Don’t Expect Your Campaign Case to Make Itself For You

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I spent most of the day under the hot sun of Jamaica Bay, close against the runways of Kennedy airport, sight fishing for Bluefish with my younger son. Most of the action was at the beginning of the day. But that was enough to make it worthwhile. The secondary result was that I haven’t caught a lot of news today. What I have caught is a flood of surprise and disgust that Democrats seem at best uncertain about whether to make Trump now being a convicted felon central to their campaign. We don’t know just how the messaging will shake out. Ideally there would be a Democratic chorus that the President himself can stay partly or mostly aloof from. In a moment like this I also cannot forget the example of 2022 in which I along with many others begged and screamed for Democrats to give the Dobbs backlash an operative, concrete focus by organizing a pledge to pass a Roe law with a filibuster exception. In the event, voters took the lead on their own after elected officials did not. (Don’t rule out the possibility that that will happen here.) And I actually see a lot of Democrats hitting him on this again and again. Indeed, the Biden campaign itself put out a statement roundly attacking him on it. But we don’t have the time to wait for things to shake out or see how they develop. The stakes are too high. If it ends up they’re just getting started on lowering the boom there won’t be any harm having also told them to lower it faster.

It is simply absurd to imagine that an opposing candidate being a convicted felon wouldn’t play a central part of a campaign against him. Too absurd to debate or contemplate.

Take the “rigged” nonsense and turn it back on Trump to make it central to the campaign against him. The 2016 election (before he surprised himself by winning); the 2020 election; the court case that found him liable for raping a woman and then repeatedly lying about it; the court case that found his company had committed serial fraud for decades; all the felony cases against this top lieutenants; his new conviction on 34 felony counts — every one “rigged.”

The central point that ties everything together: Donald Trump doesn’t have a single idea or policy to help anyone live a better, safer, more prosperous or freer life. Every last part of his agenda is revenge against people he’s mad at, taking revenge on people because he’s mad at facing the consequences of his own actions. Every rake Donald Trump steps on was, he tells us, rigged again.

Sometimes — actually most of the time — the big obstacle to effective communication is not boiling down and simply saying what it is you mean. You try to be too clever, to pull your punches to calibrate some imagined balance. Donald Trump is a liar, a cheat and a fraud who doesn’t care a wit about you, or anyone else but himself. He’s a convicted felon. Every time he faces consequences for his own actions he claims it’s someone else’s fault. Whenever he loses, the process is rigged against him. We all know that person. And we all know we can’t trust that person.

Not complicated.

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