ChrisWeigant.com

What Democrats Are Looking For In A 2020 Nominee

[ Posted Monday, January 14th, 2019 – 18:26 UTC ]

Today seems to be another day for speculating about the upcoming Democratic presidential primary race, and (more specifically) answering the question: "What do Democratic voters want to see in a 2020 presidential nominee?" Since there is no real news today on the government shutdown front, I thought I'd join in this speculation. My apologies to those who are in the "It's just too damn early to even think about" camp, in advance. If you're one of those, I'd suggest just skipping today's article altogether.

The easiest and best answer to the question, of course, is: "Someone who can beat Donald Trump." That is going to be the overwhelming and deeply-held consensus among Democratic voters this time around. Trump is seen as such a titanic disaster among the Democratic base that they'll be willing to forgive a lot if they feel their candidate has the best chance of defeating Trump, in other words.

An article in the Washington Post caught my eye today, because it is a lot more nuanced and realistic than most in terms of discussing the dynamics of the upcoming race. It begins by specifically rejecting the dichotomy of: "Should Democrats go for ideological purity or concentrate on electability?" The author correctly sees this as a false choice, since any successful candidate will likely have a mix of both:

Perhaps more importantly, what voters will be seeking is someone who both has ideas about policy they find compelling and presents them in a compelling way, which is where it becomes clear that issues and electability can't be neatly separated. For instance, at the moment Elizabeth Warren has offered the clearest rationale for her candidacy, an argument about how the American economic and political systems have been built by and for the wealthy and powerful in a way that enables corruption and hurts the middle and lower classes. That's both an argument about issues, incorporating particular policy proposals, and a critique of Donald Trump, who is a product and a servant of that corrupt system.

Since it's so early, we don't know how persuasive Warren's argument will be to voters and how it will compare to what the other candidates offer. But if it works, it will be because they decide that they like her ideas, they like her, and they think that with those ideas and her personality she'll beat Trump. None of those elements is separable from the others.

This is far from the whole story of the primaries -- for instance, one critical question is how each candidate can make voters feel about themselves, something I'll return to at a later date. But it will never be just about ideology, or just about electability, or just about any one thing. It's all intertwined.

Again, you don't usually see such nuance from the mainstream media's pundits. Such people usually are content to draw false dichotomies and then arrive at ridiculous conclusions. For instance, I'm fully expecting a lot of discussion about so-called "lanes" during the next year: dividing the Democratic field into the "progressive lane," the "establishment lane," the "youth vote lane," and all the rest. I'd ask people writing such columns how did that argument work out during the 2016 Republican primaries? The whole concept was supposed to give the GOP two or three frontrunners in the end, one of which would rise to defeat Trump in the primaries. It never happened, mostly because voters don't think that way about the candidates. The same analyses will likely be written about the Democrats this time around, and they'll probably wind up being proven wrong once again, in the end. Because it's all intertwined -- voters feel different things to different degrees about all the various candidates. Voters just aren't that simplistic, so any attempt to reduce them to such simple terms is likely going to fail.

It is true that Democrats as a whole have gotten a whole lot more progressive over the past few years. A lot of this movement can be chalked up to how surprisingly well Bernie Sanders did the last time around. Bernie has achieved such a degree of success in moving the debate within the Democratic Party, in fact, that he won't be the only one running on his pet issues this time around. That is a dramatic change, and (many feel) a change for the better for the party as a whole. Call it the death of the Clintonian/Democratic Leadership Council pro-Wall Street "centrism" of the past three decades.

This is nothing more than the swing of the pendulum in American politics, of course. This pendulum-swing reached one apex under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, creator of the New Deal. Government under F.D.R. was muscular in attempting to even the playing field for the working men and women of the country. Democrats are now returning to this way of thinking, after a few decades spent at the other end of the pendulum-swing.

