|DAMON WINTER / THE NEW YORK TIMES|
One year from now, the midpoint between the Democratic and Republican national conventions, the most consequential presidential campaign since 1860 will shift into high gear. Not unlike that campaign, which pitted anti-slavery Abraham Lincoln against pro-slavery John C. Breckenridge on the eve of a war that would rip the nation apart, the highest-of-high-stakes 2020 election also must revolve around a single, overriding concern: Rejecting Donald Trump.
Trump, as you may have noticed, has declared war on America's proud tradition of diversity with the blood lust of a committed racist and xenophobe while violating his oath of office through a one-man crime spree on the Constitution, Rule of Law, our public lands and common decency. Denying this demigod four more years to continue destroying the values, resources and institutions that once made America the envy of the world is paramount.
The process of electing a president had become the sausage factory of our democracy long before Trump slithered onto the scene and commandeering the Republican Party in what was less a putsch than a willing embrace. But the 2020 election cannot be yet another media-driven carnival of the absurd with so much at stake.
If Trump is to be defeated -- and he must be defeated decisively to preclude the inevitable cries that he was robbed of victory -- the hardy soul who survives the Democratic primary gauntlet must declare from the outset of her campaign that Trump is a pariah and will be treated accordingly all the way through to Election Day.
The nominee will not engage in the customary televised debates. Because Trump is a profound liar and the playing field will never be level.
The nominee will not engage in the typical give-and-take rhetoric. Because Trump is incapable of playing by the rules unless they are his rules.
The nominee will not talk about the America that Trump is methodically destroying but the better America that will be rebuilt in its place.
The battle will be gargantuan. Because as broken as the process of electing a president is, including the vestigial outrage of an Electoral College that landed Trump in the White House despite losing the popular vote, there is no incentive to fix it.
Electing a president may be like making sausage, but it is a multi-billion dollar payday for the cable news networks, political consultants, ad agencies, pollsters and other special interests as the American electoral Sisyphus pushes that rock up the mountain yet again, to paraphrase Joan Didion, who wrote bitingly of the permanent political class that feeds greedily at that trough every four years.
The likelihood of the Democratic nominee and the party leadership adopting a hyper-focused approach is slim. Nominee and party will be slaves to the process and probably do not have the discipline and focus to do it any other way.
This even though a hyper-focused campaign is not just the right thing to do, but the only thing to do, in the service of decisively defeating Trump, who continues to punk a feckless news media with the nonchalance of a practiced pro, most recently in framing the debate over his racial attacks, which left the Democrats dithering.
Instead, nominee and party probably will blindly, if dutifully, continue to play by the rules even if Trump won't.
The president's Republican primary opponents in the spring of 2016 learned the hard way, as would Hillary Clinton before that year was out, that Trump's inevitable self-destruction might be not so inevitable, and waiting for him to beat himself was, as he himself might put it, "for total losers." As it is, Trump's fury over being labeled a pariah and being marginalized by the nominee will be incendiary.
The consequence of the nominee's obeisance to a process that Trump has further broken and a reluctance to tell Sisyphus to get the hell out of the way could well be calamity overtaking the disaster we now experienced daily.