What Makes a Successful Democratic Presidential Candidate?
What qualities a Democrat must possess in order to succeed in defeating Donald Trump.
With a deeper and ever growing divide between the corporate and people driven wings of the Democratic Party, there is of course a difference of opinion in matters of electoral strategy. The contrast has grown so polarized that the 2018 saw the beginning of a grass roots movement to take over the Democratic Party, that for the most part encompassed a wide array of women, people of color, and young people. If nothing else, it served as a clear indication that the country is heading towards a clear cultural shift.
The centrists in response will find it difficult to deny that they are trying desperately to toe the line between the old and the new, something that was not occurring even just three years ago. It speaks to the intensity and the force of the new grassroots movement that centrists are now at least pretending to be in favor of something like Medicare for All, which just a few years ago was something that Hillary Clinton said we did not have time for. Above all else however, this ideological divide in the wake of Donald Trump in particular has sparked an intense debate on how best to actually see democrats get elected. For the purposes of the argument, I’ll leave out the names of our Party nominee hopefuls.
The heart of the debate lies with the candidates themselves and which type of individual will play out the best with the electorate. The more conservative wing of the party feels that the ideal candidate must be someone who is able to “reach across the isle to work together”, which is a feat that I would argue is no longer possible in today’s polarized political climate. You simply cannot appeal to the modern right and the left at the same time running as a centrist, and the election of 2016 was the unfortunate proof.
So let’s lay out an alternative.
We need a candidate who above all else, as cliche as it may sound, has the ability to draw confidence from their base.
If the base, which is composed of more and more millennials and Gen Z voters with each passing day, will not vote for someone they cannot trust. The left did not lose the people who voted twice for Barack Obama and then turned to Donald Trump because the left wasn’t far enough to the right. We lost them because the left abandoned them in favor of the monetary motivation to lose.
In order to succeed, we NEED to select a candidate who is not beholden to the corporations and big money donors, because even in instances where some may not agree with them at least they will see the sincerity. Particularly when it comes to the past Obama voters who turned to Trump that the Democratic leadership is so concerned about getting back, that sincerity could mean a vote. They will be able to connect with and trust them in ways that would not be possible if they felt the candidate was not honest in advocating for their best interests. We need to select a candidate who doesn’t have much to lose, that is there for no other purpose than to work for their constituents.
Once we’ve selected this candidate, we just may be pleasantly surprised with the ability of their message to resonate across both sides of the political isle during a general election. Why? Because so much of today’s division is rooted in economic frustration and desperation, and that is something this candidate will have the ability to speak truthfully to. Even amidst the division, the bases of the right and the left can agree on three things: raising taxes on the rich, ending senseless wars, and getting money out of politics.
Centrists are terrified of the socialist label, pointing to Bernie Sanders’ self-identification as a democratic socialist as a liability in a general election. But the truth of the matter is the right wing will call a Democrat a socialist no matter what they advocate for. The answer is to run a candidate whose message will rise above it, and anyone who inserts those three policy proposals in to their campaign will have a real fighting chance.
We’ve reached an interesting point in time where many democrats are under the impression that Trump is just so objectively bad, that any old blue will do. As a result, we’ve got a chaotic array of candidates who think they have the answers to defeating him come 2020. Unfortunately, Trump has proven to be capable of winning against candidates with a certain type of message. If defeating Trump is truly the main goal (as it should be), then we need to fight populism with populism, and select a candidate with the grass roots movement and the organization beneath them.