The strangest stuff keeps showing up in our in-boxes, email and snail mail. First it was that survey for the Democratic Party a few weeks ago. Talk about leading questions, some of them were the leading-est. Then this past week we got something from Democrats.com. Not dot-org, the official site, but dot-com. Seems that one is less official, but maybe more left-leaning. Maybe the name of the newspaper is confusing things in New York. But at least our confused correspondents provide entertaining reading.
This time our friendly scribes wanted to know: Which Democrat can defeat Donald Trump in 2020?
We are happy and gratified to be able to answer that question: We don't know. (Twain, M.)
We don't know if Donald Trump can be defeated in 2020, or even if he should. This economy is going gangbusters. For the first time in 70 years, there could be peace on the Korean peninsula. Presidents from both parties over the years promised to support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but only Donald Trump moved our embassy there. And reports say that this president has cut almost 70 Obama-era regulations on businesses--adding only three. Those are wins, no matter what the loyal but sometimes hyperventilating opposition would allow.
Sitting presidents are famously hard to retire when they run for re-election. And a year is a lifetime in presidential politics. So two years is two lifetimes.
We remember in 1991, when George H.W. Bush's approval rating was in the high 80s--just after the first Gulf War--and leaders of the opposing party were falling over themselves telling the press they wouldn't run against him. Cuomo, Gore, Gephardt, all the big names in the Democratic Party begged off. ("I have told you repeatedly that Dale Bumpers will run for re-election and I don't believe in running against an incumbent senator that's doing a good job. I am not going to run for another office . . . . Dale Bumpers doesn't have to worry about me and George Bush is about 80 percent in the polls. You think there's going to be a presidential race in '92?"--Bill Clinton circa 1991.)
One of the weekly news magazines, either Time or Newsweek, had a serious bit of commentary in those days--not satire--suggesting that the Democrats should nominate Bush the First for president, along with the Republicans, but just nominate a different vice president. Because Dan Quayle could be beaten. The writer was suggesting that George H.W. Bush become the first president by agreed decision since a president named Washington.
And look what happened.
On the other side of things, at the beginning of 1983, Ronald Reagan's approval rating was underwater, and in the spring of 1995, Bill Clinton held a news conference to tell the world that he was still relevant. Only one network broadcast the briefing.
There is a lot of politics still to come between now and November 2020. There will be lots of opportunities for the current president to do the right thing. (Please, sir, drop Twitter.) And there will be lots of opportunities for all the Democrats listed by our friendly but probably confused correspondent.
Can President Trump be defeated in his re-election bid? Should he be?
Ask us on Halloween--in the year 2020.