The Republicans are already using the S-word: Socialism. At the same time, the 2020 election might very well hinge on when, where, and how the Democrats might choose to use the F-Bomb: Fascism.
If the opposition is successful in branding the Democrats as the “party of radical socialism” all is lost.
Thus, the Democrats might have the dual task before them of first explaining their national vision as one of “lean progressivism” (eschewing inordinate new taxes and with it the ocotopodal creation of new bureaucracies) AND the strong judicial use and/or increasingly worrying suggestion of Trump’s Fascist tendencies.
Both strategies go together. If the Democrats want to seriously win and more importantly effect essential national change; they must be persuasive as both a progressive party AND present themselves as at least somewhat fiscally conservative. They must try to come up with ways that further social, economic, and environmental justice without necessarily resorting to federal schemes of tax, spend, and expand. There are ways to do this. Tax incentives, an innovative system of vouchers, and a national pooling/coordination of scientific research assets are all possible avenues to work on and develop.
More problematically however, will come the decision of whether to fight fire with fire, and to thus increasingly and viscerally label Trump as a Fascist, vigorously drawing attention away from his “red scare” electoral tactics..
Putting a “brown shirt” on Trump will prove tricky though. Democrats do not want to appear hysterical and thus on the fringe of American political discourse. Also, they must judiciously avoid equating those who voted for Trump as Fascists themselves. Trump voters must be courted as a group that potentially could get much more out of a modern progressive movement than dubious nostalgia politics could ever offer them. Thus negative political attacks should primarily focus on the authoritarian person and style of Trump while encouraging the electoral defection of Trump voters by taking the issues that concern them very seriously. Calling them “desperate gun clingers” won’t do this time around.
In sum, the best campaigning strategy might be to use various strong adjectives and powerful innuendos that suggest Trump’s Fascist nature without actually having to use the very word itself. Bernie Sanders, among others, has already appeared to have chosen this course of action.
However, if Trump proves to be increasingly successful in labeling those Democrats, like Sanders, as “crazy Socialists” out to destroy “our” America of “guns, Jesus, and freedom” it might then be finally necessary to cross this adjectival political Rubicon with the use of stronger language and perhaps even more gutsy rhetorical gambits.