“Every Democrat rightly has 2016 PTSD,” Lis Smith, a communications strategist who has advised Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Cuomo, told me. “But right now? You can’t imagine normal suburban people voting for Trump anymore. He has really, really alienated everyone but the MAGA true believers.”
Additionally, 2016 is a possibly irrelevant point of reference, for reasons that become clearer all the time. I wouldn’t be entirely shocked if Biden stages a rout in November — or at least as much of a rout as this era of hyperpartisanship permits — and the commentary afterward casts Trump’s reign not as some profound wake-up call but as a freak accident made possible by a perfect storm of circumstances.
In fact that commentary has started. In The Washington Post last week, Matt Bai astutely observed that even as Trump won the presidency, most Americans rejected the core tenets of his campaign and viewed him darkly. His margin of victory “came from reluctant voters who almost certainly thought they were voting for the losing candidate, and who felt confident he’d make a terrible president,” Bai wrote.
“It was mostly about the intense emotions triggered by his opponent,” he added, referring to Hillary Clinton.