By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR., Special to the Star
SAN DIEGO — As a Never Trumper who hopes that Democrats win back the White House and rescue the republic, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to watch Democrats lay the groundwork for once again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
When I write that the country needs rescuing, Trump supporters send angry emails insisting that America has never done better.
For those in the Trump camp whose partisan instincts to defend their team and its captain blind them to the obvious, I’ll keep it simple: The republic is ailing because refugee families are being separated, Cabinet members are being humiliated by the boss, the leader of the free world is punching down at celebrities on Twitter, racial demagoguery is being used as a weapon, and lies from the Oval Office have become standard practice.
Not that the Democrats are much better, or any more prepared to lead. They’re a hot mess.
You might think that the fact that there are now more than 20 candidates in the cattle call for the Democratic nomination means that President Trump is extremely vulnerable and will be easy to defeat.
Of course, if you think that, you probably also never thought Trump would be elected in the first place. So what do you know?
The unpleasant truth is that Trump will be tough to beat.
Put aside the fact that, over the last quarter-century, Americans have shown a tendency to give presidents a second term to finish what they started in the first one — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama.
And never mind that Trump will probably get to run on a strong economy, has kept many of his promises, has emerged as a skilled campaigner, and gives back as good as he gets from critics and opponents.
And let’s not forget that Trump remains popular with working-class whites in the critical industrial states that helped put him in office — including Pennsylvania, which some political observers believe could decide the next election.
If you’re a middle-aged white union member in the Rust Belt whose life isn’t going well, and you blame your troubles on minorities, immigrants, trade deals, China, Mexico, political correctness, the liberal media, or the man in the moon, Trump is the candidate you’ve been waiting for.
Yet, the No. 1 thing that Trump has going for him in next year’s election is the idiocy and incompetence of Democrats.
The party of Clinton and Obama doesn’t seem to remember how those guys got elected.
It was by rising above partisan soap operas and connecting with everyday Americans. Clinton and Obama understood the rules of the game. You can’t just talk to the elites and campaign on the coasts.
You can’t just go so whole hog in pandering to the left that you lose sight of the middle. You can’t just wow voters by showing them how smart or likable you are and hope that gets you across the finish line.
You have to show them that you care and want to make their lives better. You can jump on top of all the tables you like, and be interviewed on every podcast. But if people don’t believe in you, you’re done.
Still, as lost as many Democratic presidential candidates seem to be, they come off as grounded, centered and wise compared to what we find inWashington — those hopeless Democratic members of Congress. The Beltway bunch is paralyzed by the “I” words. They put all their chips on an investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign that didn’t pan out.
And so now they’re threatening to impeach Trump, but — since they’re not unanimous on whether doing that will help or hurt them in 2020 — they’ll settle for jamming up Attorney General William Barr.
It’s all to avoid discussing issues, which paralyze Democrats because tackling problems can make you enemies and cost you voters.
And, now that many on the left finally recognize that there is indeed a crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border and are clamoring for a solution, perhaps the issue that Democrats most want to avoid is the one that divides their coalition by splitting Latinos and organized labor: immigration.
C’mon, Democrats. Get it together. It’s up to you to save the country. How can you do that if you can’t even save your own party?
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.