A self-described progressive faction seems to be driving the 2020
Democratic campaign bus, but some shrewd and candid liberal
strategists and pollsters are warning that this faction is navigating
the field not only without a road map, but without even any GPS.
As with any dense map of political streets, there are cul de sacs
everywhere. The result, these veteran liberal savants suggest,
could be that the eventual Democratic ticket, no matter who is on
it, will find themselves and their party without a viable avenue to
victory well before election day.
Many observers don’t yet quite fully fathom the impact of these
possible unforced errors of the Democrats.
This has happened before. In 1964, it was Barry Goldwater. In
it was George McGovern. In 1984, it was Walter Mondale (an
otherwise conventional liberal, but who promised voters he would
raise their taxes). Each of these elections ended in a landslide
The Democrats do have alternative transportation, Such a political
“Uber” ride would have Joe Biden at the wheel. But this isn’t
apparently acceptable to the progressive faction which has
numerous candidates in the party’s presidential field, including
first and second “tier” aspirants Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren,
Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro and Cory Booker.
While Biden continues to lead clearly in the polls, the political
discussion seems dominated by the progressive faction. (Only
Bernie Sanders eagerly accepts the label “socialist.”)
In 2015, Donald Trump emerged quickly from the TV debates of a
17-person Republican field. By the time of the first caucus (Iowa)
and the first primary (New Hampshire), he was the candidate to
beat. All through the autumn and the early winter of 2015, he
outraged many in his own party while at the same time he built a
base at the grass roots level. Like him or not, he was not boring.
Meanwhile, the incumbent president, then a lame duck, was not
much of a political presence in his own party’s nomination
contest. Most observers concluded Hillary Clinton would win the
Democratic nomination, and in November, the presidency.
2020 is a much different political environment. The incumbent is
running for re-election, and so far had not been shy about being
the commenter-in-chief about the ups and downs of the contest on
the other side. He is also the national scene-stealer-in-chief --- and
refuses to let the Democrats put him on the defensive.
Of course, events and circumstances beyond his control or any
Democrat’s control could alter this race --- still 15 months away.
Foremost of these is the economy which is now booming, but
which many economists and market observers say is ripe for a
correction or downturn. (A minority of contrarians, however, see
this widespread economic pessimism as evidence the economy
could remain robust through next year.)
In the meantime, most voters, especially those not fully decided
about which side they are on, are not yet apparently engaged in
the presidential race. Perhaps ominously, they are not yet engaged
in the Democratic nomination contest.
This could change, but Democratic Party leaders have not only
their ticket to worry about, but equally important, a credible
map for their ticket to win in November, 2020.
Phantoms of past landslides always haunt the dreams of
Copyright (c) 2019 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.