by Earl Ofari Hutchinson
They aren’t waiting for the official start of the presidential silly season to start dropping open and veiled hints, teases, and innuendos that they will challenge Donald Trump in 2020. The “they” are the ten or so Democrats to date who are feverishly jockeying to position themselves at the front of the Democratic presidential pack.
There are the usual suspects Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and even Hillary. They are closely followed by a slew of senators, governors, mayors, and even Oprah. None of them have so far declared. In almost all cases most of them shouldn’t for the simple but brutal reason they don’t have a ghost of a chance of beating Trump.
There’s no mystery why I say that. A recent Rasmussen poll among Democrats answered that about the three most recognizable Democratic warhorses. Biden, Sanders, and Clinton. The majority don’t want them. They want a “fresh face,” someone who has relative youth, hasn’t been through the political ringer, doesn’t carry a train station full of political baggage, and can do this razor thin tightrope act. That is convincingly talk jobs and industry flight, and immigration reform that’s palatable to non-college educated blue collar whites in the handful of Midwest must win states. And, at the same time do an Obama like pitch to Blacks and Hispanics that will drive more of them to the polls than Hillary was able to do in those same must win states. This means padding the number of Hispanics, Blacks, women, and youth in the five or six states that elect presidents.
The fresh face as painful as it is to admit must be a male, and that’s a white male. True, there’s been an explosion of Democratic women candidates and they are winning offices. But winning a local or congressional race is one thing, winning a broad national election with the Oval Office the prize is another. The massive number of women that voted for Trump over Hillary was proof that in a head to head contest for the White House, the gender card is no winning card in and of itself. The hidden and not so hidden anti-woman bias is still deeply embedded in a wide swatch of the electorate, especially in those must win states.
But even being a white male is not enough to go toe to toe with Trump. He must be a white male Democrat not from California, or New York. He would be ruthlessly baited as a dreaded liberal, big government, tax and spend proponent, who will tilt to minorities and women. The best shot the Democrats have here is someone from one from the old Rust Belt states.
Then there’s Trump. A monster mistake would be to think that a non-stop beat up of Trump for his colossal fumbles, bumbles, ineptitude, corruption, lies, and snuggle up to Putin and Russia, while relentless pillorying the Mueller probe will fire up millions to storm the polls to dump him. This means nothing to his rock-solid base.
The bitter truth hasn’t changed one bit since 2016. Trump won many disconnected and frustrated white voters because he welded their latent racist, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, pseudo- patriotic sentiment to their loathing of, and alienation from, the GOP and the Democrat’s beltway, out of touch with Main Street crowd. Polls show that his overall approval ratings fluctuate under fifty percent. However, the real story is the numbers that still mean the most to him and the GOP. That’s Republican voters. The overwhelming majority far from jumping ship despite his antics are still very much on board. These are the voters that the GOP will need Trump to rev up in the key swing districts in 2018. They’ll look to him to do just that. This is the voter loyalty that buys a lot of support from the GOP establishment even as they flail him or shake their head in disgust for his Putin love fest.
This is not blind party loyalty. They need him. He is more than the titular head of the GOP. He is the point man for GOP policy and issues and, in a perverse way, the spur to get action on them. The party showed in the 2014 midterms and in the states, Trump needed to win in 2016, the GOP showed that it could get those numbers out while damping down the Democratic voter turnout by rigging, playing dirty and gerrymandering.
Trump will have a bulging campaign kitty. He’s already raised nearly $100 million. He’ll have a fawning media that will continue to give him tens of millions of dollars in free air time by playing up every silly tweet, inanity, dumb utterance, insult, and screw-up from and by him. He will continue to suck the media air out of everything that the Democrats do and try to do.
It’s a tough uphill slog for the eventual Democratic presidential candidate, but not impossible. There are far more Democrats than Republicans. They must vote in the handful of states that elect presidents. This requires some semblance of party compromise and unity between the Democrat’s Bernie faction and the centrist-moderates, a well-oiled get out the vote ground game, and the willingness of big and small donors to turn on the money spigot. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who can do that has the best shot at beating Trump.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.