To beat Trump in 2020, Democrats will need to get down and dirty

For those crucial defecting Democratic voters (about a third of Obama-voting counties flipped for Trump in 2016), there are already signs that the “change” candidate they saw in Trump has not delivered. This cohort will be even more susceptible to being won back by a Democratic party pitching in a positive, explicitly inclusive way, rather than fixating on Trump’s failures. Inspiring emotion is often more effective than delivering information. When the New York Times canvassed voters in Ohio, the big takeaway was: “Several voters said they chose Mr Trump for the same reason they chose Mr Obama: a deep craving for change.”

The evidence this approach works is Trump himself, a man who has nothing to offer but a coherent vision of the future. In a recent interview Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez said: “Whether you like it or whether you hate it, a wall is a vision, it’s a tangible vision that is symbolic and representative and galvanising. And if we do not have an ambitious, inspiring, galvanising vision, I think we risk losing even more.”

To prepare for 2020 the Democrats must hold their noses and wade into the immigration and race melee. They must do it with conviction, consistency and emotional resonance, rather than with a sort of competent, managerial presence that frowns upon engaging with Trump on his own terms as unruly. Being reactive and “fact-checking” Trump can only get us so far. The fight must be both dirty and inspiring. It needs to get to a point where a Democratic presidential candidate can say: “The longer Trump and the Republicans talk about identity politics, I got ’em.”

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