The goal of Democrats ought to be not to merely win the 2020 presidency, to retake the Senate and hold the House, and to do so with such an overwhelming majority that any resistance to a peaceful transition of power is doomed to failure. These goals kick the recurring can down the road.

I worry our aim is dangerously low and wide of the target. Even if the 2020 election successfully ameliorates the current administration’s disdain for traditional norms, soundly rejects its open contempt for guardrails separating the powers of government, injects respect to replace indifference toward our fundamental constitutional principles and carries coattails long enough to alter the balance of partisan power in down-ballot federal and state races, we will pat ourselves and President-elect Joe Biden heartily on the back. Is it a win if the root problem still survives to haunt our progeny?

Laudable achievement of even such monumentally ambitious political goals must not reprise the unprecedented division of Americans. We cannot stoop to retaliate against the loyal 30% base that supported Trump. Are Trumpian neo-Republicans not Americans as well?

While Trump’ tactical hallmarks of grievance, racism, cruelty and inequality are discarded in the dustbin of history, the voters with whom such Trumpian tactics resonated cannot simply be dismissed as if rendered impotent for all time. We must learn the lessons that George Wallace in 1968 was no fluke; that racism is institutionalized; that the soul unearthed in aspirational ideals of our Founding Fathers is yet a work-in-progress — as Pogo said, we have met the enemy and he is us.

Persuading hearts and minds of tens of millions to abandon their Trumpian cult of nihilism in favor of American ideals is the challenging target from which our unwavering aim cannot stray.

JUSTIN ZITLER

lawyer

New Orleans