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Est. April 5, 2002
July 18, 2019 - Issue 798

Democrats’ 2020 Conundrum

"Democrats need to organize, organize, and organize
their voters some more, as they did in 2018, if they
are to have any chance of winning the Presidency,
retaining the House, or reclaiming the Senate
which appears as of now out of reach."

Democrats are in a bind for the 2020 elections in trying to retain the House majority, win back the Senate, and reclaim the Presidency. Given the Party’s current internal friction and Trump’s strategic and laser-like focus on his reelection, they are in for the fights of their political lives. The President is comfortably ahead at this point despite what the polls are showing. Unlike Democrats who prevailed in the 2018 midterm races, no member of the 2020 crew of presidential candidates has yet to evidence the necessary pizazz to beat him.

The current crop of 24 Democratic presidential aspirants is torn as to whether it will pursue leftist, moderate, or centrist policies. As a result, only 12 percent of the Democratic electorate is engaged in their races to date. Thus the polls as to who the frontrunner is are virtually meaningless at this point.

Moreover, as stated in a previous column, there are only five really viable contenders—former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, with Buttigieg coming in a consistent fifth, while the others flip flop behind Biden who has led the field since entering the race.

Others may rise and/or enter the race, as has activist Tom Steyer, which could change the dynamics as we move forward. But the ultimate nominee is most likely to emerge from the five, neither of whom is currently positioned to defeat Trump.

The most pressing issue for the Democrats is the asymmetrical reelection campaign strategies of President Donald John Trump who is redeploying and upgrading the xenophobic, anti-immigrant, isolationist tactics he rode to victory in 2016. Democrats are again like deer in the headlights as they were in 2000 when George W. Bush pulled a rabbit out of the hat to assemble the necessary 270 electoral votes to become President.

The deciding 536 ballots came from Florida with the assistance of his brother Jeb, then Governor, the Republican Secretary of State, and the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision with the fifth vote provided by the Court’s lone African American Justice Clarence Thomas, the controversial appointment by President W. Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush.

Then as now, the Democrats were convinced such shenanigans could not happen a second time in 2004, and they did not. While they focused on Florida, President W. Bush collaborated with elected Republican and political operatives in Ohio to garner the state’s 18 electoral votes to ensure him a second term in another razor thin election.

In Ohio, voting machines, under the direction of Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, the first African American elected to that office, mysteriously malfunctioned in overwhelmingly African American neighborhoods on Election Day, delivering the state to President Bush by an approximately 100,000 vote margin.

While Democrats are fixated on the electoral votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in 2020, which put Trump over the top in 2016, Trump is revving up his voters in the aforementioned states and targeting other traditionally Democratic voting states: Minnesota, New Hampshire, Virginia, etc. Like former President Obama in 2008 and 2012, he is running a 50 state campaign, and he will have more than enough cash on hand to be successful.

Trump’s recent racist and vile attacks on the “Squad” of ultra-progressive Democrats of color—Congresswomen Alexandria-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib—telling them to “… go back to where they came from” is spearheading his current approach. Although they are all American citizens, with only one of them having been born outside of the country, this tactic is energizing his supporters who appreciate his vile assaults on these “others,” who are representative of the individuals who make them uncomfortable in a nation that is seeing its demographic profile become less white.

Trump has promised conservative, moderate, and independent whites, both Republicans and Democrats, that he will make America white again. He is providing visible examples of his efforts to do so: the caging of Hispanic children and adults at the border in putrid conditions which have been widely televised and the highly publicized raids on undocumented U.S. residents. Although the latter yielded a relatively small number of actual deportations, the hype surrounding these actions is a key element of his get-out-the-vote (GOTV) initiatives.

In addition, Trump has also been able to garner a sliver of minorities, as reflected in his 2016 vote—8 percent of African Americans, approximately 29 percent of Hispanics (which some Hispanic leaders dispute), 14 percent of Asians, and low single digits of Native Americans. This collective support of minority voters could give him an edge in several increasingly diverse Democratic states in 2020 with forceful GOTV schemes.

Many Democrats see Trump’s antics as enough to invigorate the Democratic base to come out in 2020, but they are not. They did not stimulate a sufficient Democratic turnout in 2016, and they alone will not be enough to do so in 2020. Democrats need to organize, organize, and organize their voters some more, as they did in 2018, if they are to have any chance of winning the Presidency, retaining the House, or reclaiming the Senate which appears as of now out of reach.

The intra-party fractures, between the “Squad” and the remainder of the Democratic caucus, could be the death knell of Democrats’ chances to be victorious in their political races. While the liberal-oriented broadcast media is preoccupied with commentary on President Trump’s racist tweets and tropes, they are, perhaps, unwittingly motivating Trump voters to go to the polls enmasse. Democrats are assuming that their supporters will come out and vote in huge numbers as a result of Trump’s behavior, but history suggests that will not be the case.

Democrats are also hoping that the upcoming Capitol Hill testimony of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the approaching trial of sexual predator, multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, Trump’s former buddy, will also tilt elections in their favor. That could be the case but in the in the meantime, they need to unify the Party, coach up their contestants, and organize their constituents.

The Russians remain at the ready to help Trump again, so the Democrats need to double-down in all three areas.

links to all 20 parts of the opening series Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell. 




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