The next US Presidential election is on November 3rd, 2020, with the first phase of this process beginning shortly after the January 2020 new year celebrations end. This means that within weeks from now, candidates will start to declare their intention to run.
Donald Trump has already done so. His election machine, now a combined operation with the Republican National Committee (RNC), is up and running, with banners printed and a new slogan – Keep American Great.
On the Democrat side, Elizabeth Warren has clearly and firmly signaled her intention to run and many others are about to do so. In the frame are Jo Biden, Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Michael Bloomberg, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Kristen Gillibrand, Terry McAuliffe, Deval Patrick, and many others. Indeed, there could be a very complicated field of up to twenty candidates.
The problem is, unless something dramatic happens, Trump-Pence will win. They have command of a solid base of support, they have the levers of power and Trump, in particular, knows how to command the news space. Indeed, his campaign strategy is to dominate the news (good or bad) so that his name recognition is total and he can leverage “free” coverage to get out his message. His base does not seem to care whether he is lying or telling the truth, whether he is serious or not and whether he is behaving responsibly or not. Some have even suggested that he is sent by God to “save America”.
The democratic national committee (DNC) challenge is not just to find someone with a personality that resonates with the public, but to develop policies which do so. Therein lies the problem. Trump has no policies that are describable – policy comes in 150 characters each morning, depending on his mood. The DNC needs a systematic policy frame that captures what Americans need – universal health care, border security, a growing economy, care for seniors and a revival of the US education system. The DNC won’t do this. They are, like the media, preoccupied with the cult of personality – of finding a democrat Messiah.
One other development could also occur – an outsider with already strong public recognition could enter the field, win primaries and run as a Democrat. George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Oprah Winfrey have all explored the idea, however briefly. Clooney is a serious campaigner, having worked hard on issues in Sudan, Darfur, and other atrocities and is an active liberal, married to one of the world’s leading human rights lawyers. A decision by him to step on the election stage would change the metrics of the game, but in the end, he would lose – Democrats find it difficult to unite behind a single leader and platform and to stick to it for a year and a half.
Some have suggested that Hilary Clinton will make a third run for the White House in 2020. She has lost this race twice – once to Obama and once to Trump. She’s done. Finished. She can have more influence on the policy side and from the sidelines than she could if she ran in the primary races. Yet, she is permitting the rumour of her candidacy to circulate and she has refused to rule out a third run in interviews conducted as recently as last month.
What the US needs is a vision for the post-truth, post-exceptionalism stage of its history. This vision has to speak to a renewal of its democracy and institutions, a restatement of its global intentions, a focus on reducing the rapidly growing levels of income inequality, a restoration of the public good (especially in health and education) and a recognition that the US does have a trust problem. What the DNC needs more than a charismatic leader is a platform that inspires and encourages Americans to vote. There is no sign of this appearing. This is the major reason Trump, unless something happens, will win a second term.