Looking forward to the 2020 presidential election, it may be the most consequential election in the Democratic Party’s history. Despite this, the party has failed in every aspect to form a winning message that can motivate the country and defeat Trump. Based on the current field of nominees, there is no single candidate who stands out as the one who will unite the party and lead a campaign that can bring back the voters lost in 2016. In the past, the Democrats were most successful in elections, not when they elected an obvious, experienced, and qualified candidate, but when they elected an exciting, grass roots candidate. In 2008 the Democrats elected a one-term Senator named Barack Obama who was able to excite young voters and minorities while also speaking to the middle-American working class. Bill Clinton was only a two-term governor of Arkansas and was seen as a new figure in politics. Currently Bernie Sanders is the frontrunner with Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete, and Amy Klobuchar trailing him and failing to separate themselves from the pack.
First let’s take a look at the frontrunner, Bernie Sanders, who is responsible for many of the current struggles for the party. Sanders is a self-proclaimed Socialist running the farthest to the left. A man speaking about radical change against the establishment may seem like a positive, but over the last four years he has divided the party and distorted the values of Democrats. The policy of Bernie Sanders is not a message that appeals to the majority of Americans. Although many of his policies are aimed at the worker, the majority of Americans disagree with his intent to erase the private sector of healthcare, and his economic ideas are seen as unreasonable. Trump ran a campaign on white middle-class resentment against elites and intellectuals. Bernie Sanders fits this characterization exactly being a coastal senator running on radical ideas. Insiders in the Trump administration have leaked the president’s preference to run against Bernie because he is certain he can defeat him. The Democrats need to understand that America does not want a “revolution.” America wants a candidate that speaks to the problems of the common person and can unite a severely divided country. Even if Bernie is able to squeak out a narrow victory over Trump, the Democrats will not take back the Senate from Republicans because he does not have a national message. And then all of Bernie’s preaching of the “revolution” will be a waste as nothing on his agenda will be passed. America traditionally is a center-right country and the Democrats need a candidate who appeals to this voting bloc and can work with Republicans.
It is irrational to solely place the blame on Sanders, as there are multiple factors to the Democrats being in this position. Joe Biden bears a heavy responsibility for the outlook of the remaining candidates. Entering the race, Biden was the definitive favorite and seemed to occupy the moderate lane. People like Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris, and Corey Booker were young exciting candidates, but failed to establish a lane because of Biden. These are just the few candidates who chose to run and lost, but there were more who did not run because they believed they could not compete with Biden. We have now had multiple primaries where Biden has underperformed and lost all his momentum. Biden has finished fifth, fourth, and second in the first three primaries. It is clear that Biden is not truly appealing to the moderate working class as he claimed he would, and at this point will most likely not be the nominee. Not only will Biden not be the nominee, he forced multiple qualified people out of the race who were exciting and promising.
I recently read an interview with Democratic strategist James Carville, who gave a very honest and realistic assessment of the current Democratic presidential campaign. He expressed his concerns for a possible Sanders candidacy and he adamantly criticized the “revolution.” Carville went so far to even say, “Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat. He’s never been a Democrat. He’s an ideologue.”
I agree with Carville’s observation that Sanders is not a true Democrat and does not represent the majority opinion of the party. Carville also explained why the overall message of the candidates is flawed. He detailed how in 2018 the Democrats ran qualified and exciting candidates with a popular message, and had an overwhelming victory. The Democratic Party needs to understand that this election will come down to a few states where we need to appeal to the working middle class. The Democrats’ message has become distorted by talking about issues that do not appeal to the masses. We need a populist message of health care, social security, and jobs. Carville bears a similar outlook as he shared that the Democrats need to run on a “coherent, meaningful message.” If the Democratic Party does not wake up and run a campaign that America wants and needs, Trump will surely have four more years.