The Democrats need to look like a party ready to lead. At the moment, they do not.
2016 was an embarrassment for the GOP, but the Democrats seem hell-bent on following in their footsteps.
Everyone will remember how ridiculous the GOP looked in 2016. There were nearly twenty candidates all squashed up on a debate stage which was always too small to hold that many bodies — how were they going to fit that much ego in one place? They were stood shoulder to shoulder getting their thirty second speaking slots in debates that seemed to go on for three hours, each white man virtually indistinguishable from the other, not least because the camera had to pan so wide to fit them all in shot — but you can thank Chris Christie for that. Indeed, the GOP looked so ridiculous that their own voters chose someone who up until the last minute wasn’t even part of their party.
Somewhere along the line though, some people were clearly impressed by what they were seeing. Having several candidates of the same party kicking lumps out of each other, airing the party’s dirty laundry on national TV just months before a general election— what could be better? Hey, let’s get a piece of that, the Democrats said.
Well, true to their word, they’re nearly there. Congratulations. When the GOP set the record for the number of candidates running in a primary race, this was not a good look. It was not a positive thing for the party or the country. It has meant Donald Trump is President. Surely that over-weight, ball of orange is warning sign enough not to do anything that crazy again? The Democrats won’t be shown up though and are in hot pursuit of snatching the record from the GOP. It might well be the only win they get at this rate.
I’m not exactly blaming the Democrat candidates as such. Just like the GOP three years ago, they genuinely think they’ve got a shot at winning the White House and that’s probably the most tempting proposition in politics. If a general election campaign is the equivalent to a marathon, though, we have probably just cleared the 5k mark, one quarter into 2019. Some candidates are not cut out to complete the course, they know it, their staff know it, their supporters know it and damn near everyone else does, too. So please do not embarrass yourselves and the party and continue with this weird lie than no one believes. This is not a fun run; it’s a hard, horrible, expensive, resource-sapping, energy-draining, run at the highest office in the land which will break more political careers than it makes.
Remember Scott Walker? How did that presidential run turn out? He’s not even governor now. Remember Marco Rubio? Couldn’t even win his own state in the primaries. Remember Ted Cruz, or John Kasich, or Chris Christie? How about those cushy cabinet positions you got? No, they didn’t happen, did they. Remember… ermm… remember…? No, me neither.
At this point in the race the Democrat field is massively crowded but has started to spread, nicely splitting into about three tiers of candidate (although that is changing almost weekly). Some, knowing full well they only have the capacity for a short sprint need to stop and leave the race, others, more middle ranking names (Booker, Klobuchar, Gillibrand, perhaps) might muster the energy to reach the 10k mark, or maybe even achieve the half marathon — a good performance in Iowa or New Hampshire would do nicely and boost their name recognition and resources enough for a 2024/2028 bid, they may even secure a nice position in any eventual Democrat administration.
There are however, some top players who I anticipate will lead the way until the end. I’ve written about the relative merits of various candidates in the past, and without endorsing anyone in particular, I think it’s fair to say Bernie, Warren, Harris have got the legs to cling on at least until Super Tuesday. Maybe Mayor Pete, too. But few others. Not to mention Biden, who at this point has not declared.
When watching a race the eyes are on the leaders, not on the straggles. The competition at the top is what produces greatness in sport and in politics. When too many competitors start ripping each other apart, no one wins and no one watches.
I would urge all Democrat candidates to cast their mind back a mere three years. Think, and remember, just how ridiculous the Republicans looked. All stood there in a neat line looking like schoolboys addressing an angry Principal; all terrified of what the school bully — Donald Big Hands — would do if they stepped out of line. Why, on any sane and reasonable earth, would the Democrats want to drag themselves through that?
The Presidential office if not going away, no matter how much Trump damages it. For all except Bernie who will inevitably be involved to the end anyway and Biden, who probably won’t even run*, 2020 will not be their last chance. It is though, the last chance the Democrats will get to vote Trump out. Don’t waste that opportunity.
*NB I wrote this before Biden announced and during the peak of his ‘inappropriate touching’ backlash. Happy to admit I got that wrong!