We’re nearly two months away from the first Presidential Primary debate and yet already, liberal pundits are savaging those Democrats who’ve had the courage to enter the race. I see the criticism frequently in such on-line forums as the Huffington Post. And just yesterday, I heard an MSNBC talking head criticize Biden for daring to criticize President Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” remarks. According to this pundit, Biden would be well advised not to talk about such issues given his own track record when it comes to the topic of race.
Really? From what I can tell, Vice President Biden has been a devoted public servant for more decades than that progressive pundit has been alive, and yet the latter doesn’t think he has standing to highlight the single worst moment in the Presidency of the man Democrats are trying to defeat. Folks, can we stop eating our own? Please?
My hope is for all Democrats to spend the remainder of what I call the “pre-season” keeping our hearts and minds open about all these candidates. Let them make mistakes. Let them speak vapidly or duck difficult questions. Let them take back an ill-advised comment or policy position. And to the extent they feel compelled to speak sharply about a fellow Presidential candidate, encourage them to take on the candidate running as a Republican, not each other.
Why do I say that? Because at the end of the June, and for the next 8-12 months thereafter, some amount of intra-party conflict is inevitable and even healthy. Presumably, our candidates won’t be offering us childlike monikers such as “Lyin' Ted,” “Little Marco,” or “Low Energy Jeb,” but the ones who are hurting in the polls will owe it to their supporters to throw at least some barbs in the direction of the favorites. But for the good of the Party, can we at least enjoy an extended honeymoon period? Can we spend the next two full months building up as much affection as possible for all these candidates? Or do we have to wallow in the kind of mockery-narratives that are increasingly popping up with respect to each of Trump’s would-be challengers?
If you’re not immediately familiar with these narratives, just ask yourself which of the 20 Democratic candidates are best positioned to defeat Trump and lead the Democratic party.
The elderly, grumpy, unelectable white male socialist who scares the crap out of moderate Democrats, let alone Republicans, Bernie Sanders?
The out-of-touch, kind-of-creepy, gaffe-prone politician whose record is the antithesis of progressive, Joe Biden?
The charisma-challenged, condescending professor who reminds everyone of Hillary except that she’s even less electable, Elizabeth Warren?
The “Senator Pothole” tinkerer who claims to be Minnesota-nice but has proven to her Congressional staffers to be anything but nice, Amy Klobuchar?
The frivolous dilettante, whose Presidential campaign is fueled primarily by narcissism and a desire to have a really cool personal adventure, Beto O’Rourke?
The finger-in-the-wind pol who refuses to answer substantive questions and yet has much to answer for herself in the way she has dealt with the criminal justice system, Kamala Harris?
The inexperienced millennial who also doesn’t think voters deserve to know what he stands for but thinks he can get elected by spewing pseudo-intellectual gibberish, Pete Buttigieg?
The guy from Jersey who is pretending to run on a Kumbaya platform at a time when nobody wants to hear anyone sing Kumbaya, especially if he’s from Jersey, Corey Booker?
Or one of those other pathetic, nameless candidates whose standing in the polls is so damned low that nobody is even bothering to insult them?
Folks, mocking a politician is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. These people self-promote at the same time that they self-reveal. You show me a politician, any politician, and I’ll show you a hypocrite. It comes with the territory. But unless you want to see President Trump re-elected, I suggest you look at the above list and recognize that (a) you’ll be voting for one of those folks in the fall of ‘20, and (b) the person you’ll vote for in the general election probably won’t be the one you’d like to vote for today. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that because elections among twenty contenders is kind of a crap shoot, you’re most likely going to have to go crazy in support of a general election candidate who you voted AGAINST in your state’s primary. If that’s going to happen, you’d better figure out a way to stay as positive as possible about as many of these people as possible for as long as possible.
So what do you say we allow all these candidates the next two months to impress us with their positive characteristics – their visions, their policy proposals, and their formulas for taking on President Trump. What do you say we embrace what it means as voters to be able to wholeheartedly support ANY of the above? Maybe if that happens, the intra-party criticism that will inevitably begin to flow in July and thereafter would be a bit more measured. Then, when it does come time to nominate someone in the summer of 2020, we will have identified a person who’ll be beloved by the entire Democratic party and many of the Independents. And that candidate will not only beat Donald Trump in the next election but also grab a mandate to change the direction of government in January of 2021.
Let’s face it – the Russians weren’t the primary reason why we lost the election of 2016. Mostly, we caused ourselves to lose – by taking for granted states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and by teaching a veritable master class in how NOT to run a primary campaign. Now, we have a chance for a do-over. We have a chance to replace a crooked coronation (where a single, favored candidate was given debate questions in advance) with an honest, give-everyone-a-fair-chance celebration of democracy. We have two months to set the table for that celebration. I say, let’s call this the “Spring Fever” period. Let’s fall in love with our candidates. Let’s build them all up, so that ultimately, for the good of the country and the world, at least one of them will not fall down.