- - Thursday, December 6, 2018


The Democrats did moderately well in the midterm elections, but not as well as they expected, and they lost the three big races they really wanted to win, the governorships in Florida and Georgia and the U.S. Senate seat in Texas. Winning any one of them would have been impressive, particularly given the generally conservative voting record of those states. Such a result would have cheered the Democratic base, and given momentum to the party for 2020. The Democratic media would have put that winner in the winners bracket in the presidential sweepstakes.

Instead, with the defeats of charismatic black prospects, Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Andrew Gillum in Florida, together with leaving Beto O’Rourke losing in Texas, the Democratic field appears to be remarkably unsettled. There’s such an excess of candidates that it’s difficult to find a Democrat who isn’t running. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, co-chairman of the party’s Policy and Communications Committee, says “we’ll have between 30 and 40 great candidates running for president. There’s a lot of U.S. senators, a lot of governors, a lot of people outside of politics.” Indeed, there’s probably an alderman in Boise or Albuquerque even now enlisting his wife, daughter and the family cat for an explanatory committee to size up his chances. Only one known Democrat has actually announced his or her candidacy. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland has camped out in Iowa to be first in line for the Iowa presidential caucus two years hence.

The Senate, as always, is seething with presidential ambition. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who posed as Spartacus during the Kavanaugh hearings and earned more laughs than applause, is fired up and ready to go. Kamala Harris is peddling her chops as a plain-vanilla left-wing California “progressive.” So, too, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, running as fast as she can from the moderate record she compiled as a presentative of a conservative corner of upstate New York. In a feat of performative Wokeness, she tweeted the other day that “Our future is: Female, Intersectional, [and] Powered by our belief in one another.” Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, known to the masses as Pocahontas, claims Native American (i.e., Indian) heritage from a minuscule smear of DNA derived from an ancestor in one of the five civilized tribes in Oklahoma. The senators are all going left, led by Bernie Sanders, the socialist Democrat from Vermont who almost toppled Hillary Clinton the last time out. Hillary is making presidential noises again, but she may just be trying to sell books on her book tour with Bubba. They’re playing to small crowds in bookstores and half-empty arenas, so she and Bubba may be getting a discouraging message.

Several governors are trying to play the game. Steve Bullock is contemplating a run from Montana. So is John Hickenlooper from Colorado. Terry McAuliffe thinks he hears the roar of a crowd from Virginia, even if he’s merely a former governor. It’s hard to know where a former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, or a former mayor, even a former mayor of New York, should properly fit into this speculation, but Julian Castro and Michael Bloomberg are eager to give it a try. Rahm Emanuel, the former mayor of Chicago isn’t running, not yet, but as a handicapper he gives the brush to Beto. He says it would be unseemly for a “loser” to run so soon for higher office.

Finally, there’s the former vice president, Joe Biden. He has run twice before, and never came close. He nearly made a run in 2016, when he might have been the alternative to Hillary that many Democrats were looking for, but he was mourning the death of a son, and said no. So advanced is the jockeying for 2020 that two prospective candidates have already dropped out. Michael Avenatti, a lawyer at the edges of the search for a colluder in the Russian attempt to fix the 2016 election, and Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts, have thrown in the towel. It’s apparently a banner year for formers.

One prospect getting a lot of early ink and cable-TV mentions isn’t actually eligible, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, only 29, an incoming Democratic Socialist from the Bronx, has stolen Democratic hearts from coast to coast. Most of the attention comes from the goofy things she says, such as comparing the impact of her election to the impact of the landing of an American on the Moon. Many new congresspersons arrive in Washington with similar ideas about their importance, and soon learn better.

All this speculation and enthusiasm for 2020 is based on the belief that Donald Trump is a president ripe to be taken down. But he might not be, and all the learned speculation will have been in vain. That’s part of the game. Enjoy.

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