Dem 51
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GOP 49
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If the Democrats Played Hardball...

There's a meme floating around right now in which the Democratic Party is invited, in words rather less refined than we prefer to use, to drop the veneer of civility and to start playing for keeps. Put another way, the argument is that faced with the prospect of Donald Trump, it's not just all-hands-on-deck time, it's also time to get Machiavellian.

As a thought exercise—and note, there is little to no evidence that any of these ideas are currently being pursued—we thought we'd put our creative writing hats on and think about what that might look like, if it were to come to pass. Our thinking here is that whether the Democrats stick with Joe Biden or move on to a different candidate, the party's needs are served by shining a harsh light on Donald Trump. Here are half a dozen ways that might be done:

  1. Double Dare: Of the items on this list, this one is the least original, as it's been discussed a fair bit, both here and elsewhere. But we think there is a pretty good argument for Biden to challenge Trump to take dueling neurological tests. While we recognize the downsides, the fact is that Trump would never agree to the arrangement, which would then change the narrative from "What is Biden hiding?" to "Biden is the one willing to be tested; what is Trump hiding?"

  2. Messaging Bills: In general, we tend to roll our eyes at messaging bills. However, the recent Supreme Court decisions offer some distinct opportunities. For example, how about the Presidents Cannot Commit Murder Act? Either Congressional Republicans can vote against the bill, and can go on the record as being in favor allowing presidents to commit murder, or they can get on board and Biden can have a big signing ceremony in which he makes clear that HE, at least, does not think presidents are above the law. Whatever happens, it will mean a couple of news cycles' worth of coverage of the subject.

  3. Executive Orders: Similarly, Biden could issue a bunch of outlandish executive orders, like one declaring that he is unilaterally adding ten justices to the Supreme Court, or that he's withholding payment of Congressional Republicans' salaries until they agree to pass his preferred budget for FY 2024-25. Then, he could withdraw the XOs the next day, and announce "This was just a demonstration. I never had any intention of abusing my powers in this way, even if the Supreme Court has opened the doors for me to do so. Do you think my opponent feels the same way?"

  4. Sotomayor: This would have to be handled very delicately, but if Sonia Sotomayor could be persuaded to step down weeks before the election, with a plausible excuse ("my doctors said I cannot push myself anymore"), and without time to seat a replacement before Election Day, then the Supreme Court would be on the ballot in black and white. Yes, this is high-risk, but we're playing for keeps here. No guts, no glory.

  5. Project 2025: This one is squarely in the ratfu**ing category. How about a well-heeled Democratic donor sets up a PAC with a generic name like the Take America Back PAC? And then, that person pays for apparent pro-Trump ads that lay out the "great ideas" from Project 2025 that he will implement if elected. Trump is desperately trying to put distance between himself and Project 2025, including the frightening statement from Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts that "We are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be." If the blue team does not find a way to make Trump own all of this, it's political malpractice.

  6. Conspiratorial Thinking: The Republicans have had some amount of success, in the past several decades, with damaging leading Democrats through conspiracy theories that are largely or entirely unsupported by evidence. Think about Barack Obama's birth certificate, Hillary Clinton and the pedophile pizza parlor, or Hunter Biden and Ukraine. Could the Democrats put the shoe on the other foot? For example, Donald Trump has been very low-visibility for the past couple of weeks. The common explanation is that the former president is following the old adage "when your opponent is hurting themselves, let them." But what if the real reason is... he's recovering from a heart attack? It may be thin, but there could be benefit in putting the Republicans on defense with one or more of these conspiracies, as opposed to their always being on offense.

If readers have their own thoughts on how the Democrats might get more Machiavellian, please send them along to

And note again that this is just a thought exercise in how Democrats might be able to change the narrative, particularly if the Party is willing to roll up its sleeves and get a little dirty. We recognize that some of these ideas come with significant risks/downsides. That said, we also recognize that the blue team is in a tough place right now, and that it's also fighting with one hand tied behind its back. The Democrats might have no choice but to untie that hand. (Z)

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