The first contests of the 2020 Presidential election season, in Iowa and New Hampshire, have come and gone. What had been a crowded and remarkably diverse field of candidates has been sharply winnowed, with only a handful of folks remaining – all of them Caucasian.
The irony is almost painful, seeing that the Democrats generally present themselves as a “big tent” party, concerned with inclusion, in sharp contrast to the largely older-white-male composition of the Republicans. This contrast was well-displayed during the impeachment proceedings, but now seems to have been lost.
This may seem inevitable, as after all only one person can survive through the coming slog and gain the nomination. All the others will fall by the wayside, like failed chefs on a Food Network competition, folding up their utensils in their aprons and gamely walking to the exit… leaving the victor alone to somehow carry the hopes of all their various groups of supporters into the general election.
It’s also ironic to see all these individuals each trying to convince us that they alone can defeat Donald “I Alone Can Fix It” Trump. In one sense, they might all be correct – if the Democrats can put aside their internal differences, overcome Republican voter suppression, disinformation, and discouragement tactics, and get enough people to turn out the polls, any one of them could win.
But in another sense, I think none of them can win alone. They each carry some kind of baggage (real or contrived), or have vulnerabilities and soft spots that Trump and his campaign will repeatedly and mercilessly inflate, exploit, and attack.
Furthermore, the level of rancor and mistrust that has developed between the camps, so early in the process, does not bode well for the Democrats’ ability to wage a unified general election campaign. The way things are going, there will be enough disaffected voters from one side or other to depress turnout and hand the election – and the fate of our democracy – over to Trump.
I think that there is a way out of the problem for the Democrats – but it requires a severe case of “thinking out of the box.”
Somehow, they – we – have to get past the notion of “winner take all.” The model that the primary process is based on is predicated on the notion that the person who can eradicate his or her opponents will be the best candidate in the general election, and will make the best President. Maybe that has worked in the past, maybe not, I’ll let historians argue about that. But in our present situation, I don’t think that’s useful anymore.
If the country is to hold together, in the face of the coming demographic, environmental, and socioeconomic changes, we don’t have to fall into some lockstep “unity” – we have to get better at being different together.
I would like to see the Democrats find a way to model cooperation and coexistence. I want to see a team.
They should figure out how to distribute power among their various factions – corporatist to socialist and everything inbetween – in such a way that everyone feels that their concerns are taken seriously, and that they have a stake in the success of the entire enterprise. In short, they should embrace, rather than try to deny, their diversity.