While some analysts warn that there shouldn’t be a focus on 2020, now is really the best time to start thinking ahead. The presidential race will last for about a year and a half, so it would serve Democrats well now to survey their politicians, allow the best to rise to the top, and give America a good look at them.
And as this post is about the future of the Democratic Party and a number of names have already popped up. I would like to discuss them.
Additionally, this list illustrates the ongoing problems with the party:
- There are two few rising stars in the party. I can name some on one hand.
- Most of the people with big names in the party are in their 60’s or above.
I agree that the 2020 field already looks weak due to these reasons.
With that said, here is a list of 10+ candidates already being mentioned for 2020 (in no particular order).
1. Kamala Harris, Anyone?
Kamala Harris is a rising star in the Democratic Party. She was formerly the California Attorney General before winning election to the U.S. Senate. She has been seen as a possible presidential candidate. In July, she was seen with Clinton fundraisers in the Hamptons and she was recently seen at the Girls Build L.A. leadership summit, an event that also featured Hillary Clinton.
Harris garnered some attention for her role in the Russia Probe. She asked James Comey some of the toughest questions, and going toe-to-toe with Jeff Sessions. She was also noted for saying the Russia’s suspected role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was an act of war. (I don’t like that position one bit).
Harris also won praise for supporting Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All bill in the Senate. I’m not excited about her support of the bill because I know it was easier for her to do. In fact, it was too easy because she has no big donors in the health industry.
Harris has said that she does not plan to run for president in 2020 but anything can happen between now and 2019, when the presidential race kicks off. Yet it would be understandable if she wants to finish her first senatorial term first, which would still make her eligible to run for 2024. In any event, if she does run, I do not intend to vote for her.
What’s Wrong with Kamala Harris?
Harris is one of those Democrats who want to tsk, tsk voters for being “ideologically pure,” which is an automatic turnoff for me. More importantly, she is brushing off legitimate concerns voters have about her.
For one thing, when Harris was California’s AG, numerous staffers at the department complained about her failure to go after certain actors in the foreclosure crisis. While she was able to win a$25 billion settlement after holding out for more money, she refused to go after Steve “Foreclosure King” Mnuchin for his role in illegally foreclosing on homeowners in the state. As it turns out, Harris received some campaign funds from him.
That was not the only example Harris was known for cracking down on the for-profit Corinthian Colleges, but she refused to go after Trump University. As it turns out, she received campaign funds from Trump.
Additionally, when she first ran for California AG, Harris embraced the pro-marijuana crowd, only to distance herself from it after she gained office.
Finally, when voters were given an early presidential poll about the 2020 presidential election, Harris only led Trump by 1%. She polled worse than most other possible Democratic candidates and was within the margin of error.
In short, Kamala Harris would be the top candidate in the Democratic field, since she has the establishment seal of approval. However, there are too many troubling things about her for me to give her my seal of approval.
2. Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren is also a highly regarded Democrat (especially by progressives) and she will likely run in 2020. And if she does, I might vote for her — although I have some huge reservations.
As I pointed out in May, Warren has serious credibility when it comes to financial issues. She has always spoken out against abuses in the financial sector, she pushed for the Consumer Protection Bureau, and she took on bankers called to speak in front of Congress.
She also came out in support of Medicare for all.
At this year’s Netroots conference, she made this impassioned speech:
The Democratic Party is not going back to the days of welfare reform and the Crime Bill. It is not going to happen. Are we clear on that? Yeah.
We are not going back to the days of being lukewarm on choice. No, we’re not.
We’re not going back to the days where universal health care was something Democrats talked about on the campaign trail but were too chicken to fight for after they got elected.
And we are definitely not going back to the days when a Democrat wanted to run for a seat in Washington first had to grovel on Wall Street. Nope. We’re not going back.
Democrats are moving forward. We’re looking ahead and we cannot — we shall not — let anyone turn back the clock.
I loved this.
However, finance is the only area where I significantly trust Warren.
Why I Feel This Way
Warren wavers in many other areas, depending on what she thinks is prudent to please the Democratic establishment.
- During the 2016 primaries, she waited to endorse Hillary Clinton when the result was all but assured.
