I can’t remember a time where the news cycle is so fluid that you can’t even keep up with it. The media is undoubtedly earning their stripes in the era of Trump. When one scandal erupts over here, another one erupts over there. I go on Twitter for 10 minutes, and multiple stories are breaking all at once.
Is this what we signed up for? Sadly, yes, it is. According to Pew Research, Americans are one of the least active voting populations among developed countries, ranking 26 out of 32 countries in voter turnout. Belgium, for example, saw over 87 percent of voters turn out it 2014. Compare that to the approximately 56 percent who turned out in the 2016 American election, and it’s tough not to conclude that there’s a sizable portion of our population who are not engaged in our democracy.
And in 2016, that disengagement hurt the Democrats. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton did not excite the base of the party that needed to be excited. While Hillary still beat Trump with over 88 percent of the African-American vote, the actual participation rate went down from 65 and 66 percent in 2012 and 2016, respectively. And it hurt her, especially in the critical battleground states.
We can’t put all the blame on African-Americans, however. We know there was voter suppression in many states. Poll hours decreased, voters removed from rolls, and strict voter ID laws were in place. All of these things certainly contributed. It’s why Democrats must nominate the right candidate to motivate not just African-Americans and Hispanics, but also the 18-24 year-olds who traditionally do not turn out in large enough numbers.
And let’s also not forget the massive Russian disinformation campaign that targeted so many groups in 2016. We may never know the real effect of foreign interference in that election. It was substantial, for sure.
So, when you account for all that went wrong in 2016, there can only be one solution: overwhelming turnout. And how do we get there? It can’t just be a “we all hate Trump” campaign. It’s going to take the right candidate to provoke the kind of civic engagement we’ll need to win in 2020.
Because if America doesn’t do better in 2020, we easily could see another four years of Donald Trump. And frankly, our democracy cannot take another four years of Trump because we’re already teetering on the edge of the abyss. Are Americans paying attention?
I want to think they are. Recent polling indicates that support for the impeachment inquiry now underway in the House, has risen since news broke of the President’s “perfect” phone call with the Ukrainian President. And the percentage of Americans saying Trump should leave office is rising as well. Even the most recent Fox News poll echoes these numbers–much to the President’s chagrin, of course.
But, we must also remember that Trump may survive all of this. It’s almost a certainty that the House will impeach him, but the subsequent trial in the Senate looks tenuous at best. As of now, if every member of the Democratic caucus votes to convict him, we’d need 20 Republican Senators to have a “come to Jesus” moment. Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? Hell no.
So let’s all agree that he has an excellent chance to survive. And if he does, the American people will come to the rescue, or they will not. We know the formula: great candidate + motivated electorate = Victory. If we don’t follow the roadmap? We’ll get what we deserve–again.
One of Barack Obama’s most famous quotes from his campaign days occurred when he’d say something about his opponent, and the audience would subsequently boo. Obama’s simple reply always has stuck with me: “Don’t boo, vote!” It rang true then–it still rings true today.