The Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker (pay wall) poses a question in his latest Editor at Large column, namely, can Democrats win in 2020 by promising to bring decorum and dignity back to the White House?
While Baker acknowledges the peccadillos and depravities of Bill and Hillary Clinton, he nonetheless argues, that there have been moments in the nation’s history when character has counted. Baker cites the election of Jimmy Carter after the Watergate scandal. He also alludes to George W.Bush’s election as a desire of the country to rid the White House of the stench of the Clinton depravities, their dissembling deceit and a plethora of scandals. Baker asks the question,
“Could character be the Democrats’ trump card in 2020? The economy is strong, jobs are plentiful, the nation is at peace—at least overseas. President Trump is doing some unorthodox but not necessarily ineffective things in foreign policy. His approval ratings are roughly where those of his predecessors were at this stage before they went on to win re-election.”
Baker acknowledges the Democrats current strategy to unseat Trump is ideological warfare and endless congressional investigation. But would they be better off by avoiding all the investigations and talk of impeachment and just run agains his character? Baker believes this might be their most effective strategy,
“But might not a better tack for them simply be to focus on character?Polls and anecdotal evidence suggest that even many of those who support President Trump are tired of his offenses against simple decency. There’s a weariness with the daily verbal journey through the sewers of political rhetoric; the vanity, the incidental connection with truthfulness; and the gathering evidence of the cascading cataracts of cupidity that have coursed through the man’s career.”
Baker’s argument that the issue of Trump’s character might be all the Democrats need to dethrone Trump has a number of serious flaws.
The weakness of this strategy is apparent, as it was a central part of Hillary’s game plan to win the presidency. Trump proved to be deft at turning the issue around and exposing the Democrats and Hillary’s hypocrisy for putting his character in the spotlight, while ignoring Bill Clinton’s sexual assaults, his debauchery while in the Oval Office and Hillary’s mistreatment of his accusers.
In terms of character as an essential attribute for a president, Democrats crossed the Rubicon with the Clinton presidency, in terms of the debasement of the office and the lack of probity, restraint and decorum. Remember the Clinton’s shameless renting out of the Lincoln bedroom? The Bonny and Clyde of American politics despoiled and desecrated the institution of the American presidency, a sordid legacy from which the Democratic Party can never escape.
This fact alone makes it difficult, if not impossible for the Democrats to convince the nation that they can “restore good character to the office.”