The nadir, of course, wasn't due to Clinton or the D.L.C. Both were instead reactions to the era of Ronald Reagan, and the success of his small-government ideology on the American political scene. Reagan won stunning landslide victories (the kind Donald Trump can only dream about) in both his elections, and it took a long time for the Democratic Party to recover. Bill Clinton was the right man for the right time, since he figured out a way to adapt parts of the Reagan philosophy and use them to put a Democrat back in the White House. But by now, this mode of thinking has run out of steam, and it's time for the party to get back to its real roots. Which it is now doing in a big way.

There was one other article in the Post today which made an interesting point about this movement in a very elegant way. There are very few people alive today who lived through F.D.R.'s presidency. The memories of him are now mostly historical, not personal. For instance, the first president I can personally remember was Richard Nixon, and the first election I voted in was Ronald Reagan's second (1984). That gives me a certain perspective, when measured against history. But not everyone shares this perspective, of course. Which the article pointed out in a very poignant way, while discussing why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is causing such distress in the conservative press:

Just what is it about [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez that is flipping everyone out?

The historian and author Rick Perlstein offered some answers in a recent New Yorker interview with Isaac Chotiner.

"It's a profoundly generational phenomenon, and, clearly, it's scary," he said. Perlstein sees Ocasio-Cortez as part of a generation that doesn't bear the lingering psychic wounds of a Democratic Party stunned into wimpiness by the Reagan era and its aftermath.

You've got to admit, that's pretty well-put: "stunned into wimpiness." But Ocasio-Cortez doesn't bear these scars at all, because when Reagan handed the Oval Office over to George H. W. Bush in 1989 she wasn't even born yet. To her, the Reagan Revolution is something she learned about in history class, after learning about the New Deal in the same fashion. This is a big reason why younger Democrats are so much bolder than their elders, and I don't think I've ever seen it pointed out before in such a basic fashion.

Democrats are experiencing a convergence of young people who are eager to see bold action on the part of their party when it comes to addressing basic problems such as how a rigged system doesn't equally deliver economic benefits to all. They are not frightened of the word "socialism" because they were not alive during the Cold War when the demonization of the term in American politics largely took place. Instead, they look at places like Scandinavia and wonder why we can't have some of what they enjoy from their governments.

To be fair, this wasn't initially led by the young. Bernie Sanders is a lot of things, but "spring chicken" just ain't one of them. And Sanders certainly wasn't the first to attempt to get the Democrats back to their roots, but he was easily the most successful at it. The issues he ran on were ridiculed (by Hillary Clinton, among many other Democrats) as being "pie in the sky" and unrealistically radical. Such things simply were no longer possible -- the days of F.D.R. were gone forever. The watchword of the day was incrementalism -- making tiny strides towards a slightly-better future.

But this time around, almost all the Democrats on the slate will be supporting the lion's share of all these "crazy, extremist" ideas Bernie put forth. A $15 minimum wage. Truly universal healthcare (at the very least), or even single-payer. Tuition-free college at state-run universities. Taxing the rich more. Holding corporate America's feet to the fire. All of these formerly-radical ideas will be the main planks of many of the Democratic candidates, to one degree or another. The ideological battles between all of these candidates are likely going to be pretty small-bore, because they'll only be about the details around the edges. Most of the Democratic candidates are going to support these general goals, in other words, but they may have different specific plans about how to achieve them.

This will likely elevate the electability factor, but not in the traditional sense. When pundits usually use the word "electability" in reference to Democrats, it is code for "a non-radical centrist who can appeal to wavering Republican and Independent voters." In other words, the more a candidate rejects bold policy proposals, the more electable he or she is deemed to be by the punditocracy. This, like many modern political terms, is going to be completely and very personally redefined this time around, because this time (no matter what the pundits think), "electability" is going to mean only one thing to pretty much every Democratic voter out there: the ability to beat Donald J. Trump. That's going to be much more about personality and how candidates deliver their message than it is going to be about what that message actually contains. Democrats won't make the mistake of treating Trump like a buffoon who can't possibly get elected this time around. They'll know full well how potent his schtick is on the campaign trail. They'll have the 2016 debates to watch, to learn how effective he can be at twisting the truth and being a playground bully.

