I keep asking myself if the Democrats understand what is at stake in the 2020 presidential election; that is, if they have actually assimilated what a second period of Donald Trump’s presidency would mean.
And I ask myself this because the anti-climatic Democratic debate last week did not clarify who among the many candidates could mobilize and inspire voters who want a change, in the same way that Trump mobilizes his prejudiced base.
While it is true that a sector of the electorate is predisposed to voting in 2020 for any Tom, Dick, or Harry if that means preventing a second Trump term, it is also true that you have to energize the voters. In 2016 the Democrats bet wrongly that Hillary Clinton was unbeatable and that Trump, with his crazy campaign of excesses, would not win. Now that he is President, the Democrats continue wrongly betting that those excesses of Trump which have become deplorable public policies on all fronts—immigration, climate change, health, foreign relations—will be enough to mobilize voters.
But as far as I have seen lately, if 2020 results in a blue wave it will be despite those very same Democrats, not because of them. That is, it will be because the very electorate mobilizes itself; because the civic engagement groups charged with registering and mobilizing voters take to the streets as they do in every electoral cycle to turn out the vote; because these very same people understand that a second presidential term for Trump will finally change the political landscape to the detriment of the most vulnerable sectors, in particular poor people, minorities, and immigrants.
Trump has become a dilemma for the Democrats. Some believe that responding to each one of his attacks just gives him more ammunition, but at the same time they understand that an all-out assault from Trump on this country’s institutions, and most needed sectors, his assault on democracy and decency, have to be confronted, but the way to cut it off is still not an art that has been mastered. Moreover, the diversity among Democrats means that no consensus exists, which has been demonstrated in the back and forth about whether or not to proceed with an investigation into Trump‘s impeachment over the list of questionable conduct that, for many, confirms that he has obstructed justice, among many other things.
On the other hand, sometimes they condemn Trump’s policies in whatever subject they may be, as in the case of immigration, but they do not clearly establish their own counter proposal.
Or even worse, their desperation to establish a clear contrast compared to the others makes them be cruel and petty, as in the case of the former Secretary of Housing, Julián Castro, when in his attempt to show that former Vice President Biden is not fit for the presidency due to his age, reminds him that he may not remember what he said two minutes ago. Oh, the youth. Some of these young politicians believe that they will be young forever and try to use age as a factor against their rivals. If the planet does not blow up earlier than expected due to climate change, it is probable that Castro, if he’s lucky, will come to be the same age as Biden and we will see then if he continues thinking the same way.
That is why I agree with another of the Democratic candidates, former Congressman from Texas, Beto O’Rourke, when he declared Sunday that “who the hell cares about Joe Biden’s age?” He added: “You have kids in cages. You have 10 years left to confront climate change. Millions who can’t see a doctor. Nearly 40,000 gun deaths a year. A lawless president. We have to talk about the big things people in this country care about.”
Little by little the process of elimination advances and it will be the electorate, in primaries and caucuses, that determines the candidate who will face off against Trump in 2020. Each sector has an important role to play. The Democrats must not rest on their laurels thinking that the evil of Trump’s policies, the racism of this president and the chaos that surrounds him, will be enough to prevent his re-election. They have to invest in registering and mobilizing their base like they never have before. Not go back to doing it at the last minute, like they always do.
And the electorate also has the most important role: to go to the polls. If 2016 showed anything it is that elections have serious consequences; that staying at home because your candidate was not nominated is the equivalent of giving a vote to the opposition.
Maybe among so much Democratic candidate clucking it’s difficult to see the view clearly; maybe none of these candidates enthuse the voters the way Barack Obama did in 2008.
But in this marathon, the aspiring nominees and the voters that want a change in command have the same objective in mind: avoid the re-election of Trump. Perhaps this mission prevents the perfect from being the enemy of the good.