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2020 presidential election

The Goldilocks Democrats

by Kevin Kelton

I just watched a segment on Morning Joe in which the hosts were saying that the Democratic Party insiders they know are nervous because as much as they disdain President Trump, they simply cannot bring themselves to vote for Elizabeth Warren. But, they countered, there are just as many Democrats who are worried Joe Biden is too shaky and may not be up to the task of taking Trump down. They lamented that the country needs that “just right” moderate Democrat who could excite base voters in a way that Biden cannot, and could appeal to moderates and independent voters in a way that Warren cannot. Where, oh where, is that perfect Democratic candidate?

The discussion reminded me of all those single friends I’ve known through the years who date and date, never couple up, and blame it on the self-comforting rationale that there’s no good men/women left out there. At a certain point, you have to sit these friends down and gently tell them, “It’s not the dating pool; it’s you. You are the common denominator in this equation. You are the problem.”

That’s where the Democratic party is today. We’ve had 24 fine people offer themselves up to run against Trump. Senators… governors… congresspersons… captains of industry…. all with a wealth of experience, proven competence and liberal ideologies across the Democratic party spectrum. Yet none of them have caught the imagination of a wide swath of the the Never Trump universe.

Why is that? Why is no one “just right”? We really need to ask ourselves, out of two dozen worthy suitors, why couldn’t we give our hearts and souls to any of them?

It’s the same thinking as my single friends: one is too old and plain, one too young and risky, a few are daring badboys/girls who make our hearts flutter but our heads tell us aren’t long-term prospects, and several had interesting profiles but something felt naggingly missing.

And nice-guy John Delany might’ve been “the one” if he wasn’t so darn bland and bald!

I know that many of you want to fall in love and believe that Buttigieg, or Harris, or Castro-Beto-Booker-Bennet would be just perfect – if only everyone else thought exactly like you do. But they don’t. To this point, the majority of the Democratic Party has resoundingly rejected all of them, and that’s not likely to change. By mid-October, after several televised debates, if you haven’t climbed beyond 5%, the chances of you exploding by Iowa are slim to none.

So far, only Biden and Warren have shown any real capacity to draw enough votes from enough demographics to compete for the nomination. And yet neither of them is considered electable by a wide swath the party that is poised to nominate them.

Why is that? Why, after three years and 24 proposals, are we still searching for that elusive, perfect match who’s not too hot, not too cold, not too young, not too old?

The fault, dear Democrats, is not in our candidates, and not in our stars.

It’s in ourselves.

 

Kevin Kelton is a co-host of The More Perfect Union podcast.

Primary Colors 2020

by Kevin Kelton

Democrats, forget left vs. moderate for a moment and talk raw primary politics. Because ultimately primary races are a battle of personalities, not political purity. Once Joe Biden and Beto O’Roarke jump into the 2020 race, the field will be set.* Now the game is primary chess. So let’s look at the board.

Bernie Sanders is likely to win or do very well in his neighboring New Hampshire, the second big prize, a place where an old school candidate like Biden is not likely to run well. (Granite staters tend toward newer flavors.) And South Carolina will be tough for both Joe and Bernie, two guys not known for playing to the grits crowd.

That means Joe must win Iowa. Otherwise he’ll be 0 for 3 in the first three contests⁺ and no one comes back from that except the ’04 Red Sox.

If Beto or Kamala Harris can knock off Sanders in New Hampshire, that could douse The Bern for good. Harris seems positioned to do well in minority-heavy South Carolina. But neither of them is likely to break free if they don’t win Iowa. At best, one might emerge as the fresh-face candidate who will still have to fend off the old guard to prove their mettle.

So once again Iowa is key, even more so this time than normally. (How do a few hundred thousand caucus voters kidnap the nation every four years?) Should Biden somehow win there, it’s probably a Biden-Bernie or Biden-Beto or Biden-Harris race.⁺⁺

That would set up yet another epic battle for the ideological soul of the party, with pragmatists behind Biden and ideologues splintering between Bernie and Beto or Harris. There’s only one lane out of that bowling alley, while Biden would be free to play to the pragmatist, anti-Trump crowd.

But for Joe to get there, it’s Iowa Iowa Iowa. Can he out-caucus Sanders in the heartland? Or will a smooth-talking Music Man (or Woman) from out west come in and steal their swooning Iowan hearts?

If Biden stalls in Iowa, NH and SC become the game. The party will lurch left. Everyone will be touting Medicare For All and play some version of a Green New Deal hand. “I’ll see your carbon tax and raise you a solar jobs bill.” Each will have their own version of a Robin Hood wealth tax, turning the debates into a giant Mathletes club. “Is 70% of an eight figure salary greater than 2% of a nine figure estate? Please show your work.”

And Trump will run against socialism, no matter who tops the ticket. Meaning the world may finally learn what would’ve happened if a Democratic Socialist had secured the 2016 nomination and ran against Trumpism.

There. I just spared you the next year of your life. Now, who do you like for 2024?

Kevin Kelton is a cohost of The More Perfect Union podcast. He also runs the Facebook political group, Open Fire Politics.

* No one is waiting to see what Jeff Merkley or Michael Bennett will be doing. And Sherrod Brown doesn’t have the fire to catch fire.

⁺ The Nevada caucus actually comes before SC this time, but I don’t see that traditionally blue state being much of a factor. Considering it’s so far west compared to the others and what that entails in travel time, it may not get much candidate play at all.

⁺⁺ At this point I don’t give Amy Klobuchar much of a shot, but we can’t rule her out, since “Midwestern nice” plays well in Iowa. And though I personally like Elizabeth Warren, I doubt she can compete in this field. She has no lane that I can see, and I get no sense of traction for her in Open Fire, my Facebook focus group. 