Different candidates will attempt different tactics to convince Democratic voters that they know how to take on Trump. Different voters will react in various ways -- some will be attracted by strong personalities, some will respond better to the idea that "we need a sober and levelheaded candidate." But no matter how it is interpreted, the one thing foremost in every Democrat's mind this time around is going to be who has the absolute best chance at beating Trump. That much seems absolutely certain, even this early in the process.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

25 Comments on “What Democrats Are Looking For In A 2020 Nominee”

  1. [1] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    "Democrats are experiencing a convergence of young people who are eager to see bold action on the part of their party when it comes to addressing basic problems such as how a rigged system doesn't equally deliver economic benefits to all."

    Yes and no.

    Young people are supporting candidates such as Bernie or OSC, but it is not clear they consider the Democratic Party their party.

    And if the Big Money Democrats try to marginalize and use their usual tricks against the candidates the young people support (presidential and Congress) the young people may not be stunned into wimpiness.

    They may look elsewhere.

    But rather than find out the hard way with losses in 2020, why not give the young people that would be open to trying new approaches the opportunity to make the Democratic Party candidates take the bold step of financing their campaigns with small contributions by informing citizens aboot One Demand which will have the dual purpose of providing those young people that will look elsewhere if the Democrats do not respond a place to go?

    Then the Democrats will not be able to argue that citizens have no other choice and they will have to meet the demand for small contribution candidates or fade into oblivion where they will belong if they fail to recognize and take advantage of this opportunity.

    The people want bold, CW. Give them bold.

  2. [2] 
    TheStig wrote:

    "It's a profoundly generational phenomenon, and, clearly, it's scary," he said. Perlstein sees Ocasio-Cortez as part of a generation that doesn't bear the lingering psychic wounds of a Democratic Party stunned into wimpiness by the Reagan era and its aftermath."

    "Psychic wounds" visualized:

    https://static.politifact.com/politifact/photos/GS.41FACT107.jpg

  3. [3] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    " . . addressing basic problems such as how a rigged system doesn't deliver equal economic benefits to all."

    That phrase epitomizes the inability of Dems/Libs to understand how our economic system works. It's all encompassed in the fundamental misconception that goods and services are 'distributed', like manna from heaven!

    Once a person comprehends that wealth isn't actually DISTRIBUTED at all, but first must be PRODUCED, by the sweat of somebody's brow, to put it in archaic biblical terminology, the system becomes understandable. And inasmuch as humans are not equally endowed with the talents and skills to produce goods and services, it should come as no great surprise that such production can't POSSIBLY "deliver equal economic benefits to all"!

    "Equal economic benefits to all" can only be achieved by the confiscation of production and the RE-distribion of it, which runs the risk of reduction/elimination of the incentive to produce. Why should I produce more than my neighbors if my extra output all goes to them??

  4. [4] 
    John M wrote:

    [3] C. R. Stucki

    ""Equal economic benefits to all" can only be achieved by the confiscation of production and the RE-distribion of it, which runs the risk of reduction/elimination of the incentive to produce. Why should I produce more than my neighbors if my extra output all goes to them??"

    What you fail to acknowledge, my friend, is the other side of the coin to that question. Once you have reasonably satisfied all of your needs, what is the point or incentive to mindless accumulation of more useless stuff? You can only live in one house at a time. So why does Barbara Streisand, for instance, need 4 compounds of houses each filled with a different style of furniture. Why doesn't one primary house and one vacation home suffice? Why does Jay Leno need with a garage filled with 20 different types of automobiles? You can only drive one at a time and need one as a spare.

