As always, the rhetorical ability to set the agenda in the waning days of the presidential campaign will determine the outcome of the 2020 election. Yes, whether the president and Republicans try to replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg before January is a serious issue, full of intrigue and speculation by political pundits and the media. Former President Clinton and others perceive this move as a power grab. It also exposes the hypocrisy of Republicans who set a clear precedent in 2016 by insisting that a Supreme Court selection should wait until the next president was selected by voters.
Aside from the veracity of these claims, however, we must not make the rhetorical error of playing into the president’s hand by getting buried in this titillating drama. Democrats must not allow President Trump to make this “the” issue and therefore shift attention away from the coronavirus pandemic.
Let us not forget that over 200,000 of our fellow citizens have died and the president has failed to fulfill his most important duty: to protect the safety and well-being of Americans.
Hence, the one (and perhaps only) question for voters is whether Mr. Trump has dealt and is dealing effectively with the major health crisis of our lifetime. Stay focused. The 2020 election is a referendum on the president’s ability to protect the health of Americans.
Ernest A. Sharpe Centennial professor emeritus, Moody College of Communication
The University of Texas at Austin