You know Paul Rudnick from his work on movies like Addams Family Values, The First Wives Club, In & Out, and the screen version of his play Jeffrey. He’s written many other things, all of them funny and smart but I’ve been following his posts on Facebook lately and his astute observations have turned to politics and who can beat Trump (provided he’s still in office) in 2020.
“I keep wondering about who the Democrats could possibly come up with, to defeat Trump. Despite his near-total corruption and incompetence, he may remain difficult to impeach or otherwise eradicate. His ever-loyal followers expect nothing, so they’re gleeful. Peter Hessler wrote a terrific piece in this week’s New Yorker, in which he interviews an array of stalwart Trump campaigners, including one guy who says,
‘The more they hate him, the more I want him to succeed. Because what they hate about him is what they hate about me.’
This gale-force spite will be very hard to combat. A Democrat can’t win on the issues, on Trump’s failure to keep a single promise, or on the lawlessness of Trump and his cronies. None of that will ever matter. Trump’s failures are his followers’ inspiration. When that guy talks about Trump succeeding, he’s not talking about job creation or infrastructure or defeating ISIS; Trump’s success is purely a matter of enraging liberals.
A new Obama or Hillary are probably not the answer. They both valued curiosity, intelligence and talent, all of which the Trump fans found intimidating and which they spurn as elitist snobbery. When polled, a sizable group of Republicans now insist that college is harmful.
Bernie was never the answer; during a full-out campaign, he’d be too easy to smear as a socialist nut job.
Youth could be a virtue. It’s something Trump can’t control. He ran as a rebel and a populist outsider, but facing off against a young Democrat he’d look like a wheezing Republican swamp creature in a golf cart. But youth alone won’t be enough, because when it comes to the White House, many Americans tend to like father figures.
Bill Clinton managed the trick of combining down-home folksiness with real leadership; he was an Ivy League guy who seemed like your beer-drinking neighbor. But the Clinton brand has been tainted and is most likely impossible to duplicate.
What’s needed is the opposite of Trump, by which I mean a charismatic and genuine hero or heroine. A female candidate could be ideal, because she might call the bluff of all those voters who claimed they’d be delighted to vote for a woman, just not Hillary. But a female candidate, as with women in most fields, would face infinitely greater challenges than a man. She’d need to project strength and confidence without alienating the idiots, the men and women who’d insist “I just don’t like her”, which is the most common code for misogyny.
Still, the right woman might rekindle a basic American decency, something which Obama tapped into. Voting for Obama never felt like politics as usual. Obama was, in many ways, what Trump claims to be: an exciting outsider.
Of course, when Obama actually spoke out and legislated on behalf of women and minorities, this made certain voters nervous. There was an interview in the NYT with a woman who’d liked Obama until he began talking about race, which she felt was ‘divisive’, so she voted for Trump.
Whoever runs against Trump will need to make Americans less cynical, because cynicism is what fuels Trump’s fans, most often under the guise of patriotism or “values.” Whoever defeats Trump will need to inspire not the Trumpets, who are a lost cause, but everybody else, especially the people who don’t vote, claiming both sides are the same.
I have no idea of who this mythical candidate might be, but instead of thinking of her or him as a weapon, or as doomed, I’m going to imagine that person as thrilling. As someone indisputable. As someone who tells Americans that they don’t need to be depressed, anxious and angry, all the time. Someone joyous is not a bad idea at all.” –Paul Rudnick
Well, here’s a list of potential candidates that could beat Trump. No, there’s no Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama or Joe Biden, but you might think one of those guys would be great at the job. If you don’t know who someone is here, that’s not a good sign. But we’ve got a few years to kick it around. I’ve added George Clooney and Oprah not as a joke, we need someone with star power and Amal & Steadman would both be great First Spouses, no?
• Elizabeth Warren
• Cory Booker
• Andrew Cuomo
• Al Franken
• Kamala Harris
• Jay Inslee
• Tim Kaine
• Terry McAuliffe
• Eric Garcetti
• John Hickenlooper
• Amy Klobuchar
• Gavin Newsom
• Seth Moulton
• Martin O’Malley
• Mark Cuban
• Sheryl Sandberg
• Howard Schultz
• Mark Zuckerberg
• George Clooney
Who did we leave off? Who’s your pick? Tell us on Facebook. (Photo illustration, Politico)