    When your neighbors are dying in the streets due to hunger and disease, at what point do your own personal thoughts turn from your own full belly to more altruistic existential human concerns and compassion? When do you start filling the hole in your own soul instead of mindlessly accumulating useless material goods? If hoarders should teach you anything, it is that once past a certain point, money does not buy happiness.

    The greatest economic boom in recent American history from the 1950's through the 1960's happened when we taxed the wealthy at 70 percent. It didn't seem like that much of a disincentive then.

  5. [5] 
    Paula wrote:

    But no matter how it is interpreted, the one thing foremost in every Democrat's mind this time around is going to be who has the absolute best chance at beating Trump. That much seems absolutely certain, even this early in the process.

    That will be #1. But I think #2 will be how that candidate treats other candidates - anyone who shows sore-loser tendencies will be, I think, rejected. I see a lot of discussion online about the need to not have the Dems to splinter post-primary. Ppl are very sensitive to Russian interference as well - every time someone comes out with anti-Warren, anti-Harris, anti-Beto stuff ppl speculate whether it's "real" or bot-crap. Dems are trying to prepare in advance for a process that automatically separates ppl into opposing camps but who then have to come together when a winner is chosen. And ppl do NOT want disinformation to go unnoticed, unchecked.

    There is also a heightened awareness of the need to vet candidates - tax returns will be required, etc.

  6. [6] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M.

    A marginal tax rate of 70% doesn't even come close to "equal economic benefits for all". And I'm all in favor of charity, compassion for others less fortunate, etc.- just so long as it's voluntary. Otherwise it's just theft, right?

  7. [7] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Paula [5] Spot on!! Unless Dems are able to resist bot-behavior, it's all in the hands of Russians.

    The main part comes AFTER the primaries, of course, when it's time to regroup. That's when the primaries have to end. For good. That's when we turn to the Repubs and say, "Okay, we've got our candidate, let's go." And we go.

  8. [8] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Theresa may be looking for a new line of work after losing the latest Brexit vote.

  9. [9] 
    neilm wrote:

    And I'm all in favor of charity, compassion for others less fortunate, etc.- just so long as it's voluntary

    BS. If we switched to a voluntary tax system and you lost your SS and Medicare because I voluntarily decided not to pay my taxes, you'd hit the streets as a Marxist demanding "your" money.

  10. [10] 
    Kick wrote:

    CRS
    6

    And I'm all in favor of charity, compassion for others less fortunate, etc.- just so long as it's voluntary. Otherwise it's just theft, right?

    Of course you're "all in favor" of it... because by your own definitions you're a classic case of a receiver of "charity" and also a "thief" since you sure didn't seem to mind "stealing" the redistributed "sweat of somebody's brow" and lapped it up "like manna from heaven" when you accepted quite a sizeable amount of farm subsidies, right? [those are public record] And you sure don't mind sitting on your cantankerous ass while the fruits of younger workers' labors are redistributed to you in the form of Medicare and Social Security... not on a voluntary basis. #hypocrite

    If I had a choice to where my involuntary redistributed production was going, I would stipulate that it was under no circumstances whatsoever to be given to hypocrites. :)

  11. [11] 
    Kick wrote:

    Paula
    5

    Yes, ma'am. Totally.

    Balthasar
    7

    Paula [5] Spot on!! Unless Dems are able to resist bot-behavior, it's all in the hands of Russians.

    Russia and China... be mindful of both.

  12. [12] 
    Kick wrote:

    TS
    8

    Theresa may be looking for a new line of work after losing the latest Brexit vote.

    Quite right... Thexit

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:

    neilm
    9

    If we switched to a voluntary tax system and you lost your SS and Medicare because I voluntarily decided not to pay my taxes, you'd hit the streets as a Marxist demanding "your" money.

    Okay. ^^^That^^^ is exactly what I was trying to say in [10]. You said it way better and straight to the point. :)

  14. [14] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Kick & neilm

    Inasmuch as my SS taxes paid for the retirement of your parents and/or grandparents (along with my own), then yeah, their kids and grandkids are obligated to provide for my benefits, and I would indeed "hit the streets" if you tried to renege.

