In the 2016 presidential election campaign Clinton and the Democrat party focussed on attacking Trump rather than promoting her plans and policies. Their criticism of their opponent was directed at the persona of Trump rather than at the Republican party. Voters were less obsessed with the identity of the candidate: Trump received a similar number of votes to those attained by Mitt Romney four years earlier and his support came from people who wanted a Republican president regardless of who that was.
Throughout Trump’s presidency Democrats in Congress and House of Representatives distracted themselves with endless diatribes and convoluted actions against Trump accompanied by dramatic shock at his behaviour and culminating in a ridiculous and pointless impeachment pantomime. They were keen to oppose Trump the person rather than Trump the Republican. He was happy to encourage the Democrats’ self-distraction as were Republican members of Congress. Alongside Trump’s erratic and repulsive behaviour exist well-honed skills of directing focus and setting tone.
If Biden and Harris’ strategy for this year’s election is to direct their energies on listing Trump’s awful statements and highlighting his comfort with extreme-right politics then, however laudable and accurate their observations might be, no votes will be gained from undecided voters; if they oppose Trump the person not Trump the Republican and if they describe him as different from a typical Republican president then no votes will be gained. The difference between him and the perception of a normal Republican president is only presentation and communication; there is no difference in policy. If Rubio, (Jeb) Bush or Cruz had been a successful Republican presidential candidate in 2016 then each would have pursued similar law changes and policies to those of Trump’s presidency.
Throughout the remaining weeks of the election campaign Trump will offer plenty of opportunities to Democrats for them to proclaim disapprovingly of his behaviour, his language, his choice of allegiances and his “narcissism.” There will be many incidents that will encourage his opponents to query his mental and physical health. He will lie incessantly. Some of his behaviour will be unintended and some will be deliberate. Whether intended or not, all of the above will be distracting. Will the Democrats allow the distraction? Will they welcome it?