- Warren was slow to say anything about the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- Just this year, Warren said unequivocally that she believed the Democratic primaries were rigged. Then she went and took that back.
- She voted in favor of the sanctions bill that not only punished Russia but Iran.
- She voted to increase the U.S. military budget to over $700 billion.
This is why she is frustrating. She needs to pick a position and stick with it, no matter what it is.
Warren will not be able to please both the party’s leaders and those to the left of them. She fails because she plays lip service to voters only to backtrack. That makes no sense because many of the Democratic Party’s donors can’t stand her anyway.
Now, I could get behind an Elizabeth Warren who stands by the points she made that speech at Netroots. But I fear she might take back some of those things if she feels it might help her later. That would be spineless on her part.
3. Cory Booker
If Sen. Cory Booker (New Jersey) runs, there will be no point in me voting for him.
Cory Booker has long been mentioned as a future presidential candidate, but he has a spotty record. Among the things that work against him are his support for charter schools, his link to pharmaceuticals, and his ties to Trump’s family.
In early 2017, Booker was lit up after he voted against a prescription drug bill in the Senate. He later voted for a resolution regarding prescription drugs, but we know he would never support real legislation because who his donors are.
Booker is also compromised because he has been pretty cozy with Trump as well as Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner. Additionally, Booker also praised Betsy DeVos for her work in helping to destroy the American school system.
On the whole, it is clear Booker is not on the same page as many voters. He will not work to lower people’s medical bills, he is in favor of charter schools (which take up public resources and have little oversight), and he will not challenge Trump directly. The Democrats might as well run a bowl of oatmeal against Trump in 2020, if he’s still in the White House. At least oatmeal is good for your heart, as they tell me.
4. Bernie Sanders
Recently, when Sen. Bernie Sanders was asked if he would run for president again, he said that he would only run as a Democrat. I know that might piss off longtime Democrats, but it makes sense.
Let’s face it: Sanders is a Democrat in all but name. He caucuses with the Democrats and he has endorsed many Democratic candidates running for national offices (including all presidential candidates in the general election since Bill Clinton). In addition, Sanders has been suggesting things to help the Democratic Party turn over a new leaf and appeal to more Americans.
With that said, I don’t want to have to vote for him.
On one hand, I feel that Sanders could beat a Trump or a Pence. Mr. Sanders is also better than any nominee Tom Perez, Barack Obama, or any of the Clintons would prefer, because they would promote centrists. (Just so you know: I HATE centrism because it’s a lie.) On the other hand, I am concerned about Sanders’ age and there are key policies of his I disagree with.
When one looks closely at Sanders on domestic and foreign policy, the domestic policy looks quite good to progressives. I like his stances on postsecondary education, health care, infrastructure, Native Americans, the environment, and relieving Americans of personal debt. However, his foreign policy needs a lot of work.
I will explain more when I talk about Sanders in depth.
5. Tim Kaine
Tim Kaine has said that he is not interested in running for 2020, but in case he does, I will go on record as saying I’m really not excited about him at all.
Once again, he was the DNC Chair when the party suffered record congressional losses in 2010. Much of the blame could go to Barack Obama for saddling the party with debt, but what did Kaine do to resolve it or help state parties?
And while I might have some agreement with him on a few issues, he is to the right of Hillary Clinton. That is a bad thing.
- He is an ally to the financial sector.
- While he pledged to uphold the laws that allowed for legal abortions, he supported the Hyde Amendment.
- Kaine is a fan of free trade. He supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and he voted to give the president “fast-track” authority to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- He supported offshore drilling along Virginia’s coast.
That’s what made him such an awful VP pick, so there’s no way I’d support him as a presidential pick.
6. Kirstin Gillibrand
Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand (NY) has been referred to as “Hillary 2.0” by her critics. There is a connection there because Gillibrand worked as a special counsel during the tail end of the Bill Clinton administration and she rose from the House of Representatives to take Senate seat HRC once held in 2008. Also, the Clintons have helped to raise campaign funds for Gillibrand in the past.
In some ways, Gillibrand does remind me of HRC, but the current New York Senator is her own woman and she has made history in her own right.
