21 February 2019
Here It Comes Again
More US elections!
By J R Thomas
Casual observers of American politics could be forgiven for thinking that Ground Hog Day is not the half of it. Get one set of elections out of the way and before the posters are even recycled along comes another. The President barely moves into the White House before he (or she, theoretically at this point) starts thinking about whether they should be calling the removers about moving out again. The whole thing is just set on endless repeat.
Not only the events. The same old faces come round and round again. This week sees the reappearance of a familiar smiling face, beaming through the snow drifts. Yes, it’s Bernie Sanders, aged 77, confirming he will be a contender for the Democrat nomination for President in 2020. Bernie, if he is nominated, will be the oldest candidate ever to run for President, and should he win, of course the oldest President (Ronnie Reagan became the oldest President whilst in office, retiring at 78, less a few days). (If you are fascinated by these stats the oldest surviving President was George Bush Snr, recently deceased at 94 years 171 days, but Jimmy Carter is catching up fast – just 110 days to overtake Mr Bush).
Bernie almost shoved Mrs Clinton out of the way last time, and one of life’s idle speculations is to know how he might have done against Donald (oldest man to become President, aged 70 years 220 days). We may yet find out of course; Mr Trump seems to be positively thriving in the job, and Mr Sanders remains a senior Senator and shows no signs whatsoever of slowing up. Last time he captured the youth vote and also the peoples’ funding, as we might call it, raising money by crowd funding techniques from his supporters. Which may become his first problem.
Here are some more statistics. So far, twelve, yes, that is, 12, candidates have declared themselves as firm runners for the nomination. And a lot of them have read the Bernie Sanders book on how to run a populist electoral campaign. The first chapter, which your correspondent is minded to write as Bernie has no time, is to make clear that all the money come from ordinary folks. No influence by big business; no donations from mysterious sources that might (niet!) trip you up by revelations at awkward times, no rubber chicken suppers with the preposterously rich, though probably it is vegan cheese and nut suppers in the modern Democrat party. Also, no doubt, those who have given a few dollars are likely to become hardworking supporters and voters. Most of these twelve are trying to raise money, and several spotted that those who could set their donor website up first are likely to pull the dollars quickest.
So, Democrat voters of whatever inclination or enthusiasm are going to find themselves with a candidate to reflect their views. Er. No. Those candidates don’t seem to be copying Bernie in just his money raising techniques. They all pretty much hold similar views, albeit with a bit of fine tuning here or polishing there; and not a coal miner or factory foreman or small shop owner among them. Professional politicians they are, best described as big staters; they would like the government to do a lot more, especially in free healthcare and social responsibilities. They would like to crack down on big business, they do not want any of this wall building nonsense, they would like more government promoted measures to push up wages and increase employment (tricky, the economy being close to full employment already). They would like an ethical foreign policy, more, much more, taxation of the rich, and legislation to push equalities agendas whence ever they might arise. Bernie describes himself as a socialist independent – he is, you may recall, not a Democrat Senator. Many of these eager thrusters also allude to a socialist tinge to their thinking – something which thirty years ago would have led to ejection from the ticket, and in the Deep South, probably to jail. They are mostly youngish, in their early forties or late thirties (35 is the youngest a candidate can be on polling day), and from various ethnic backgrounds. They are mostly inexperienced – not a single Governor among them, but hey, that did The Donald no harm.
They are, whisper it, mostly not very impressive, and on the basis that some of them will soon disappear from the list we are not even going to set the list out. But there are a few who might overtake Bernie, top of that sub-list being the bright and charismatic Kamala Harris, Senator for California, and the woman who has upset Mr Trump, hostilely grilling his team when they have to appear on Capitol Hill. A couple of years ago Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Senator, was seen as a likely front runner but some strange form filling concerning her ethnic make up (c’mon, if you feel Native American you are Native American, surely) has damaged her reputation and given Mr Trump the joke that keeps on giving – he calls her Pocohantas, which is not helping the lady’s campaign one bit. Amy Klobuchar is our third one to watch, also a Senator, from a rust belt seat so at least she has met some traditional Democrat voters, and with a reputation for both charm and determination.
But our list is not yet closed and there may be two more names to add. Where, say the watchers on the hill, is Hillary; and where is Joe? Joe is of course Joe Biden, Barrack Obama’s very successful veep, an old fashioned Democrat who understands the soul of his party, came from a humble background, and would have run in 2016 against Hillary and Bernie if it had not been for the death of his son. He has not said he will run, but he very clearly has not said he won’t and added that nobody is better qualified for the job than him. (One person disagrees but we will come to her.) He is 76, two years younger than Sanders, in good health, and is undoubtedly energetic and fired up. And he would get support from traditional Democrat voters, some of whom voted for Mr Trump last time. But his standing in the polls is slipping and the muttering against him is growing. For, maybe, two reasons; he is over-cautious and should have declared some time ago to get an early lead; but also because he cannot, like all the others, sell himself as an outsider, a man out to reform a system that many see as broken (though fewer define exactly how it is broken and how to fix it). He worked with a very popular President, for sure, but like Mr Obama he was a machine politician. That rubbed off onto his reputation in a way that it mostly has not with Mr O.
And of course the greatest question of all is not yet answered. Will she? Won’t she? The word is that most of Hillary’s friends and confidants do not want her to run. They saw what the campaign did to her last time, both reputationally and personally, and she too will be in her early 70’s by election night. Neither do the voters wish to encounter her again, it seems. Opinion polls suggest only a third of voters want her to be a candidate, though the other two thirds will include Republicans. But the lady has not lost her ambition; she wants to be the first female President and she has no doubt she could do the job. If she does not run she knows she will forever regret it.
So, two years out and with this plethora of candidates, who will it be? We don’t know, but we suspect that in the White House President Trump is feeling good about a second term.