As the mainstream media all but declares the 2020 election for Joe Biden, Democrats are making mistakes. They’re saying and doing things that could cause problems—if Republicans step up their game.
Consider the congressional logjam over police reform. After George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, the nation was angry and aghast. Then Rayshard Brooks was killed in Atlanta, and the demand for change grew even stronger.
Yet when the Senate moved to take up the comprehensive police reform bill introduced by Tim Scott (R., S.C.), Democrats blocked its consideration, despite the bill’s many similarities with the Democratic House’s measure. Sen. Scott guaranteed votes on any amendments Democrats wanted, but no matter.
This intransigence is an opportunity to argue that Senate Democrats are more interested in election talking points than giving meaning to the deaths of Floyd, Brooks, Breonna Taylor and others by passing legislation that reforms policing.
Republicans can broaden the issue by pointing out that while a new law can solve certain pressing problems, the criminal-justice system needs a systematic review. A bill by Sens. John Cornyn (R., Texas) and Gary Peters (D., Mich.) creating a National Criminal Justice Commission would do that, reporting to the next Congress on additional reform measures. This passed the Senate by unanimous consent in 2018 but died in the House.
By pressing for the Scott bill now and the Cornyn-Peters commission to follow, Republicans can show they’re determined to turn the nation’s pain into something good. If everybody mobilizes, the GOP can regain the offensive.
Another opening for Republicans came Sunday, when CNN’s Dana Bash asked Sen. Tammy Duckworth—who’s being vetted as a possible running mate for Mr. Biden—if statues of George Washington should be taken down. For 141 tortured words, Ms. Duckworth ducked the question before claiming President Trump “spent all his time talking about dead traitors” in his July 3 speech at Mount Rushmore. Actually, Mr. Trump didn’t mention a single Confederate, but the Illinois Democrat may have hoped an incendiary attack would distract Ms. Bash.
The interviewer pressed again, saying “but George Washington—I don’t think anybody would call him a traitor. And there are moves by some to remove statues of him. Is that a good idea?” Ms. Duckworth responded blandly, “I think we should listen to everybody. I think we should listen to the argument there.”
When a prospective Democratic running mate says Americans should consider removing statues of the man who made our country possible, the party is surrendering to its lunatic fringe. The Trump campaign put out a statement Tuesday, but the moment was worthy of an immediate presidential statement and sustained criticism. It would have been a better way to start the week than attacking Nascar driver Bubba Wallace and defending the Confederate flag.
There was also Mr. Biden’s Sunday tweet: “We won’t just rebuild this nation—we’ll transform it.” The former vice president won his party’s nomination because he seemed to be a mainstream Democrat. He draws support from independents and some conservatives for the same reason. He won’t keep it if he pushes “transformation,” the pet phrase of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
One tweet does not a meltdown make, but it could foreshadow trouble. On Wednesday Mr. Biden’s six “unity task forces” released recommendations that will shape his platform. Though Mr. Sanders had a seat at the table, he didn’t get his way on several issues, including Medicare for All. He and other leading progressives won’t stop pressing socialist nostrums simply because they’ve been promised good inaugural tickets. It may take further policy concessions for Mr. Sanders and his allies to offer unity. This could be another opening for the GOP, but it must seize it effectively.
Then there’s Mr. Biden’s response to “America First.” The former vice president says that “when America is first, it’s America alone.” This isn’t surprising from someone whose administration practiced “leading from behind” and undertook an international apology tour. Republicans can counter that America First means putting workers, families and communities first. Besides, the world depends on America leading the way. The GOP can point to Mr. Trump’s successes on trade, getting allies to step up on military spending, and U.S. toughness in dealing with Iran and China, contrasting these with Obama-Biden failures.
So much of this campaign has been nontraditional. America’s attention has been riveted on the pandemic, economic fallout and racial tensions. That has benefited Mr. Biden, as the polls attest. But the 77-year-old isn’t an imposing political talent—this will become clearer as the campaign unfolds—and he and his compatriots regularly provide ammunition for Republican attacks. If the GOP wants victory this fall, it had better figure out how to exploit this. Time’s a-wasting.