The Obama Administration is not yet officially over, yet the prognostications are already underway for the 2020 Election. With early polls already commissioned and lists already being written of particular candidates, the eye is already on four years from now.
The Democrats cannot afford to look so far ahead now; not when the fight is being brought to them. With the incoming administration threatening to roll back climate regulations, Obamacare, Women’s reproductive health and the rights of so many disenfranchised people– from refugees to DREAMers, People of Color and the LGBT community– the time to act is NOW.
Nor should the Democratic party resort to the same obstructionist policies that the Republicans turned to under the Obama Administration. Trump, though unquestionably a rogue actor, has stood up for some meritorious policies. He doesn’t want to gut Medicare, wants infrastructural investments and wants to improve our economy by being more skeptical of trade deals. (All of this requires of course, that the petulant PEOTUS doesn’t change his mind or adopt the far right ideology of McConnell and Ryan. Democrats should look to sticking to their guns on issues that are core to their beliefs and their supporters, but should also be willing to work with a President Trump on issues and policies that could actually help the United States.
But if we are to talk about 2020, let’s talk at least about what kind of candidate should be the party’s candidate. I won’t spare too much thought on the question of who in terms of their identity, but more in terms of what policies and actions this person should embody.
First, this candidate should be authentic. The factor that plagued Clinton in 2016 and allowed both Sanders and Trump to surge was their perceived authenticity. Clinton had the reputation, albeit one I think unfairly ascribed to her, of being too calculating and fake. Conversely, Sanders came across as honest and authentic. This trope was also latched onto by Trump, though I remain skeptical of his authenticity. Regardless, the next nominee of the Democratic party must not just be authentic, they must be perceived that way.
Democrats also should stop looking at candidates as being “too old” in physical terms and look at them more in terms of political age. If you take a look at those who are currently the most energizing of figures on the left, you have Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Joe Biden and Michelle Obama. Of these figures, only Michelle Obama is under 70. And the First Lady has emphatically stated that she will not run for elected office. Of these people, only Vice President Biden has been what has been called a “career politician”. So the issue, at least to many, isn’t whether or not that person is either advanced in age physically or whether or not they have served for a long time in elected office. The issue again, is of perception. You can be a career politician so long as you remain steadfast and appear to be authentic.
Third, Democrats should NOT abandon identity politics. Democrats need to understand that their big tent relies on bringing together a disparate coalition of liberal whites, African Americans, women (especially women of color), the LGBT community and the hispanic Community. However, they need add to this plank the working class, especially working class white voters. This requires the precarious blending of a message that unites these groups without isolating them. One idea put forward was the emphasis on a new economic message. That Democrats needed to hammer this home more effectively in 2016 and should hit home on it now. This doesn’t mean that support for LGBT equality, women’s reproductive rights, immigration reform, DREAMers and the Black Lives Matter movement should fall away; instead, the party ought to draw these groups together with a message of unity.
Fourth, the next nominee needs to be a master of the media. I don’t mean a manipulator of the media or a liar, like the PEOTUS. Rather someone that understands different media sources, the ways in which voters read and disseminate information, and how to reach and inspire voters. There is no question that Trump did this to great effect in his campaign. I disagree of course with the lying and manipulation, but he told his voters precisely what they wanted to hear. But we need look no further than President Obama and President Franklin D. Roosevelt for ingenious use of technology. Obama ran a high tech campaign and utilized Youtube and social media well, and before him, Roosevelt revolutionized Presidential communication with his fireside chats. With the 24 hour media and continually expanding media outlets, the next nominee needs to be able to reach out using these media sources in a way that excited and energizes the base.
Lastly, remember the old adage, “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line”. Democrats have to genuinely like a candidate. Each candidate has to be able to reach out to this base and then add an extra flair. President Obama, as the first African American president, added extra excitement to African American voters. Bernie Sanders had the youth vote. Hillary Clinton might have had the women’s vote, however her deeply engrained negatives caused her to not have this added appeal. Democrats can’t expect that they can win with unpopular candidates. And Democrats should never embrace the notion that it is a particular person’s turn for the the presidency. This reinforces to too many voters that which the most greatly detest in a politician.