President Donald Trump has, for all intents and purposes, been normalized. He is an unpopular president — he pretty much always has been — but though the prospect of his taking office was once a frightening and norm-shattering idea, it has become the status quo.
In 2020, he’ll run as the incumbent, and though he’s weaker than many past presidents have been, his position in the White House will give him an advantage his opponent will lack. So in many ways, despite the sky-high stakes of the election for the country and the radical corruption, incompetence, and outright cruelty displayed by this administration, the hyper-partisan environment will likely make the dynamics of the next presidential race quite similar to past campaigns.
And as conservative writer Jennifer Rubin pointed out in a new column for the Washington Post, the Republican Party’s “painfully obvious” weakness will be one that is quite familiar: its complete ‘paucity of ideas.”
Democrats have sometimes been attacked for lacking ideas, but no one can make that claim for 2020. Like them or not, Democratic hopefuls are overflowing with ideas: subsidizing rent, wealth transfers, new taxes, expanding health care, reforming ethics laws, ramping up anti-trust enforcement, the Green New Deal, and more.
But Republicans have held the White House for more than two years, and they’ve had the total control of Congress for a full 24 months. What have they done? Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a bust, which could get even worse if the administration gets what it wants and the whole law is struck down. And though they successfully overhauled the tax code, the party broke many promises to do it, and the final results were unpopular.
Trump’s immigration agenda, meanwhile, is unpopular, including his wall, which is more a symbol to please his base than an actual policy.
“It’s difficult to think of something they could promise that voters would actually want,” wrote Rubin. “The 2020 race for Republicans is shaping up to be a defense of the Trump status quo, which is weird for a candidate who wanted to blow up Washington. It’s even weirder that the GOP has done nothing about ethics reform, preferring to look the other way when it comes to the president’s finances.”
The only thing going for the GOP is that the economy is relatively strong. But it’s not guaranteed to stay strong, and Trump’s approval ratings are conspicuously low in light of the low unemployment rate. So it’s not even clear how much of a bounce that fact gives the party.
“Given the choice between keeping the most corrupt and unfit president who has no desire to deliver for them, or taking their chances with a well-meaning if overly ambitious Democrat who has identified real problems, a lot of independents and alienated Republicans will choose the latter,” wrote Rubin. “And if the Democratic nominee promises to read a book now and then and stay off Twitter? He or she might be a sure bet.”