Striking in the assault on Trump by the Democrats this week has been the degree to which policy differences have been subjugated to a more apocalyptic framing of the choice in November, a raise-the-stakes strategy that goes beyond what Hillary Clinton did in her unsuccessful campaign of 2016. Clinton argued then that Trump was not fit to be president, a charge that a majority of voters agreed with at the time but that nonetheless did not prevent some of them from voting for him and helping him win the election…
What Democrats have set up during their convention is not a debate over the direction of the country, in the classic ways in which parties have argued their cases in the past. It’s not been an argument about health care or the level of taxation or how to engage with the rest of the world — though those issues have certainly been mentioned.
Wednesday’s program included a focus on big issues that so far have defied solutions by politicians: gun violence, climate change, immigration, whom the economy works for and whom it doesn’t. But instead of a debate about the direction of the country, Democrats want to make this a choice about the very future and essence of America.
The bet the Democrats are making is that this will be a character election, not one that hinges on the particulars of this policy or that. They are betting that warnings and denunciations that ultimately didn’t persuade in 2016 will do so now that Trump has been in office for four years.