By Robert A. Vella
Surprise, surprise! The Democrats had a pretty good debate last night in New Hampshire (see: AP FACT CHECK: Examining claims from the Democratic debate). It was largely substantive, civil, and focused squarely on defeating President Trump in November. The seven presidential candidates on stage (i.e. Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang) finally appeared to get the message from voters that the party’s infighting over ideological and other differences had to stop. On MSNBC’s post-debate analysis show, it was refreshing to see Lawrence O’Donnell rebut Chris Matthews’ anti-socialism rant by pointing out that popular anti-poverty programs such as Social Security and Medicare are innately socialist and that all western-style economies are a mix of capitalism and socialism. More pointedly, establishment centrists’ fear-mongering over the “S” word is nothing but a red herring.
Winston Churchill once said that “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.” Let’s hope that’s the case with hardheaded Democrats who snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as regularly as an alcoholic falls off the wagon.
This is why I haven’t endorsed any of the candidates so far and I will not do so going forward. Although I am an independent progressive who is ideologically aligned with the Sanders-Warren wing of the party, I only want the best candidate able to take-on Trump to win the Democratic Party nomination. Why? Because kicking that thoroughly corrupt mob-boss out of the White House is by far my greatest concern. The fate of American democracy and our constitutionally-based rule of law are at stake. If we lose this election, nothing else will matter. When your ship is sinking, everyone aboard is in peril.
However, I will comment on Democrats’ strategy; and, there’s a critical aspect of the 2020 election which must be addressed. In 2016, the mood of the electorate was profoundly populist. That’s why Sanders performed so strongly in the Democratic primaries (especially in the Midwest), and why Trump won the general election via the Electoral College (also by strong support in the Midwest). By nominating the establishment candidate Hillary Clinton, Democrats were bucking the prevailing mood of the people… and, they understandably lost.
But, it would be an equally disastrous mistake to assume that the 2016 political dynamics will repeat this year. The mood of the electorate is no longer populist. The 2020 election will be a national referendum on Donald Trump even more so than the 2018 midterms were. Political outsiders who vow to “shake-up the system” will have difficulty gaining traction because the system has already been dramatically shook-up by President Trump. What the majority of Americans want now instead is a return to normalcy and stability. For Democrats, it would be wise for them to nominate neither a populist upstart nor an establishment stalwart but a likeable moderate who preferably can appeal to those blue-collar voters in the Rustbelt who chose Trump over Clinton four years ago. Two such candidates who fit that requirement are still running.
Note: Most observers (including myself) believe Klobuchar performed very well in last night’s debate whereas Buttigieg did not.
Suburban voters, especially women, have shifted strongly away from Republicans and towards Democrats. This trend began shortly after Trump took office, and it has since intensified. Last year’s elections in Kentucky, Virginia, and even in Mississippi, provide confirmation. Additionally, voter turnout among young people has also increased. These key demographic groups do not approve of Trump, and it’s a huge obstacle to his reelection chances.
However, Democrats could screw-up this inherent advantage. They need to regain the white working class vote in the Rustbelt (i.e. Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania) lost to Trump in 2016. They need to stop their idiotic and destructive quarrel between centrists and progressives. They need to continue speaking to “kitchen table” issues (e.g. healthcare, etc.), but they also need to inform voters about the existential dangers posed by a second Trump term.
The 2020 election will be different from 2016. Back then, the political dynamics favored Dems nominating a progressive candidate (i.e. Bernie Sanders); instead, they chose an unpopular establishment centrist (i.e. Hillary Clinton). Now, the political dynamics favor Dems nominating a likeable moderate candidate (perhaps Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar). To win the presidency, the Democratic Party must prioritize the mood of the electorate over their petty factional differences on ideology and other matters.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan Senate report released on Thursday criticized the Obama administration for failing to react quickly or thoroughly enough to counter Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The administration “was not well postured” to combat the meddling and was constrained in responding by a heavily politicized environment in a volatile election year and other factors that inadvertently aided Moscow, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report.
The findings are significant in that minority Democrats joined majority Republicans in criticizing the Obama administration’s handling of what the panel and U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was a Russian operation to sway the presidential vote to then-Republican candidate Donald Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.