Figures like Hillary Clinton and Michael Bloomberg are considering taking advantage of the weak Democratic field by jumping into the race. Liam Glen writes on why candidates are always better in theory than practice.
Around 20 major candidates are running for the Democratic presidential nomination, and up to five of them might actually have a chance at winning. Even with so many choices, however, some in the party are still unsatisfied.
The frontrunner, Joe Biden, is an inarticulate speaker haunted by his past statements and policy positions.
Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have dedicated followings, but Democratic leaders worry about their electability, among other issues – and Sanders’s antagonism towards party elites has led them to despise him at least as much as they do Trump.
With other candidates like Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg trailing in the polls, some politicians see an opening.
Hillary Clinton is reportedly weighing a third run for the presidency. Michael Bloomberg plans to jump in the race if Biden drops out. Michelle Obama has topped a recent New Hampshire poll, but she is smart enough to swear away from presidential politics.
According to The New York Times, other potential contenders include Sherrod Brown, Eric Holder, Deval Patrick, and John Kerry.
It seems that the current field has left many unsatisfied. But a new addition will not make things any clearer. If none of the current candidates can fill the void in voters’ hearts, it is unlikely that anyone would be able.
Don’t Wait For a Savior
Anyone looking forward to the prospect of a new, exciting candidate entering the race must have a very limited memory. This type of speculation has been going on nonstop since the end of the 2016 election season.
Biden was viewed as the ideal candidate for his personality and experience, but both have proven to be liabilities on the campaign trail. Harris was seen as the bridge between progressives and moderates, but now neither are overly-fond of her.
Today, it seems like a cruel joke to talk about the days when Democratic insiders were begging political superstar Beto O’Rourke to jump into the race.
No one who enters the presidential race can expect to emerge unblemished. Past controversies will be uncovered. Public statements will be thoroughly dissected. And, even everything is done perfectly, voters and pundits may just lose interest and move on to someone even newer and more exciting.
In these conditions, even the best-suited candidate will have a hard time making an impact. And most of the names being thrown around right now have absolutely no chance.
Hillary Clinton’s entire 2016 campaign was plagued by gaffes, scandals, and miscalculations. The pathway for her to rebuild support would be a difficult one. And she has not done a very good job at it so far. Most recently, she has set off a week of controversy by using her platform to go after obscure Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard.
Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg embodies a “socially liberal, fiscally conservative” worldview that excites business and media elites, but does not connect with many average Americans.
Indeed, it is hard to imagine a plurality of primary voters getting on board with the 77-year-old Democrat-turn-Republican-turn-Independent-turn-Democrat who has unapologetically defended controversial policies like “stop and frisk” policing, the criminalization of cannabis, and the Iraq War.
Other figures, like Senator Sherrod Brown or former Attorney General Eric Holder are unlikely to attract as much vitriol, but they can hardly expect to generate much enthusiasm either. In all likelihood, their campaigns would languish at the bottom of the polls alongside Michael Bennett, Steve Bullock, and Julián Castro.
Michelle Obama – if, for whatever reason, she decided to jump into the race – is the only one who could become a contender. But there is good reason to be skeptical of even her. She may have high approval ratings at the moment, but experience tells us that if she ever entered the race, voters would soon find reasons to lose enthusiasm.
The Grass Is Always Greener
In politics, major figures always seem to be more popular when they are away from the spotlight.
Presidents like FDR and Reagan are revered today despite being highly divisive in their own times. As 2008 came to a close, nearly everyone could come together in condemnation of George W. Bush, but Trump’s election seems to have reversed his reputation. (Though, the recent controversy over his friendship with Ellen DeGeneres shows that he is not fully rehabilitated.)
This is not to say that superstar candidates can never come along. While Obama may not have run the perfect campaign in 2008, he proved to be extraordinarily well-suited for the Democratic Party. But he benefited from a small primary field with a sharp contrast between him and Hillary Clinton.
With so many candidates already running in 2020 – many of whom have no shortage of experience, charisma, and name recognition – it is unlikely that a new addition will bring anything of substance.
At the risk of turning to armchair psychology, the crowded Democratic field seems to be generating choice overload. The proliferation of options, all of which are flawed in some way or another, makes it impossible to settle on a single choice.
But while some seem to think that the entrance of a new candidate will add clarity, the reality is that it will only add to the confusion.