The 2020 election is fifteen months away, and already the Democrats are intent on deciding how best to lose. There is general agreement among the two dozen or so candidates that any one of them would be a far better president than the one we’ve got now. Yet, their collective strategy seems to focus on mutual disparagement.
It is painful to watch. The urge to score a knockout punch is obscene in its irrelevance. The desire to thump an opponent—preferably an opponent who has higher poll numbers—outweighs the real necessity of focusing on the shortcomings of the presumptive Republican nominee the sooner the better. The candidates’ other favorite tactic seems to be to bore the public to death by discussing minute policy differences. The Republicans and their titular leader are gleeful.
How can this be?
The current “president,” who is perhaps the most obnoxious resident of the White House since Andrew Johnson, presides over an administration distinguished by incompetence. His one notable campaign message from four years ago was the exclusion of immigrants, and he has pursued that theme since his election, recently claiming that the United States is “full.”
The election of 2016 ushered in an era of corruption of our public discourse through so-called “social” media and the subversion of our political process by foreign governments. The “president” has done nothing about this because, in his view, it is all a hoax.
The central animating principle of this government is self-glorification. He thrives on adulation of rally-goers. He exploits division in the body politic and appears indifferent, at best, to the chanting of an adoring mob motivated by core racial hatred.
Essentially a one-trick pony, his signature tactic is to “tweet” whatever outrageous thing comes into his little mind and watch the world react. It’s a game that he enjoys, and “We’ll see what happens!” is his favorite go-to phrase.
Unfortunately, a loyal 45 percent of the American electorate is happy to share the joke.
So, why are Democrats losing?
Unlike the lively Republican rallies, the Democratic primary debates suffer from poor production and little entertainment value—unless you happen to enjoy watching a wall of lecterns and hearing people talking over one another.
The much-hyped my-plan-is-better-than-your-plan contest is tedious and uninteresting. If the candidates believe that this is the way to attract voters, they are delusional. One can only hope that this is a temporary insanity. It is high time to get back to what is real. Having a plan is a fine thing, but to pitch your plan as a future reality is foolish.
What is real is that none of the candidates’ plans will ever become law without significant modification through the legislative process. To a large extent, then, the details that the candidates are spending so much time arguing about are a fiction that is all the more fanciful as long as Republicans control the Senate.
To make the primary more interesting and possibly even exciting, the candidates should consider how to outsmart the format that is being foisted on them. They should work together not only to put one of their number in the White House but also to retain Democratic control of the House and win control of the Senate.
I would like to see the Democratic candidates actually meet with each other every two or three weeks (away from all cameras and microphones) and create a shared vision and a strategy to achieve it. The debate stage could be used not to compare separate visions but to inspire one shared vision, with all of the candidates on the same page. The candidate who can best articulate that vision—and most effectively contrast that vision with the present administration—should become the Democrats’ standard-bearer in 2020.
Can the candidates stop attacking each other and figure out how to join forces and support each other? It’s doubtful, but I would sure like to see them try.
Some other stuff for later,
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