    Do you really find that unreasonable?

    P.S. Sorry, although I was the nominal payee, I was never a farmer, and I NEVER received any "farm subsidies"

  15. [15] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Kick-12

    It would seem the Prime Minister has fallen thru the Earth's crust and landed on this kind of ledge thing.

    Her script has fallen on a different ledge. Sending down the longest BBC rope and copy of the script would be a good idea.

    Yet another example of the Monty Python Time Machine in action!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWRr3-Bnxis

  16. [16] 
    John M wrote:

    [6] C. R. Stucki

    "A marginal tax rate of 70% doesn't even come close to "equal economic benefits for all". And I'm all in favor of charity, compassion for others less fortunate, etc.- just so long as it's voluntary. Otherwise it's just theft, right?"

    UH NO. It's not just "theft." Otherwise any government anywhere would never have the logical power to tax anyone for anything, including raising an army for defense. That also includes non-voluntary compulsion for things like the draft for military service. We give government this power precisely in the first place because we recognize that too many people would just ignore their obligations to the greater good of the society they live in otherwise, and civilization would not be able to function at all as a consequence.

    Nice try at an argument there on your part, but yours just doesn't hold any water.

  17. [17] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M

    I can't respond to 'why' Streisand 'needs' multiple houses, nor 'why' Leno 'needs' multiple cars, but the point is, if they didn't steal them but rather earned them, then the 'why' is none of your business. The very question is simply a manifestation of your greed and/or jealousy, same as Kick and neilm.

  18. [18] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M [16]

    Of course the gov't has to have the power to raise and support the military, build infrastructure, etc. and of course nobody has the right to "ignore their obligations".

    The question at hand however is, what are their obligations? Everybody would agree on the military, the highways and such things that benefit everybody more or less equally, but how about the "obligation" of the productive to support the able-bodied unproductive? Who the hell says THAT'S one of those "obligations"??

    Oh, I know who says that, it's those able-bodied unproductive, right?

  19. [19] 
    Kick wrote:

    CRS
    14

    Inasmuch as my SS taxes paid for the retirement of your parents and/or grandparents (along with my own), then yeah, their kids and grandkids are obligated to provide for my benefits, and I would indeed "hit the streets" if you tried to renege.

    Wrong again, CRS, as you so frequently are. Neither of my parents nor my parents' parents ever applied for and therefore never received Social Security payments from your "SS taxes" or anyone else's; there was absolutely no need for that, and if you paid any attention whatsoever to posts and "listened" rather than focusing on your incessant spewing of the same line of BS in repetitive fashion and as if on cue ad nauseam, you would already know that it's highly unlikely that Neil's parents did anything of the sort either. Nice try, though, but thank you ever so much for proving that Neil pegged you exactly right when he said you would claim it was "your money."

    Do you really find that unreasonable?

    As stated above, you really should "listen" more than you spew because now you're making my points for me. There isn't anyone else on this board who moans repeatedly in hot-bag-of-wind fashion about production, redistribution, charity and "involuntary" theft while being on the receiving end of it, and now you've gone and confused being referred to as a "hypocrite" with the idea that you're "unreasonable" for being a voluntary participant.

    P.S. Sorry, although I was the nominal payee, I was never a farmer, and I NEVER received any "farm subsidies"

    While I'm not concerned with the details regarding to whom you endorsed the sizable "redistribution" of the "production" of many others that you refer to as "charity" and "theft" when it's involuntary, thank you ever so much for admitting you were indeed the "payee" and a willing participant in the system that you routinely decry. While I hear quite a lot of lip service given by Republicans and GOP types in the same manner as you, I have yet to find one who doesn't enjoy that very same "redistribution" as long as it's in the form of their precious farm subsidies or being redistributed upwards in the form of corporate welfare. #hypocrisy

  20. [20] 
    Kick wrote:

    CRS
    17

    I can't respond to 'why' Streisand 'needs' multiple houses, nor 'why' Leno 'needs' multiple cars, but the point is, if they didn't steal them but rather earned them, then the 'why' is none of your business. The very question is simply a manifestation of your greed and/or jealousy, same as Kick and neilm.

