By Barry Kirschner
The Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 2020 will deserve the full support and commitment of everyone to mitigate the harm from the cosmic folly which now dominates our politics and the world stage. None of the twenty or so Democratic candidates are a danger to humanity as is the current occupant. The likely criticism in future decades will be that the next president did too little to reverse damages to the rule of law, earth’s environment, and international structures for peace caused by the predecessor. I preview with a summary of the outcome.
Elizabeth Warren promotes a multiple plan economy for structural change which will become the focus of much of the campaign discourse and coverage. The Republicans will go for the old cries of socialism and tax burden. But Warren has inoculated her campaign somewhat with proposals to tax wealth and tax in a progressive manner. These proposals are not only progressive. They are popular with the electorate.
The other attacks on nominee Warren will be the insult politics we are now so familiar with. But in 2020 screaming Pocahontas will not cause the current occupant’s base to broaden, and it will highlight that he has no substantive response to policy proposals. When Warren speaks about health care it will be obvious that unlike her predecessor she will never state— who would have thought that health care would be such a complicated problem?
Following the first direct encounter between former Vice President Biden and Senator Kamala Harris there were pundits stating Harris is tough enough to stand up to you know who. But she will rarely have the forum for that direct attack with give and take. Warren has the ammunition to contrast herself as a policy wonk knowledgeable in detail, but with a passion which projects a very different personality than former Vice President Gore.
WHY WARREN WINS THE NOMINATION
Poll numbers and dollars raised are historically the best indicators for who is running a serious campaign. But poll numbers fluctuate greatly in early primaries and the nomination process. Howard Dean was a leader for many months before losing to John Kerry in Iowa in 2004. Two weeks later his campaign was toast. Predictions were that Hillary Clinton had not only lost her significant lead but any opportunity to win the nomination after her 2008 third place finish in Iowa. Her campaign was resurrected by an upset victory over then Senator Obama in New Hampshire. Obama’s New Hampshire lead was soft, based on his new status as front runner after Iowa.
Read the analyses of the current campaigns for the nomination. Descriptions of campaign organization and “troops on the ground” in early voting primary states show that in Iowa and Nevada Senator Warren has established efficient and large campaign organizations. Others have not.
Warren’s debate performances are highly rated and her knowledge of the issues superior. Unlike some of the other candidates, her success in the debates does not come at the expense of bringing down other high polling candidates. Her put down of former Congressman Delaney is a positive against somebody better suited to run as a Republican or in a conservative locality. In a large field, being second or third choice for supporters of candidates who drop out is a very important asset.
Bernie Sanders deserves high praise for fighting the fight in 2011 during the fake budget deficit disaster, and in 2016 to build a left leaning response to challenge the anointment of Hillary Clinton as nominee. At age 78 and less well positioned to gain the nomination than his friend and ally Elizabeth Warren, his supporters will move over to Warren slowly and then more quickly.
Senator Harris enjoys a burst of enthusiasm from her first debate performance. but that will be impossible to sustain as one of the front runners. To the extent that she has hopes that her new voters will come from current Biden supporters, it is unlikely. If and when Harris’ campaign lacks critical mass to continue, the most likely outlets for her supporters are Warren and Senator Booker.
One of the more serious obstacles deterring Warren from becoming dominant is her modest support among black voters. That is not a result of negative feelings toward her. It is a result of the credibility Biden has for his association with President Obama, and the identity black voters may feel with Booker and Harris. This black vote will be dominant in South Carolina, but with insignificant numerosity in Iowa and New Hampshire. If Biden dominates South Carolina, it will likely spell the doom of candidates Harris and Booker. Between Harris and Booker, the failure to dominate in South Carolina will diminish or end any likelihood of becoming the nominee. The Harris and Booker campaigns are likely to be active in attacking the Biden positions on busing and integration from the 1970s and 80s which are much less favored within the 2020 Democratic Party electorate.
As the campaign goes on, the energy and enthusiasm of Warren and the progressive wing of the party will become more dominant over the more middle of the road friendly Biden voters. If and when Biden falters, there is no credible “moderate” in the field who will take over to compete favorably with Warren. South Bend Mayor Buttigieg is a brilliant interviewee. But it is hard to imagine a leap from mayor of that size city to president, regardless of what additional bias may hurt his chances for being within the LGBT community. If Biden does not falter in the early primary states but has not landed a knockout punch against Warren, I believe it more likely for the party to coalesce around Warren than Biden
HOW WARREN WINS THE ELECTION
The most likely way the current occupant again prevails is based on an electoral college advantage essentially repeating outcomes in almost all states. His prospects for repeat upsets in Pennsylvania and Michigan appear low. Wisconsin is more of a wild card. Other states with narrow Democratic margins in 2016 were New Hampshire, Nevada, and Minnesota. It seem unlikely that Minnesota is truly in play in 2020. Democrats are favored (in my mind) to repeat victories in New Hampshire and Nevada.
