Saturday, March 09, 2019

Race for the White House 2020 # 10

This could have been one of the more significant weeks for Democrats early in this Presidential cycle.

Two candidates, who were expected to run by many have instead decided to stay out of the crowded field. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is somebody with a proven record of electoral success in Ohio and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire. The two differ ideologically in many ways, but both would have been considered "moderates" by some in this particular field. The road to the nomination would have been difficult for both men, but there is some belief that Republicans will be relieved not to have to face either man at the top of a ticket next November. I am not personally a Bloomberg fan, but he is perhaps one or one of two Democrats I would have at least considered voting for against Trump. In announcing he will not run, he also wrote to warn the party not to veer too far to the left. Brown, is someone who might be a very possible Vice Presidential pick, assuming there is not already a white man on the ticket, but if he is elected to national office, the Democrats would automatically lose his Senate seat via a Republican appointed replacement.

Also, it looks like the wait is over. Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democrat nominee, basically admitted publicly for the first time that she will not run in 2020. Democrats should breathe a sigh of relief at that development. At the other end of the announcement spectrum, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is officially in. It was just a few months ago, when some speculated he might team up with his friend John Kasich, now the former Governor of Ohio, as part of a centrist Independent team. Hickenlooper will have a tough time most likely in his party's primaries.

The announcements by Clinton, Brown, and Bloomberg are all signs that former Vice President Joe Biden is likely to run. If that happens, he will immediately join Bernie Sanders as the two perceived "finalists" as the party goes about its choices. A field with so many candidates all searching for votes on the left could leave breathing and running room for Biden on the other side, but he also may face significant challenges as someone who first got into politics in the early 1970s and who might have always been as "progressive" on race issues as the party now demands. It is being said that the one thing that might be holding Biden back is the concern about dealing with the somewhat unusual family situation of his younger son having left his wife for his brother's widow.

Speaking more generally, it is clear that the nomination of the Democrat Party will be one worth having. Donald Trump remains divisive and vulnerable and Democrats certainly had a successful 2018 cycle in the places where it most mattered. Ever since the new Congress was sworn in though in January, regardless of whatever problems Trump is having (if you believe there is currently a "fake Melania" down in Florida this weekend or not), there are warning signs from the House of Representatives that Speaker Nancy Pelosi may not have as firm of a grasp on her party as believed.

Over the past couple of months, the two most visible and arguably influential Democrats have been young freshmen Congresswomen from urban areas who openly embrace the term "Democratic Socialist." Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York City continues to generate headlines and often interesting soundbites as she advocates for such things as the "Green New Deal" and Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis continues to get in hot water for using anti-Semitic tropes as she pushes a message opposing the United States alliance with Israel.

Omar was particular in the news this past week after refusing to apologize for the generations old slur that Jews have some sort of dual loyalty. Many prominent Democrat Jews (and nearly every elected Jew in America is a Democrat) denounced her words and it looked like the Congressional leadership would push for an informal rebuke of her by issuing a statement against anti-Semitism.

Omar's allies on the left though circled the wagons around her, just like many on the right have come to do for Donald Trump over the past three years. The language was watered down to what was basically an "All Hate is Bad" statement, taking away from the specific issue of targeting Jews. Amazingly enough, some Democrats, including higher ups in the House leadership tried to excuse away her repeated behavior as examples of youth or being naive or simply not understanding how her statements could be interpreted. It reminds me very much of how Congressional Republicans have tried to normalize the actions and rhetoric of Trump. Various Presidential hopefuls have also tried to have it both ways in not wanting Jewish donors to the party being insulted but also fearful of turning off those on the left who agree with Omar as it relates to the Palestinian issue.

What has become even more clear is that there is a significant element of the left-wing of Democrats that is becoming vocally more anti-Israel. Of course Donald Trump, the grandfather of Jewish grandkids, but someone with a history of association with anti-Semitic white nationalist figures himself cannot help himself and is now openly calling Democrats the "anti-Jewish party." I am pretty certain that the vast majority of Jews will once again vote Democrat for President in 2020. Once again though, I will not be one of them. I will of course also be wishing the Republican Party were what it once was and how much potential there could have been for gaining Jewish votes for the GOP.

In the meantime, Democrats will have to come to terms with this sort of chasm in their own party and how cockiness about beating Donald Trump is leading them to embrace identity politics and litmus tests in a way that could have a profoundly opposite effect.


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