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Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

OK, it’s still pretty early to talk about the 2020 Presidential candidate selection process and the general election. However, it’s no longer “too early”. Most of the Democratic candidates have declared their intent, and all that remains is for Joe Biden to make it official. On the Republican side — of course, Trump owns the show, the Muller report obviously isn’t going to stop him. It will be interesting to see if anyone dares to challenge him, maybe John Kasich will take up the quixotic mantle, dream the impossible dream? It would at least make the GOP primary process somewhat interesting. And then there’s already Bill Weld, so at least someone is going to go down fighting the Trump Goliath. And the 3rd party field is off to a good start with Howard Schultz (early polls indicate that Schultz might bleed more votes from the Democratic challenger than from Trump).

On the Democratic side, there is a plethora of potential candidates at this point; I believe that the latest count is up to 16, and Joe will make 17, However, it all really sums up to a digital choice: Bernie (or younger reasonable facsimile) or Joe (or younger reasonable facsimile).

The argument for Joe and the pragmatists — Here are some thoughts from a recent Wall St Journal article from Ted Van Dyk, a Democratic party activist since the 1980s. According to Van Dyk, many say that the Democrats need to offer “just the opposite” of Trump . . . not only in terms of policy, but in terms of governing style.

The first is continuing public disenchantment with political, media, financial and cultural establishments. It is this disenchantment that brought Mr. Trump to the White House in the first place and, additionally, almost brought Sen. Bernie Sanders, not even a Democrat, the Democratic presidential nomination.

In Mr. Trump’s case, voters knew he was boorish, narcissistic, a business and financial freewheeler, a womanizer, and largely ignorant of governance and public policy. His election was wholly about disillusion with the alternatives.

To paraphrase – with Trump, many average voters will see a good economy, low unemployment, ISIS defeated, withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan, getting tough with China, trying to get a handle on North Korea by directly engaging its mysterious leadership (something never done before), trying to get control of the southern border . . . from that perspective, Trump actually has a pretty good track record.

Given these objective conditions, cascading attacks on Mr. Trump and his family for his aberrant Presidential conduct are ultimately counterproductive. So are the many portrayals by the Democrats of a America as a nation mired in economic distress and plagued by white nationalism.

If Democratic candidates persist in 2020 in labeling Republicans as antiblack, anti-Latino, antiwoman, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant and anti-middle-class, they can credibly be counterattacked for diverting attention from their own lack of a credible alternative agenda addressing the core national-security and economic issues. That agenda must be serious and not based on a Green New Deal that, however well-intentioned, is currently impossible technologically and economically, is crushingly unaffordable, and contains provisions wholly unrelated to a transition from fossil fuels.

When voters consider changing presidents, they usually focus on the weaknesses of the incumbent and vote for a replacement they perceive as his opposite. That has been the case in every president-changing election from 1932 until the present day.

Voters thus will be looking for a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who is reflective, experienced, a unifier rather than divider, and demonstrably capable of serious governance. In other words, not just another pugnacious self-seeker.

This is obviously a reference to Joe Biden. In sum, this is the case for Joe Biden (or a Joe variant such as Amy Klobuchar, or maybe even Beto O’Rourke, once he is forced to decide where he really stands on the issues).

THE BERNIE THEORY – The argument for Bernie Sanders starts out by agreeing that the GOP selected Trump, and the voters in the right states elected Trump, out of disappointment and disdain for the existing political system. Enough of the public lost faith in the effectiveness of “the establishment”, and thus wanted to experiment (and Trump is truly an “experimental president”). In that light, then if the Democrats spotlight their own socialist experiment in 2020, versus the political correctness issues — i.e., if they hammer on all of their guarantees (college, health care, jobs, high minimum wage, fleece the rich to pay for it) and tone down the racism / sexism / all-else-ism accusations, and also put open border policy on the backburner (attacking ICE and tear down the wall), then they might qualify as “the next experiment”. If the Trump experiment appears to be faltering and disappointing, perhaps enough of the public in the right places will be willing to change the experiment. E.g. if the economy goes into an an economic recession in 2020. And then throw in the demographic changes that have already put Arizona and Georgia in play for the Dems.

Here’s the basic outline, from an article on Bernie Sanders in the super-progressive magazine The Nation:

“People who are ailing need affordable health care, and a single-payer national health-care program will get the care they need; people working 40 hours a week shouldn’t be living in poverty, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage will make ends meet; young people shouldn’t have to take on overwhelming debt in order to get an education, and free tuition will change the calculus. Ending austerity and addressing inequality costs money, and taxing the rich will help to balance the books. “

This is probably why Bernie got taken a lot more seriously in 2016 than anyone would have expected up front, and why he’s polling quite well right now. Bernie is like Trump — clearly a big change, an experiment in being “not like what we’ve had before”.

But, the problem is that the socialistic Democrats are vulnerable to flank attacks from GOP regarding the tangential issues that are strongly insisted upon by the Democratic “base”, i.e. 1.) open border policy 2.) maximum political correctness, with the threat of harsh tactics against anyone who don’t agree with it (e.g. Kamala Harris recently trying to disqualify a federal judge appointment because the candidate was a member of the Catholic Knights of Columbus.

And a third and fourth Democratic vulnerability: 3.) A Green New Deal that could include a lot of uncomfortable lifestyle changes for middle and upper class Americans 4.) Medicare for all is arguably going to lead to high taxes, reduced choices, wasteful spending, limitations on healthcare quality, and ultimately rationing.

