Over the weekend, two more candidates – Klobuchar and Warren – entered the lists for the 2020 Democratic nomination, and I think I need to say something about how things are shaping up. Let me put my priorities on the table for all to see.
First: the number one priority is to beat Trump. I begin to think that regardless of what Mueller and the Southern District of New York turn up, Trump will in fact survive to run for a second term and no Republican will defeat him in the primaries regardless of how disastrous for them his candidacy appears. He may be impeached by the House but he will not be convicted by the Senate and the worse things look for him in the courts, the more he needs a second term to avoid indictment and conviction. Obviously, this is speculation, but that is how it looks to me now. So, my first choice for Democratic nominee is someone who can clearly beat Trump. If the polls suggest that virtually any of them can [and this is entirely possible], then we can talk.
Second: Any viable Democratic candidate in this cycle will give lip service to progressive policies, and lip service may be all we need. What matters when it comes to actual progressive legislation is the make-up of the House and Senate. Furthermore, any proposal, no matter how bold and exciting, will be whittled down and compromised and hedged about before it becomes law. That is how the American political system works, for better or worse. We need a welling up of progressive energy from below. So it is essential that the left put forward as many viable progressive candidates as possible at every level from town water commissioner to governor and senator to seize the 2020 opportunity, which may shape up to be a left-wing wave election.
Third: The most we can hope for is that previously fringe left policies – like Social Security, Medicare, Minimum Wage, and progressive taxation – become mainstream realities and then taken-for-granted baked-in realities, even though they will always fall far short of what people like me want. That too is how the American political system works, and I have lived long enough to see it play out that way repeatedly.
So, let’s not waste time worrying about which candidate, if any of them, fills my dreams with joy. The last candidate who made me feel that way was FDR, and that is simply because I was ten years old and had not yet read Marx.