    Wrong again, CRS. While I cannot fathom why you would attach either Neil or I with your labels of "greed and/or jealously," I'll just simply chalk it up to a manifestation of your ever-present ignorance. Again and as stated above, if you did a lot more "listening" and less repetitive spewing, you'd already know I have a few collections of multiple things myself and sure not sitting around jealous of anyone else who does.

    You must really enjoy appearing stupid. :)

  21. [21] 
    Kick wrote:

    CRS
    18

    The question at hand however is, what are their obligations? Everybody would agree on the military, the highways and such things that benefit everybody more or less equally, but how about the "obligation" of the productive to support the able-bodied unproductive? Who the hell says THAT'S one of those "obligations"??

    You did in [14] above:

    ... their kids and grandkids are obligated to provide for my benefits, and I would indeed "hit the streets" if you tried to renege. ~ CRS

    Oh, I know who says that, it's those able-bodied unproductive, right?

    Said the "able-bodied unproductive" poster quoted above who stated that others' "kids and grandkids are obligated to provide for" his "benefits"... that's who. Why should anyone be obligated to support you? You do realize that with today's technology you are "able-bodied" if you can type and answer a telephone, right? :)

  22. [22] 
    Kick wrote:

    TS
    15

    It would seem the Prime Minister has fallen thru the Earth's crust and landed on this kind of ledge thing.

    Her script has fallen on a different ledge. Sending down the longest BBC rope and copy of the script would be a good idea.

    I love it... and John Cleese spontaneously combusts. Too funny!

    How about that squeaker of 325-306? I will say that The Right Honourable T. Mary May is darned lucky that her opposition is Jeremy Corbyn. Much too close to survive another, I would wager, and when the hard Brexiteers and Remainers are ready to go at each other, she'll be as good as gone.

    I wonder what Neil thinks about all this? Neil!? Oh, Neil! Do tell. ;)

  23. [23] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Kick

    Yeah, speaking of "ever present ignorance", I can scarcely describe how deeply my tender feelings were hurt by you attaching all those hurtful adjectives to "I"!!

  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:

    CRS
    23

    Yeah, speaking of "ever present ignorance", I can scarcely describe how deeply my tender feelings were hurt by you attaching all those hurtful adjectives to "I"!!

    You need provide no further proof on this board that although you're the epitome of those "able-bodied unproductive" which you constantly bemoan, at the very least you qualify for the "redistributed" "production" of the rest of us due to your obvious arrested mental development. :)

  25. [25] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    TheStig [2] -

    That is a pretty stunning graph. Just had to say that.

    John M [4] -

    While I generally agree with all the points you make, I have to take exception to:

    Why does Jay Leno need with a garage filled with 20 different types of automobiles? You can only drive one at a time and need one as a spare.

    See, now, if I won the lottery, I'd have a whole BUNCH of vehicles to cart me around. A 1969 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler. An AMX. A Javelin. A Marlin. An Eagle. A Rebel. An Ambassador, just in case I had to go someplace swanky. A Metropolitan. But then, that's just me...

    Don't hate on Leno for having too many cars, because "too many cars" does not compute, for me. And for Leno, "200" might be more appropriate than "20."

    Heh.

    [For the rest of you, please Google those model names and choose Images...]

    But I do fully agree with your last paragraph. I mean, we can't ALL be Jay Leno...

    :-)

    Paula [5] -

    All good points. Just had to say that.

    Balthasar [7] -

    Also a good point.

    -CW

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