- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

For Democrats seeking unity, the fear of Donald Trump is proving a powerful binding agent.

Even as they extol the virtues of Hillary Clinton, Democratic officials, progressive leaders and even the former first lady’s own campaign have spent equal time trying to scare voters onto their side with dire declarations that Mr. Trump very well could win in November and go on to do irreparable damage to the country.

Political analysts say the fear of a Trump administration is the single biggest factor in Mrs. Clinton’s favor this election cycle. While she may be unable to satisfy all disenchanted supporters of Sen. Bernard Sanders, or could turn off independents with expensive liberal proposals on health care and education, Mrs. Clinton can use Americans’ unease about her Republican opponent as a powerful weapon over the next three months.

“The person who will do the most to unify the Democratic base is Donald Trump. His various comments about women, minorities and Muslims will bring Democrats together in opposition,” said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

The Democrats’ campaign of fear is, at least in part, based on data. An NBC News survey released in May, after Mr. Trump had essentially won the GOP nomination, found that nearly half of voters said they were “scared” of the billionaire businessman winding up in the White House. Just 35 percent said the same of Mrs. Clinton.

Defining Mr. Trump as “scary” has become a hallmark of Clinton rallies. In Daytona Beach, Florida, on Tuesday, Democratic vice presidential hopeful Sen. Tim Kaine said Mr. Trump has a distorted vision of America in his own mind.

“That’s a scary place to be,” Mr. Kaine said.

As soon as Mrs. Clinton had all but dispatched Mr. Sanders in her party primary, her campaign immediately began pushing the narrative that Mr. Trump had a real shot at winning the White House. The notion that Mr. Trump’s unconventional style and inflammatory comments would, over time, doom his chances is a misnomer, the Clinton campaign has argued.

They’ve used warnings of a Trump presidency as a central tactic in fundraising emails, and they’ve doubled down on that strategy over the past several weeks. In a fundraising message to supporters Tuesday, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook appealed for donations by talking up Mr. Trump’s electoral prospects.

“Make no mistake: This team will decide the outcome of this race. If we keep stepping up like we did in July, registering new people to vote and getting out into our communities to talk about why this race matters and why we support Hillary, we will win,” Mr. Mook said, referencing the campaign’s record-breaking fundraising haul in July.

“If we underestimate our opponent or take this race for granted, we’ll lose,” he concluded.

At last week’s party convention in Philadelphia, several Sanders delegates deferred when asked whether they were fully on board with Mrs. Clinton and her agenda. But most of them made clear they’ll support the former secretary of state anyway, mainly due to their disdain for Mr. Trump and their fear of what will happen to the nation if the businessman is elected.

“I have no other choice. Trump is not an option,” said Gilda Reed, a Sanders delegate from Louisiana, after being asked repeatedly whether she had faith in Mrs. Clinton, who, like Mr. Trump, is seen by the vast majority of voters as dishonest and untrustworthy.

While there still is not full unity in the Democratic Party, even the most ardent Clinton opponents have begun to sound the alarm about a potential Trump victory. Mr. Sanders himself tried to calm angry supporters last week by telling them they must support Mrs. Clinton or they’ll find it difficult to “look your kids in the eye” once Mr. Trump is in the Oval Office.

Mr. Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, echoed those sentiments, telling Politico this week that progressives who believe Mrs. Clinton is a lock are fooling themselves.

“I certainly think she can win, yes. But it’s going to be much closer than many people think,” he said. “I think some people on the Democratic side who think that, you know, Trump is such a buffoon that it’s already won — but I think he’s a very dangerous opponent, and I think he certainly has the ability to win as well.”

Other prominent progressive voices, whether they truly believe it or not, are attempting to rally Democratic troops by relentlessly pushing the idea that Mr. Trump could win.

“I’m sorry to have to be the buzzkill here so early on, but I think Trump is going to win,” liberal filmmaker Michael Moore said on Bill Maher’s HBO program last month, prompting the host to turn Mr. Moore’s words into a call to action.

“The enemy is complacency,” Mr. Maher said. “[I] say it every day. He certainly could win.”

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