My advice to Democrats who are getting all wound up about who their nominee will be against Donald Trump in 2020: Calm down. It’s too early to waste your worries.
The same applies to growing concerns about the direction of the national Democratic Party as we head into 2020.
For a better use of your time, sit back in your Lazy-Boy, load up on popcorn and enjoy watching the passing parade of would-be Democratic nominees. Keep your powder dry for now, saving it for early next year when the primary election calendar kicks in.
Whatever happens between now and then, with the Democrats’ candidate cast of dozens, very likely will be swept away as the debates and primaries get going; polling starts showing who’s got it and who doesn’t; and importantly, Americans gain a much better idea of the strength of the incumbent president (or indeed, who’s even sitting in the Oval Office).
Think back to early 2015 at the same time in the 2016 presidential election cycle. Whatever you were thinking about the election at that time likely ended up being wrong or at least irrelevant to what happened in 2016. For example, nobody thought Donald Trump had a serious chance of winning. And while most of the smart money was on Hillary Clinton winning the Democratic nomination, nothing you or anyone else could say or think about her or Bernie Sanders in early 2015 had any bearing whatsoever on how their campaigns would turn out.
One sentiment I’ve heard lately is that “nobody in the Democratic presidential field stands out,” or “none of them are strong enough to beat Trump.”
First of all, if we lived in a world in which totally incompetent, semi-literate, narcissistic, self-interested racist, boorish individuals had no chance of becoming a village council clerk, let alone president of the United States, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Anybody on the long list of Democratic presidential candidates could easily beat Donald Trump in 2020, as could just about anybody you walk past on the street. The fire hydrant on the corner probably would give him a run for his money.
Alas, that’s not the world we live in, and Trump’s indefatigable base may provide him with enough support that he’ll at least be competitive. That’s barring any number of things that may happen, including criminal charges arising from various investigations (my money’s on the Southern District of New York), an economic downturn, the Republican Party recovering its principles (and backbone), Trump’s base awakening from its long bout of mass hypnosis, or the end of the world.
And, of course, the type of race will depend on whom the Democrats put up against the incumbent president.
Nobody has any idea now, but that’s because Americans really don’t know most of these candidates all that well. How can anyone say the Democratic field is underwhelming, an assortment of likely losers, before they’ve had a chance to show who they are and how they’ll perform in the bruising primary season that starts in early 2020?
It’s not unusual for voters to be unimpressed with fledgling presidential candidates while they still don’t know much about what they stand for, or how they’d react under the pressure of a primary campaign.
As for the internal dynamics of the Democratic Party, the already bitter positioning between its left wing and centrist sector, I’m not going to get worked up about that till next year, and with all due respect, you shouldn’t either.
Believe me, the Democratic Party will have a very lively debate about policy over the next year and a half. I want to hear everything – from socialist left to moderate right – and it’s far too early to worry about how those various positions might play before a general election audience.
What does merit concern, however, is advocates of this or that wing of the Democratic Party forgetting the most important aspect of this election, removing Donald Trump from office. Conflict between socialist, liberal and centrist wings of the party, if factions lose track of that ultimate goal, could give Trump and the Republicans all the advantage they need.
This applies to radical fire-breathers on the left, who condemn centrist Democrats as just as bad as the most right-wing corporate Republican. Give me a week to recite all the areas of policy and performance where Hillary Clinton would have been markedly superior to Trump, areas that would have meant better outcomes for millions of people. “They’re all the same” my ass.
But it also applies to more conservative Democrats who dismiss the new progressives in Congress as clueless socialists, hopelessly out of touch with the middle class in America. Our country is changing, and it’s absolutely essential to have a muscular push from the left on issues such as health care, economic inequality, climate change and campaign finance reform.
For myself as a longtime Democratic voter, I’d be happy with either a progressive or centrist from my party in the Oval Office, as long as he or she’s honest, intelligent, perceptive, well-meaning, open-minded, respects the Constitution, and holds Americans’ best interests at heart. It would also be nice if that person had at least the management skills of a playground attendant (unlike the current occupant).
So let’s play smart, Democrats. Fight like mad for your issues, criticize your opponents but try to avoid spitting angry red foam, and may the best woman or man win. Just don’t forget that if the party implodes due to internal friction, we’ll set ourselves up for another four years of Donald Trump. I have serious doubts about whether this country can survive that. I probably won’t.