Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was so tumultuous that nobody expected him to be competitive with Hillary Clinton, much less beat her. Yet at the end of the day, Trump was triumphant.
Where did the Democrats’ strategy go wrong?
From the beginning, the Democrats’ priority was to condemn Trump’s rhetoric. They criticized his statements about nearly every minority group: the disabled, Latinos, women, Muslims, refugees- the list goes on.
However, the fact that Trump’s supporters stuck with him after tapes of him bragging about sexual assault should have been a warning bell: Character attacks weren’t going to work. Blatant misogyny wasn’t enough to discredit Trump’s presidential campaign; voters were evidently voting on policy, not character. The Democrats should have taken this as a cue to focus their criticisms on Trump’s policies- but they didn’t.
As a result, nowhere near enough time was spent attacking Trump’s utter incompetency when it came to almost every issue. Trump opposes all regulations to protect the environment and slow climate change, which could have devastating consequences. His plan to defeat ISIS is barely articulated, and what little he said was contradictory; somehow, he claims to be non-interventionist whilst simultaneously wanting to “bomb the sh** out of ISIS.” His tax cuts for the wealthy could increase the federal debt $5.3 trillion, substantially more than Clinton’s would.
Most concerning is what Trump’s volatile temperament means for international relations. By the time he leaves the White House, Trump will have offhandedly insulted close to every country in the world, including China, Mexico and North Korea. U.S. relations abroad will worsen, if not be pushed to the brink of war. (At least our relations with Russia are looking up.)
Additionally, the Democrats hurt themselves by playing the minority card one too many times. For example, look at one of Trump’s most notorious policies: building the wall. Instead of explaining why such a policy would be an inefficient waste of money, Democrats simply labeled it “racist.” But a wall isn’t inherently racist; there is a nuanced debate to be had as to whether or not immigrants across the Southern border contribute to the U.S. economy. Democrats constantly pulling the race card frustrated conservatives who felt like their serious policy proposals were being ignored.
In any other election, Trump would have suffered a humiliating loss. Unfortunately, the Democrats’ focus on character attacks and overuse of the race card helped propel him to victory.