With the first Democratic debate only a month away, what can we glean now about the 24 candidates? Are there lessons to evaluate from the Republican quest for the presidential nomination in 2016?
Like the Democrats of 2020, the GOP then had its largest field of candidates ever — many were elected officials with significant campaign and governing experience. Yet, as Joshua Green demonstrates in his brilliant book, “Devil’s Bargain,” no members of Trump’s team, including Trump himself, believed he would be elected in 2016.
Are we likely to be headed for another campaign of unexpected developments, especially with such a large and diverse field of candidates? Will Democrats be able to select someone who can win the primary, but also be the person most likely to defeat Donald Trump?
Many folks who supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 now recognize that he could win the 2020 primary, but he is likely to lose to Trump. In reviewing the “B-Boys,” pragmatists lean to Biden, over Beto, Buttigieg, Booker and Bennett. A rising view is that it might be safe to choose a woman to run as VP with Biden. The Democratic Black Caucus is boosting Kamala Harris.
Elizabeth Warren is appropriately celebrated in this week’s New Yorker by Jill Lepore as a smart leader who has plans, not just goals. She and Bernie are the most progressive candidates. How are their liberal positions likely to affect other competitors? Will Democrats value what Bernie has been doing for the past three years?
Some folks are dismayed that Bernie is once again seeking the party nomination from the position of a lifelong Independent and self-styled Democratic-Socialist. However, for 2020, he has pledged to run and govern as a Democrat.
Major Republican attacks are already linking all Democrats with Bernie, Warren, and young Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as dangerous socialists. The Wall Street Journal regularly has op-eds and editorials about the evils of socialism. Here are just two examples: “All Bernie’s Socialists,” with the subhead “The candidate’s advisers want America to be more like Venezuela” (4/9/19).
Also note “The Socialist That Could,” with a subhead, “Meet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the secret Republican weapon for 2020” (2/8/10). Hannity and Rush Limbaugh issue daily warnings, and Trump repeats: “America will never become socialist.”
Nobel Prize-winner economist Joseph Stiglitz warns that these attacks are grossly wrong and they show no understanding of socialism. Furthermore, he contends that not one of the Democratic candidates comes close to the socialist views held in European countries, or those practiced by Conservative Winston Churchill when he was British prime minister. He concludes that Trump and his allies are resorting to their typical scare branding without regard to data or real understanding.
Trump is unceasing in his name attacks: “Sleepy Joe” and “Crazy Bernie.” But many Americans see Bernie as the elder in the campaign, speaking for the next generation, not just the next election.
The recent book by Adam Gopnik, “A Thousand Small Sanities,” shows the very positive contributions of liberalism to American and other societies. Conservatives have tried to make “liberal” a dirty word. Will Bernie and Democrats be able to rally attention to its huge significance for liberty, inclusion opportunity, democracy and human rights?
Liberals might take a cue from conservatives who often get billionaires and their funded think tanks to distribute right-wing books and propaganda, free of charge, to their boosters. Liberals would be well-advised to distribute Jacob Hacker’s “American Amnesia.” Hacker urges citizens to recall all the extraordinarily good things the national government has done, almost always when led by Democrats and liberals. Think Social Security, Medicare, civil rights, women’s rights, environmental protection, placing limits on what the three Roosevelts (FDR, Eleanor and TR) called “the malefactors of great wealth.”
A democracy is supposed to reflect the policies favored by citizens. During the past year, from two-thirds to more than 80 percent of Americans favor extending DACA (blocked by Trump). Some 65 percent said that immigration is a strength for the United States, while 26 percent said it was a burden, according to public opinion polls.
By 56 to 32 percent, Americans say “Trump has done too little to distance himself from white nationalist groups.” In recent Pew polls, 63 percent of Americans said the U.S. economic system unfavorably favors powerful interests (34 percent said it was fair).
Most alarming for Trump and his supporters are the views of millennials and the rising Gen Z; both give the president the lowest approval ratings of all groups (29 percent and 30 percent respectively). They also lead age cohorts in believing that “increasing racial and ethnic diversity is good for society” (61 percent and 62 percent, while only 46 percent of Boomers (ages 55-73) support that view. Only 42 percent of the e Silent Generation (74-91) agree.
By overwhelming margins, compared with older Americans, the two youngest cohorts believe that “governments should do more to solve problems.” If young people continue to expand their voting turnout the way they did in 2018, liberalism will be in the ascendancy, and Bernie will be recognized for a key role in shifting the political paradigm.