Gillibrand touts a record of transparency and dedication to women’s issues. She was among the first lawmakers in Congress to share federal earmark requests and personal finance records electronically and the first the share her daily meetings records with voters. And she has pushed for legislation to protect women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, particularly in terms of sexual assault investigations.
Right now, Gillibrand has been moving to the left on the issue of health care. While stating earlier that she just wanted all Americans to have access to affordable health care, she has been signaling a tepid support for Medicare for All.
What I Have Against Gillibrand
Now, there are some serious concerns I have about Gillibrand. One of them is her tendency to change positions when it’s convenient.
When Gillibrand was running for the 20th District Senate Seat in Upstate New York, she ran hard to the right. She was part of the Blue Dog Coalition, she touted a 100% rating from the National Rifle Association, and she took a hardline stance on immigration. People within the Democratic Party were able to turn her around on numerous issues. However, she took her previous stances because she felt those would play well in what was a conservative district.
The above is a running problem I have with the Democratic Party. Another is their overreliance on bad identity politics. Gillibrand is also guilty of this.
Destroying Her Chances?
Earlier in December 2017, Gillibrand got in a dustup with Donald Trump over a tweet her made about her. Gillibrand responded to the petty tweet by saying that he was trying to silence her and connected the verbal jabs to the #MeToo movement.
Gillibrand was also among the first Democrats to call for Al Franken’s resignation.
And when giving an interview for The New York Times, she said Bill Clinton should have resigned over the Monica Lewinsky Affair.
Right now, there growing reckoning about sexual assault/abuse in politics, entertainment, and other industries. At some point, there will be a backlash, especially as false allegations and false flags show up.
One of the issues of the past presidential election was the resentment towards people who cried sexism for frivolous reasons. I fear that this feud with Trump is an example of it, even though Trump is a chauvinist. I don’t believe this will help Gillibrand in the long run.
Also, Gillibrand may have effectively taken herself out of the running for president for criticizing Bill Clinton.
7. Nina Turner
Nina Turner is a relative unknown who once served as a state senator in Ohio. She gained a measure of national attention when she served as a Bernie Sanders surrogate during the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries. She was notably snubbed during the Democratic National Convention, as she was barred from introducing Sanders before he gave his speech there.
Currently, Turner serves as the president of Our Revolution, a super PAC started by Sanders in order to promote and aid progressive candidates across the country. In that capacity, Turner also went with a group of activists to try to present the DNC with a platform at the organization’s headquarters. Yet, they were blocked again.
Turner also appears regularly on The Real News, a progressive news outlet that takes a skeptical look at many mainstream narratives.
Turner herself has a measure of progressive credibility while being conciliatory toward the Democratic Party. For months, she has tried to nudge the DNC leadership to listen to the voters and go beyond presenting platitudes. She has also criticized the Russia probe, arguing that most Americans don’t care about it.
The above will put her at odds with the Democratic leadership.
Another weakness Turner might have — if she even decided to run — will be her lack of experience in national office.
To be honest, I don’t know if Turner would have a real chance. She is a great public speaker, but I would need to know more about her foreign policy positions before I would consider her as a serious candidate. But I like what I’ve already seen and heard from her. She appears to be a very thoughtful, caring American and we need more of them in public office.
8. Tulsi Gabbard
At 36 years old, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii) is the youngest person in this group. She first gained national attention in 2015 when she stepped down as Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee to announce that she was supporting Bernie Sanders for president. That decision led to some donors declaring that they would withhold campaign funding for her.
Today, Gabbard’s name is being mentioned by progressives because of her decision and a few of the positions she has taken ever since. For example:
- Gabbard expressed her support for single-payer and sponsored the Medicare-for-All bill currently in the House.
- She announced that she would only take small-dollar donations.
- She came out against the consensus view on Syria, arguing that the will of the civilians there and the safety of civilians and U.S. troops were paramount. She says that her views are influenced by her status as an Iraq War veteran.
Taking a quick glance at Gabbard’s platform, it looks like we agree on at least 90% of the issues.
