Opinion - Politics

Democrats need to accept these 3 truths to beat Trump in 2020

Key Points
  • Now that we're just a few weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and the real start to the 2020 voting process, there are still three basic facts the Democrats need to accept if they hope to have any chance to win the White House.
President Donald Trump looks on during a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Leah Millis | Reuters

Now that we're just a few weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and the real start to the 2020 voting process, there are still three basic facts the Democrats need to accept if they hope to have any chance to win the White House.

If you are a Democrat reading this, I warn you that this isn't going to be easy. But no pain, no gain. So here goes:

Trump didn't steal the 2016 election

Let's start with what is still the toughest pill to swallow for Democrats: Trump won the White House fair and square.

The two-plus years of laser focus and high hopes connected to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation were the clearest examples that all too many Democrats believe the only reason Donald Trump is president is because the Russians somehow helped him cheat. Even the release of the Mueller Report showing no direct evidence of that hasn't stopped this narrative from continuing to be promoted regularly.

But let's face it, this is a very good way for the Democrats to lose to Trump again in 2020. Just like in sports, the worst way to overcome a loss in politics is to go around believing you didn't "really" lose and no real improvements or changes need to be made by your team to win next time.

Now just imagine if the Democrats spent as much time and effort on winning back the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin as they have been in pursuing the Russia collusion obsession and the impeachment process. If the latest polls in those states tell us anything, those other efforts have only made things worse for the anti-Trump forces. It's time to cut bait on the stolen election illusion.

The economy is doing well, even for the little guy

Whether they deserve it or not, Democrats have consistently been viewed by most American voters as the party that is more concerned with the poor and lower middle-income earners in this country. In many ways, that's been a golden ticket to victory for Democrats in almost every major election. They only seem to mess it up when a Democratic administration presides over a worsening economy, (like under Jimmy Carter in 1980), or when Democratic candidates latch on to non-economic themes like social issues or foreign policy.

The problem for Democrats now is not only the fact that the overall economy and Wall Street are strong, but even Americans further down the income scale are now experiencing record wage gains. In fact, new data shows that the labor market has become so tight that rank-and-file workers are now getting bigger percentage raises than the bosses and top management.

But all is not lost for Democrats when it comes to economics, thanks to the sticky issue of health care. As health care insurance costs continue to rise, voters from both parties are still ranking health care very high on their list of top concerns going into 2020.

Some of the Democratic presidential candidates have made 'Medicare for All' a key part of their campaign promises. But compare that to the way then-candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton actively paraded their health coverage plans around in 2008, and you can see how no Democrat has really mined this issue properly this time around.

This issue is simply not going away, and any Democrat willing to offer an attention-grabbing new idea on lowering insurance costs stands to gain substantially in the polls. Of course, that opportunity is also still available for President Trump. So the Democrats don't have any time to waste.

Stop denigrating the voters

Even mediocre students of American history should know that politics in this country have always been nasty. If you don't believe that, do a little reading about the election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

But the nastiness has really only been effective when it's directed at opposing candidates or parties. One of the rules just about every major American politician has followed is to never actually go after the opposing candidate's or party's voters. It's an important distinction.

More and more these days, that rule is being broken and it's mostly being broken by Democrats. The most egregious example from 2016 was Hillary Clinton's description of Trump voters as a "basket of deplorables," a term those Trump supporters have since taken on as a badge of honor.

But in another example of not learning from 2016's mistakes, we're still seeing 2020 Democrats and their supporters following this line. That includes the Democrat with perhaps the best "nice guy" persona, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who recently said Trump voters are "at best, looking the other way on racism" when asked by a cable news host if casting a vote for Trump could be considered a "racist act."  

So far, Buttigieg's comments are the most egregious slam on Trump voters from an actual candidate. But prominent liberals and Never Trumpers are increasing their attacks lately. Filmmaker Michael Moore said this week that since two out of three white men voted for Trump in 2016, that means two out of three white men in America are "not good people," and "you should be afraid of them." Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather said last month that Trump voters are part of a "cult," a comment that major news media outlets including CNN echoed days later. Never Trumper Republican Jennifer Rubin has recently been pushing the line that Trump voters are poorly educated.

If the DNC has any power to put a lid on these kinds of comments from Democratic candidates and their supporters, it needs to exert that power right now. The "we think you're stupid and we hate and fear you… now vote for us" line has never worked because there's no way it can.

The above three points may seem very simple and logical, but anyone who has been watching the Democrats since 2016 knows that this is kind of like an intervention for a stubborn drug addict. Each of the above truths is something many Democrats have been fiercely fighting against for some time.

The irony is, they need to give up that fight to win the contest that should be much more important to them overall.

Jake Novak is a political and economic analyst at Jake Novak News and former CNBC TV producer. You can follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.