We’ve often talked before about this next election being about a referendum on Trump being just too darn crazy. We’ve also often talked about how Americans seek out candidates for President who are most transformational; almost never best qualified
And we think we might’ve been wrong in thinking people might just be looking for someone sane (maybe even boring) this time around: with experience and proven competence being high on the list. (Which it usually isn’t). Or even the only thing on the list.
By that measure, we’d suggested Joe Biden would be the best opponent for Trump. After two still largely meaningless debates, our thinking has evolved a bit. And we’re beginning to see Biden as the Mitt Romney of this election cycle. Competent, and decent, but just not inspiring enough not to win.
On the other hand, the crowds in attendance, and people we discussed the debates with, did seem excited by those with new ideas. Who would really try to change the U.S.A. Most notably, Elizabeth Warren.
And why not? Why should Democrats be shy about proposing significant new policy ideas? Because Trump will call them socialists? He will anyway. Because they’ll scare away the voters (especially independents and some Republicans who are seeking middle ground?) Maybe. But new, strong ideas and visions are what wins Presidencies.
For Trump. For Obama. For George W. Bush. For Clinton. Going all the way back to at least Jimmy Carter.
We’re not saying they were all great Presidents. But they all had one thing in common: the ability to inspire, whether through fear or hope. Another thing in common: they all won.
Next year is different.
The 2020 Presidential election will be a referendum on “crazy”. And whether people can stomach another 4 years of a whirlpool of lunatics in the White House, starting at the top (even if the basically support a lot of Trump’s policies. That’s why Trump’s already going out of his way to — more than anything — paint opposing candidates (and even Democrats who aren’t candidates), as far crazier than he is. “Crazy Bernie”, etc. etc.
So who best epitomizes both “new ideas” and “sane” in the vast Democratic field? At this point, we do believe it’s Elizabeth Warren. But as we said, early days. (And no, Apple News and other over-eager headline writers, while we do understand the need to market your own product, there were NO “must-see moments” in these debates).
While Joe Biden is still the clear leader of the not being crazy candidates, he also hasn’t shown us anything dazzling in terms of ideas, and instead seems to emphasize he’s not going to: he just wants to get us back on track. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s entire message seemed to be “I’m the sanest one”. Her line about bringing Clorox into the Oval Office should she be elected is brilliant in that regard. But does that produce a “win”? We don’t know. 2020 is different. But in Presidential elections that’s typically not a win
Kamala Harris? Sane, yes. Transformational? Not sure yet. (As we’ve mentioned, we do think she’s the candidate Trump’s folks are most worried about going up against). Pete Buttigieg seems maybe sanest of all, but we don’t really know much about him for sure. And all his policy ideas make so much damn sense, but he’s yet to latch on to anything that really get people enthused across a wide spectrum of social and age groups, and he’s gonna need that. Bernie? Andy Yang? Full of great ideas. But in one case feels like support has fragmented a bit, even though he’s still compelling, and the other has failed to shake the image of a fringe candidate who’s just there to insert 21st Century ways of thinking and looking at things, but is not yet viable himself. We could keep going. And we’re not leaving anyone out deliberately or out of malice. But there are still just so many. So enough for now.
So who has that magic formula of huge transformational ideas that can real inspire voters, and is sober enough politically to ensure the White House won’t continue being a heaven for batsh*t nuts? WAY too early to know.
One thing we do think we learned this week: it won’t be enough for the Democratic Presidential candidate to simply have prove they’ve got both their feet on the ground. They’re also going to have to deliver a death-defying high wire act. Still keeping at least one foot on the ground the whole time…