In addition to winning Pennsylvania and Michigan, the Democrat needs one of, or some combination of Wisconsin, Iowa, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona and Ohio. At this point Wisconsin is the most likely to be what is called the tipping point state in the analysis of 538, the blog created by gifted statistician and analyst Nate Silver.
In Florida and Georgia, voter suppression efforts will be strong, and the entire state political bureaucracy will not allow a close victory to favor the Democratic nominee. If the Democrat wins the electoral votes in these states, it will be adding to the margin, not placing the candidate in the winner’s position. This is a dose of reality that will not be addressed by any polling. If you have doubt, read Bush v. Gore.
Polling at this point more typically addresses a national audience. Clinton’s inability to win with a 3% advantage in the 2016 popular vote is something of an anomaly in American history. But looking at the electoral map it is easy to imagine it happening again. The formula for this unforgivable outcome is furthered by the current occupant’s attitude of being concerned only about his base of support. California may give the Democrat a 5 million and one vote majority in 2020, with 5 million of those votes being without effect on the outcome.
Beating the importance of the Great Lake states repeatedly is central to the message now heard from Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar. Biden supporters look to polling showing him with a sizable lead in Ohio. Klobuchar presents herself as a popular vote getter in the Midwest, and a neighbor to Wisconsin which may be the most critical state of all. Neither of these candidates has demonstrated the ability to engage great enthusiasm to attract potential first time voters, or to return participation of minority ethnic voters to the participation of the Obama elections as opposed to the lesser rate of 2016. They, like all Democrats, are counting on Trump’s unique performance as offender in chief. Amy Klobuchar will soon face the reality that it would take a near miracle for her to win the nomination.
There is some possibility that the collapse of current occupant support will be widespread. Economic downturn may remind farm communities that they have been harmed, manufacturing employees that they have been lied to, and people in general that the con-artist at the top is basically ignorant of how things work and malevolent to spreading wealth toward middle and lower class gains. The more persons learn about Republican efforts to sabotage universal health coverage and its advance in Obamacare, the more helpful it will be to the Democrat.
The further off the mark the economy is for working class folks, the more powerful the message from Warren. She makes the argument for structural reform effectively, with enthusiasm. This is what it takes to gain enthusiastic support from the progressive wing and the less traditionally engaged voters who realize that they have not advanced in the full employment economy.
Warren has to overcome the misogyny which helped defeat Hillary Clinton. But that misogyny greatly influenced the priorities of respected news organizations to allow her e-mail difficulties to ascend to the level of any of five Trump scandals. With assistance from The FBI, James Comey, and the Russians, Clinton could never shake these stories. Nor could she be cleansed of the decades of acid know-nothing criticism of her since being accused of murdering a White House friend early in Bill’s presidential tenure. The international success of females running for a nation’s top office and governors in many states of the United States leads me to believe that this glass ceiling is ready for shattering.
Warren, unlike a number of the other candidates, has received the full blast of invective during her first race against (then) Republican star Senator Scott Brown. He had managed to win the Massachusetts seat recently held by the deceased Ted Kennedy following poor Democratic effort to hold the seat during the Tea Party infancy.
There has been much recently written about how democracies die, and enumerating parallels between the current occupant and tyrants of the 1930s. Many distressing signs surround us including the Supreme Court, the United States Senate, and the large number of states with executive and legislative dominance in both houses by Republicans. But critical as we should be of what is sometimes called the mainstream media, that remains where most people receive their news. The current occupant has exhausted all credibility with all reasonably objective sources of news. Networks still count for something. Newspapers with historical distinction will not be overwhelmed by Breitbart, Fox and the Russians put together.
The good vibes to right wingers caused by hate within the crowds should not allow us to conclude that these people represent a majority of citizenry, or voting citizenry, within most of the states of the United States. The recent visits to more safe locations for right wing extremist rallies reminds me of Nixon in 1974 when his only safe political venues were military bases and the Deep South. Even the 1974 trip which I witnessed to reliably right wing Phoenix, Arizona at the Memorial Coliseum bolstered by a large surreal band of “Moonies” controlled by the right wing South Korean Reverend Moon could not drag the visit out of the comic and into the dangerous.
I test high for cynicism with a heavy dose of pessimism.. But my analysis tells me that hope is on the way, if we can make it until then.