Shutdown Showdown Hoedown (Ep. 188)

This MPU episode looks at the ongoing showdown between President Trump and the new Democratic congressional majority over his demand for $5.7 billion for his border wall/steel slats/fence/drones/security/whatever, watching Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dance on the top marginal tax rate, and Elizabeth Warren’s first week on the presidential campaign trail.

Is the Past Prologue for Democratic Presidential Candidates?

by D.J. McGuire

The events of the last 24 hours (for which we did a special episode – you can listen here) have led many to wax nostalgic over Watergate (euphemism, people, euphemism). It’s also led me to ponder the era between then and now, and I’ve found something that could be ominous for nearly all of the potential 2020 Democratic candidates (including my preferred choice, Congressman John Delaney).

The early 1970s gets harder to remember with every year (the past is like that), but we should not forget that the American people’s revulsion with Washington corruption neither began nor ended with Richard Nixon. This was the era of the Church Committee hearings with subsequent intelligence reforms, campaign finance law reform, and a serious rethink of the structure of economic regulation. Right and left had their own answers to the conundrum of corruption – smaller government for the former, cleaner government for the latter.

One other result that has dramatically impacted the nation has been noticed less: the effect on presidential elections. We’ve had 11 of them since Nixon’s resignation. Here are the highlights:

  • Permanent coalitions are not in vogue: Republicans have won 6 elections; the Democrats, 5. Democrats have won the popular vote 7 times; Republicans, 4. Only once has a party won 3 in a row (GOP: 1980-88). Prior to Watergate, it happened five times.
  • More instability markers: Four times the winner did not win a majority of the popular vote. More to the point, the popular vote winner lost the election twice. That had only happened three times in the previous 184 years.
  • In only six of the the elections did the voters also give the winning party control of the House of Representatives – two of them were in elections where the president elected did not win the popular vote.
  • Yet one consistency came through: the candidate with less experience in Washington was elected nine out of eleven times – including three of the four times an incumbent president was re-elected.

The data point to a clear recommendation for the Democrats in 2020: do not nominate someone with more than four years experience in Washington D.C. Of course, that would rule out nearly every Democrat considering a run: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Delaney, Sherrod Brown, etc. Even Kemala Harris, whose Washington tenure started 17 days before Trump’s, might have pause.

Granted, Trump himself “broke” more than a few rules in 2016, but he didn’t break this one. Moreover, the Trumpenproletariat’s instinct for whataboutism is likely to make voters even less likely to value experience in the nation’s capital. Democrats might want to look to Governors. One of them, Montana’s Steve Bullock, is already considering a run. Moreover, when incumbent presidents have lost in the post-Watergate era (1976, 1980, and 1992), a Governor has defeated them. Every time.

D.J. McGuire – a self-described progressive conservative – has been part of the More Perfect Union Podcast since 2015

Violent Agreement (Ep. 150)

The 150th episode of “The More Perfect Union” podcast finds the hosts in violent agreement on some issues, in wide disagreement on others, and even saying nice things about President Trump a couple of times. (Well… sort of nice.) Then the gang looks back on their 150 episodes together and reminisce about their favorite moments.

Teachers Packing Heat (Ep. 142)

This episode of The More Perfect Union podcast looks at the idea of arming public school teachers, the latest in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, and the possibility of Ohio Gov. John Kasich challenging Trump in 2020.

For more debate between shows, join Open Fire Politics on Facebook.

The Price Is Wrong (Ep. 120)

Episode 120 of “The More Perfect Union” podcast covers Trump’s various feuds with the Mayor of San Juan, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Price, Rex Tillerson, Kim “Little Rocket Man” Jong-un, Cuba, China, Canada, Boeing, the estate tax, John Kasich, Bob Corker, and even Alec Baldwin. And that was one of his good  weeks!

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast. 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

Find us on Twitter at @MPUpodcast

All About the Base…No Treble (Ep. 112)

Episode 112 of The More Perfect Union podcast touches on the final days of The Mooch and who might replace him, the Trump immigration bill and his battle with sanctuary cities, and the Russia probe’s new grand jury. Then the gang must make some faustian choices between hypothetical 2020 presidential opponents.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Molly, Helena, and lots of other smart, fun people.

The Week’s Advice for the Democrats: Hold Firm on Culture, Look for Openings From the Right on Economics

by D.J. McGuire

There has been a good deal of soul-searching within the Democratic Party about how to avoid repeating the 2014 and 2016 defeats. From what I can tell, most of those who (wisely) advise against careening leftward have recommended (not so wisely) downplaying “cultural” issues in an attempt to win back “working-class whites.” While I call myself a conservative Democrat, I have been advising largely the opposite – a move rightward on economic matters, not cultural ones. Events of the past week outside of the Senate health care votes have shown that to be the better approach.

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About Last Night’s Special Elections

by D.J. McGuire

“The people have spoken…the bastards.” – Richard Tuck, defeated candidate for California State Senate, 1966

Democrats will instinctively feel forlorn about their defeat in Georgia’s Congressional special election. They shouldn’t, although there are lessons to be learned.

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The Impeachment Clock (Ep. 100)

In the 100th episode of The More Perfect Union podcast, the gang talks about the prospects for impeachment now that Robert Mueller is on the case. They also look at what Democrats can do to sure up their case to voters in 2018, and why Calista was the Gingrich appointed Ambassador to the Vatican.

Like what you heard? Subscribe on iTunes and don’t miss a podcast! 

And if you like talking politics, join us in our Facebook political debate group, OPEN FIRE, where you can discuss news and politics with Kevin, D.J., Greg, Rebekah, Cliff, Helena, Molly, and lots of other smart, fun people.