It’s no secret that Democrats are getting frustrated and a little worried about their current field of candidates for the presidency, one of which – as things stand – will run against incumbent Donald Trump in November. Their frustration stems from the obvious fact that none of their Big Four – i.e., ex-VP Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders, and ex-Mayor Pete Buttigieg – has been able to pull away from the field and become the likely candidate.
Their worry – shared by both pundits and party-poobahs – originates from their candidate-field’s pell-mell rush to the political left, with ambitious plans for socialist programs so radical and outrageously expensive that they will certainly be unacceptable to a majority of voters. Those concerns are magnified by the facts that:
- Their two leading candidates with the most loyal support – Senators Sanders and Warren – are wild-eyed socialists;
- The candidate with the most governing experience – Mr. Biden – failed twice in tries for the presidency, carries heavy Ukraine-baggage, and has clearly lost a step due to his age (77);
- Their youngest and freshest candidate – Mayor Buttigieg – has governed only a small Indiana town and is in a same-sex marriage.
I’m not the only observer who sees no one in this field able to stand against President Trump in the no-hold-barred contest which the impending election promises to be. Mr. Trump fights dirty – just like the Democrats – so he’s unlikely to act the Gentleman Republican toward his opponent.
Yes, any Democrat candidate drawn from this field will carry the blue states – notably including New York and California – and will make the election look closer than it really is. But working-class voters and independents now enjoying Mr. Trump’s booming economy will not embrace the radical health-care plans, high taxes, identity-politics, and panty-waist foreign policy promised by Dems. Nor will they be fooled by fatuous claims that “the rich” will pay all the bills. They’ve seen this film before, and they know how it ends. Mr. Trump will win in a walk because he has done the job he promised to do, and he doesn’t mind proclaiming it. As Dizzy Dean famously said, “When you’ve done it, it ain’t braggin’.”
In view of all that, it’s likely that none of those candidates will manage to secure the nomination on the first ballot at the Democrats’ mid-July national convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That would produce a “brokered convention,” in which delegate-totals earned in the states’ primary elections become irrelevant and all bets are off. Delegates are freed to select any candidate, including one who has not participated in the primaries. This is the point at which a “champion” can ride in with a promise that he/she can slay the hated Donald and save the country from itself.
I have heard commentators express puzzlement that none of the Democrat candidates has gained traction by following Barack Obama’s successful model. Indeed, they can’t understand why voters didn’t elect Hillary Clinton to carry on Mr. Obama’s program and legacy. Those puzzled observers can only conclude that Mr. Trump somehow stole the election with the help of foreign agents: hence, the tale of Russian “collusion.”
As I see it, though, none of the Democrats’ current gang is following Mr. Obama’s model because each is defined and burdened by policies of which the voters are fully aware. Mrs. Clinton had that very problem. Her record – the good, the bad and the ugly – was fully known . Voters knew where she planned to go, policy-wise. She was an open book. Her inner circle undoubtedly knew that was a drag on her candidacy, so they had her preach the “good news” that she was not Donald Trump, and he was a reprobate swine. But it didn’t sell.
Warren, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg are also known quantities with respect to policy proposals, which much of the electorate will reject. Somehow they have become convinced that a majority of voters will find those policies attractive. But they are mistaken. Moreover, that is certainly not the Obama Model.
Barack Obama ran as a Man of Mystery. He seemed to come out of nowhere, and he was (as Mr. Biden famously said) “…the first African-American who is articulate, bright and clean and a nice-looking guy…” He was well-spoken (if he had a tele-prompter) and non-threatening. The trousers of his $2,000 Armani suit were impeccably creased. Reporters said he might be the smartest man who ever lived. He thrilled legions of voters who longed for a candidate who could “bring us together.” His appearance on the scene was a miracle – almost a rapture.
But Mr. Obama was careful to couch his message in vague generalities like Hope and Change. He never got specific about what his policies were, or which ones he would push. When he slipped and let the cat out of the bag about his socialist leanings – as he did in an unplanned conversation with Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (a.k.a. “Joe the Plumber”), during a campaign stop in Ohio – his media pals quickly covered for him by diverting attention away from Mr. Obama’s comments and concentrating on Mr. Wurzelbacher’s occupation, finances, and personal life.
Unless voters were exceptionally inquisitive, they had no clue about Mr. Obama’s politics or plans. At a party to ring in the new year of 2008, I asked a 30-something woman whom she favored for president. She quickly said, “Mr. Obama.” But when I asked what she liked about his policies, she couldn’t bring any to mind. “He just looks and sounds so good,” she said. She represented millions of voters who ran after Mr. Obama as though he really was The One, but had no idea who he really was.
Many of President Obama’s policies and actions came as a rude surprise to voters who had taken a chance on him. Well into his first term I heard a caller to a talk-radio show say, “Sure, I voted for the guy, but I never thought he’d screw up this badly…”
It’s clear to me – and must be clear to many Democrats – that the only way they can win the presidency in the current milieu is by fielding another Shadow Champion who can ride to victory with vague promises, an attractive persona, and a high-fashion wardrobe. Retreads running on Democratic policies of today and yesterday can’t do it.
Who can that champion be? Michael Bloomberg? (He’s got the money.) Oprah Winfrey? (Would she give up $75 million a year so her love-life can be raked over?) Michelle Obama? (Perhaps she could change her name.) I leave it as an exercise for the reader.
Unless Democrats find a magic bullet to bring down Mr. Trump before the election, or unless a dazzling new hero shows up soon, it’s going to be a grim fall for the Party of the Donkey. As Big Al said, “They’ve got na-thing!”