In all honesty, there needs to be a discussion about Gabbard’s past positions. When she first took office, Gabbard was a staunch conservative. She held views that included a strong stance against gay marriage. While people can change and this situation might not be similar to Kirsten Gillibrand’s situation, this issue will inevitably come up and Gabbard must confront it.
There is also a weird relationship Gabbard has with India’s Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Gabbard was the first Hindu American elected to office, so the two share a faith. Gabbard is also one of his biggest supporters despite his hardline stances against Muslims. (In at least one speech this year, Gabbard reach out to Muslim Americans, so there is a conflict there).
On a lighter note, Gabbard needs to work on her public speaking. While progressive stances might help her, she needs to be more charismatic to appeal to the masses and verbally tough enough to smack down her opponents in a debate.
Beyond these things, it is clear Gabbard wouldn’t have the approval of Democrats in power. I mentioned the backlash from her endorsement above and in another post, I pointed to the backlash she received by going against the grain on Syria.
9. Joe Biden
Former VP Joe Biden has been in the news lately, and the subject of the 2020 presidential race has often come up. It was obvious that he was itching to run in 2016, but he deferred to HRC. He has run for president before and he became Barack Obama’s VP pick after failing to win the Democratic nomination in 2008.
I honestly believe Joe Biden would have merced Donald Trump in 2016 if Biden was the Democratic nominee. While I have strong disagreements with Biden on key issues, he would have worked Trump just as bad as or worse than Paul Ryan was worked in the VP debate in 2012.
Biden has been known as a man with strong convictions and he has a plain speaking style that many Americans love. And while he was keep largely in check during Obama’s presidency, Biden forced Obama’s hand on the issue of gay marriage.
Why Biden Would Be a Bad Pick in 2020
All things considered, there are serious marks against Biden:
- Biden will be 78 in 2020.
- Biden took a strong stance against net neutrality.
- Biden was behind the 1994 Crime Bill.
- He wrote the 2005 law that made it harder for people to declare bankruptcy.
- He has taken a strong stance against populism. While supporting free community college and jobs training programs, he has no plan to facilitate those things, let alone an overriding message.
Lately, Biden has been vilified because of the way he handled Anita Hill in the early 1990’s when she testified against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. On top of that, people have discussed his “creepy” behavior around women when taking photographs. This might not hurt him in 2-3 years, depending on how the reaction to the #MeToo movement plays out.
However, his criticism of Hillary Clinton in 2017 might just kill his chances.
The term “Borked” exists because Biden and other Democrats in the Senate went after Robert Bork, one of Ronald Reagan’s Supreme Court candidates. In 1987, Biden questioned Bork about his views on abortion. The pick was eventually rescinded and we got Anthony Kennedy instead.
Kennedy has been a mixed bag. While he has been on majority opinions, like Citizens United, he has also served as a swing vote for gay rights cases.
10. Celebrities and Entrepreneurs
There are a few names being bandied about, but I’ll just quickly run through 3 of them.
1.The Rock: I like Dwayne Johnson (The Rock). He is great with the mic and he is entertaining, but we need to stop with this delusion that the left needs its own celebrities. Even if Johnson wants to run, he is wet behind the ears and has no clear message.
2.Mark Zuckerberg: For real, man? For real? Bruh. Bruh.
3.Mark Cuban: Hell naw. I don’t care if he has been critical of Trump, that alone isn’t enough to warrant a real look. Besides, we should stay away from reality show stars and we should remember that Cuban has this horrible take against net neutrality
Screw him. And his Dallas Mavericks are irrelevant.
So yeah … this is a sampler for the Democratic field for 2020. We have to wait until 2019 to see who actually runs, but the leading names have serious flaws. There are remedies for each of the candidates, but I doubt most will take advise from the left. They will also have to contend with party leadership that might not want them to run.
In the New Year, I will finish up this short series. These are the questions I will seek to answer:
- What role will Hillary Clinton play and what do I think about it?
- Should Sen. Dianne Feinstein be replaced?
- What is wrong with the Democratic Party’s process?
(January 3, 2018): Previously, I said we got Antonin Scalia when Robert Bork’s nomination from the Supreme Court was rescinded. Actually, Scalia was already on the court (confirmed in 1986).