The score of Democrats seeking to lead their party into the fire of the 2020 presidential election are desperate to find the right mix of policy, personality and pugnaciousness to remove Donald Trump from the White House. At this point in the electoral process none of the challengers admit to finding the right approach, in fact it is fair to say that many of them are worried that the strong economy and a solid Trump base will make it difficult to grab the golden ring of the presidency.
Now, I don’t claim to have the answer to the right approach to taking on President Trump, but I came across a quote the other day from the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu, who authored The Art of War, a book that has become a classic of political and military insight and strategy that might hold the answer. Sun Tzu offered his advice on acquiring power and control by stating, ” It is the unemotional, reserved, calm and detached warrior who wins, not the hothead seeking vengeance and not the ambitious seeker of fortune.”
Granted that Trump won the White House by being a hothead who sought vengeance in the name of the ” low educated” and then proceeded to use his position to advance his fortune. But 2020 is not 2016, and there are growing signs that the American electorate is getting a bit tired of the Trump act with all the hyperbole, goofy ideas, outright lies and dangerous directions. The Trump base remains solid but those independents are starting to wonder whether it is worth it as a country to have four more years of the circus.
The Democratic challengers will likely be tempted to fight fire with fire as Trump uses his Twitter account to call people silly names and insult reasonable policy positions, but Sun Tzu may have it right when he talks about how to win as he recommends warriors reject hotheaded vengeance and fortune seeking and embrace calm and unemotional detachment. After four years of Trump, the American people may just be ready for a leader who approaches the job of running this country as an adult not an eighth grader.
Right now Trump has the economy on his side and many voters will likely not want a change of leadership, but you can be sure that he will run a campaign of verbal retribution and half truths and spend less time and effort on pocketbook issues. By battling the Twitter tirades of the President with calm and reserved responses and attractive policy prescriptions to correct the decline of the middle class and gross income inequality, the Democratic challenger, whoever he or she is, may find a winning strategy.