Also – socialism is still a tough sell in the US, even though “77 percent of Democrats believe that the country would be ‘better off’ if it were more socialist”, according to a recent Public Opinion Strategies poll. This poll also found that “significant majorities of key 2020 swing voter groups like white suburban women (40 percent agree/57 percent disagree), voters in key ’20 presidential states (42 percent agree/54 percent disagree) and suburban voters (41 percent agree/56 percent disagree) all disagree with this statement”.

The third option would be for the Democrats to go full socialist and at the same time loudly assert their socially progressive agenda. In that case, I would say that the 2020 election is going to be a replay of McGovern 1972 (Kamala Harris seems especially prone to push a social and economic agenda — although she has the countervailing advantage of possibly causing big jumps in the turnout rates of minorities, as in 2008). I would assume that the Dems are smart enough not to do that, but then again, the Democratic base seems increasing ideological and idealistic, not particularly concerned with the pragmatic. They want not just to defeat Trump but to change America. And I don’t think that America is quite ready yet for all of the changes that the base envisions.

In the GOP camp, all seems quite calm. Barring a surprise on the part of nature (Trump’s health), and with special counsel Robert Muller’s investigation into Trump’s alleged Russian ties in the rear view mirror, the GOP has their 2020 ticket locked in. But as to the vote count on the night of November , 2020, there are a lot of uncertainties that the GOP faces. They have not been expanding their appeal to woman and Hispanics, which they need; if anything Trump has been shrinking this base. Trump keeps doubling down on his white male oriented rural and rust belt base, which barely put him over the top in the mid-west swing states. It would not take much to get Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan back into the Democratic column, and Georgia and Arizona might also flip; whereas only new state that GOP threatens is Minnesota.

As such, 2020 could well be the Democrat’s “race to lose”, especially if the economy falters in 2020 (as 50% of business economists now expect). But don’t put anything past the Dems; they might still find a way to blow it!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:05 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, It seems to me that it’s a bit early to discuss 2020 politics—or perhaps I just find it such a mess that I hate to even think about it.

    Already it seems that “fusses” are being kicked up with the latest on Biden. A major fuss about a man who kissed the back of a woman’s head versus a president who admitted he assaulted women outright and bragged about it; all I can say is “give me a break”. The whole thing seems to me that it’s going to be even worse than the last election where DJT ran for prez. And I tend to want to run screaming from the room just thinking about it.

    I would hope that in the end some good female candidate such as Kamala Harris be chosen by the Democrats; let someone like her go up against DJT. He may find that it’s not all that simple winning a second term. Harris who to me seems a a good version of a female Obama would just be perfect for the Democrats as their candidate.

    Until then, I find all the “ifs, ands, and buts” of who might run for which party to be more than it’s possible to figure out at this point. MCS

    Comment by Mary C. Sheridan — April 4, 2019 @ 2:42 pm

  2. Jim,

    While it still is very early, it seems to me that Biden is running his campaign the way that Hillary did – by offering few reasons to vote for him and reasons to vote against Trump. It is a little ironic that you indicate a person can’t wIn using that approach, but then support the one candidate who is running his campaign that way! I am willing to give Biden a pass on this as in the short term I think it is a good strategy to differentiate himself in the Democratic primary. But ultimately he can’t be as silent as Hillary was as to what his campaign is about.

    Hillary lost against Trump because she was a terrible candidate. As she was getting the nomination, the polls showed Sanders did much better against Trump than her. The polls right now show Biden and Sanders are about equal in the polls one-on-one against Trump. With that said, I would Biden slightly better odds against Trump. I have issues with Sanders – his age being perhaps the biggest reason, but arguing that he is for open borders is just flat out wrong given that he spoken passionately against that. I suspect that your personal dislike of Sanders is causing you to project positions that he just does not have.

    Lastly, I don’t think too many people believe Sanders would be successful in achieving what he is promoting. But if he won, he would have a mandate, and that would enable him to accomplish some things – albeit less than what he desired. But if Biden wins, what would his mandate be? I don’t know either!

    Comment by Zreebs — May 7, 2019 @ 3:45 am

  3. Good point, Steve. Joltin’ Joe is gonna have to make it clear what he stands for, other than “I ain’t Trump”. Obviously, he doesn’t want to commit to the Democratic left agenda, he’d rather propose something like “Obama, continued”. Right now I’d say that Joe has at least an even money chance to survive the primary battle, given that he has hit 40% in the polls and no one else seems to be on fire yet, even Mayor Pete seems to have leveled off. If he does get past Milwaukee, Joe is going to have to be more clear about what he stands for. But obviously, he would have more leeway at that point.

    There was an interesting David Brooks article in the NYT recently musing on the fact that the Dem rank and file is generally quite centrist, whereas it’s the coastal elite that wants to go radical, e.g. the lawyers, media people, digital entrepreneurs, academicians, etc. The elite holds a lot of power and provides a lot of cash to the Dem Party, only problem is that their loyalties are all over the place right now. Will be interesting to see if they can settle on one favored alternative to ole Joe. As I said in this post, the primary is gonna come down to Joe vs. either Bernie or a younger version of Bernie (whether a little younger, i.e. Elizabeth Warren, or definately younger, Kamala Harris, or a lot younger, Corry or Beto or Mayor Pete).

    Thanks for writing in !

    Comment by Jim G — May 7, 2019 @ 8:25 pm

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