January 9, 2018

Who Will the Democrats Run in 2020?

Last September, The Washington Post ranked those they considered to be the "top 15 possible Democratic nominees" for 2020 (see The top 15 possible 2020 Democratic nominees, ranked). They updated their rankings in December with what I assume was the intent of showing who's gaining ground and who's losing it. If they are right about these people being the most likely candidates, I think the Democratic Party is in more serious trouble than I had realized. Some appear to be jokes (e.g., Dwayne Johnson, Oprah Winfrey), and others suggest that the party is still too focused on 2016 (e.g., Bernie Sanders) or an even more remote past (e.g., Joe Biden, Jerry Brown).

I think there are some potentially viable candidates on this list, and I'd even vote for a few of them; however, I am skeptical that any of them are going to be able to make it through a contentious primary while holding together the sort of coalition they'll need. I'm also skeptical that any of them could inspire enough enthusiasm to compete against Trump's base in a general election. I have seen little evidence to suggest that Democratic voters or the party itself are any less divided now than they were in 2016. Trump might not be as tough an opponent in 2020 as he was in 2016, but I'd hate to see the Democrats underestimate him again.

Without a strong candidate and a compelling message that inspires voter enthusiasm enough to drive turnout, the Democrats could be in for another loss. I think it is okay that they haven't identified a large pool of viable candidates. There is still time to do so. What concerns me more at this point in time is the continued lack of a coherent message and the fact that the party remains split between the establishment wing and the progressive wing. I do not see a path to a Democratic victory in 2020 unless this divide can be overcome. To be successful, the Democrats are going to have to figure out how to come together.