As a president, Trump couldn’t be more different, but he faces a similar challenge as he mounts his reelection bid. If Americans are focused on health care, taxes, or climate change, he’s likely to lose. If they’re focused on something controversial but fundamentally unimportant, like, say, the democratic liberties afforded to a single particularly heinous citizen, the president has a fighting chance.
Which is why Democrats need to get better at answering Dukakis questions, and quickly. It’s fine to start by engaging the emotional content. There’s no need to be a robot. After that, however, it’s not just acceptable but necessary to get a little meta. They shouldn’t dodge the question—instead, they should evaluate it. If a candidate doesn’t think something is relevant to the job of being president, he or she should say so.
The adage in politics is “Answer the question you wish you were asked.” But perhaps a better, more intellectually honest approach is this: “Answer the question that really matters.”