing at congressmen getting robbed, cooing over Kim Jong Un’s “beautiful vision,” refusing to vet high-level cabinet appointees, and escalating global trade wars — to take four examples from the last 24 hours alone — or four years of a more traditional presidency that’ll steer clear of upheaval for awhile?
Take the lay-up, says Maher.
I’ll play devil’s advocate, though. Let’s say you’re an idealistic young socialist like that tool who just got bounced from AOC’s office. You’re eager to change the world and steer the United States towards a progressive economic model and you’re willing to trigger massive upheaval, starting with Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, to do it. When would be the optimal time for you and your comrades to push hard for a socialist presidential nominee who’ll implement that agenda?
“Not when you’re facing a weak incumbent president who’s ripe for defeat!” some would say. That’s Maher’s point here. If the center is yours for the taking next November, why in hell would you veer radically left?
So you resolve to wait until you’re facing a strong incumbent president who looks like he’s cruising to reelection. But you know what people will say then: “We can’t nominate a radical when there’s no margin for error! We need to win every centrist vote to have a chance against a POTUS this popular!” And if, against all odds, the party nominated a socialist in that environment anyway and he/she went on to lose, socialism itself would be discredited as an unpopular, unelectable ideology — even though a centrist would have been highly likely to lose the election too given the incumbent’s popularity.
In other words, and conveniently for the party establishment, it seems there’s never a good time to nominate a radical. Of the two scenarios I’ve laid out, though, the current environment seems like the better option, no? It *may* be that Trump fatigue next year will be so profound that even a radical will stand a chance of getting elected. In fact, that’s sort of what happened for the right in 2016: Trump was a “radical” by the standards of Paul Ryan Republicanism and polled terribly throughout the election in terms of basic favorability, but he was blessed with an opponent who was also horribly unpopular whose surname may have triggered a “fatigue” effect of its own. The GOP rolled the dice on an out-of-the-box candidate — and the country preferred him, the devil they didn’t know, to the one they did. Who can blame the DSA crowd for absorbing that lesson and believing it can be replicated at Trump’s expense this time?
Anyway, I think the far-lefties in the field (minus Bernie) have taken the hint and will be easing off the gas pedal a bit going forward. If not, they’re primed to be usurped by a charismatic centrist, someone whose moderation on policy is paired with a personal killer instinct, who has all the time one could possibly want to invest in a campaign. I know just the guy.
All the Democrats have to do to win is to come off less crazy than Trump, and of course, they’re blowing it. pic.twitter.com/k4Io3Ig73C
— Bill Maher (@billmaher) August 3, 2019