Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Too Damned Early

I have not written much here about the Democratic competition for the nomination in 2020.  Why?  See the title to the post.  Yes, the American electoral cycle means that the next election campaign starts the day after an election. Yes, we are all curious about who will face Trump with the big mystery being: can the Democrats (who have a bigger base) unify to defeat Trump?
Media folks have to be selective as they have finite resources (thanks to Bryan Curtis of the Press Box podcast for reminding me of this) so they can't focus on all 20+ candidates).  Plus they want clicks and hits and viewers.  So, what are they doing? Two things:
  1. Making guesses about viability and focusing on those candidates that might stick around the longest.  How do they know someone is more viable? They either focus on polls, which is somewhat circular since those who get more press do better, lather, rinse, repeat OR they focus on fundraising (more on this below).  Of course, they (and the rest of us) screwed up the last time about who was viable.  So, maybe not a great strategy.  
  2. Going for the flavor of the week.  Beto got a week, Buttigieg got a week, Biden is getting maybe two weeks because he is more viable/has more stuff on tape/is more likely to gaffe/whatever.  The media loves narratives, so it is easy to spin up a new narrative with every new candidate.  My own narrative for this tends to be: FFS, can't someone stay in the Senate so that the Dems, if they win the White House in 2020, can actually govern.  
Oh, and as Curtis acknowledged, there seems to be a lot of sexism in who is the flavor of the week.  It should be Kamala Harris for burning Robert Barr to the ground in his appearance last week.  Nope, probably more Biden.

The key is this: we have no idea who is going to do well when the votes are cast.  Once the primaries start, then we will know if Elizabeth Warren's combo of policy papers and Dad jokes is working; whether a former  prosecutor can play well to a base sick of too much prosecution of the base (Harris); whether Bernie plays well to actual democrats who show up; whether Biden's strategy of playing to old people works; etc, etc. 

Re fundraising--yes, money is important, and much of the fundraising is based on expected viability.  So, guess what, the media is gaming the viability thing... until the voters say otherwise.  Once someone does well or poorly in the first few races, the money will desert the losers and run to the winners.   Perhaps the media is doing the women a favor by setting low expectations? Ok, probably not, but the point here is that the money will come later.  The keys right now are:
  • can you get enough money to sustain until the bigger money rolls in?  
  • Can you hire good staff so that you don't screw up constantly (Biden shows that money does not mean one buys good staff apparently)? 
  • with California earlier in the process, can you compete there?  I saw a survey today about Arizona.  Sorry, but fuck Arizona.  What is going in California?  Hint: Harris and Warren are both likely to play well there.
  • the damned debate rules--that one needs a certain number of money coming in from enough people to make the big debate stage.  I am not looking forward to the mass debates.  Are you?
The key thing with 20 plus candidates is that one does not need to get 30 or 40% in the first races.  They just need to be one of the tallest oompa loompas.  Then the money and press will focus on those folks and the random white male governors and senators can go home (really, Michael Bennett, what are you thinking?).  What makes one a tall oompa loompa?  Well, for Biden, it means getting the AARP vote and telling the young folks to screw off.  For Harris, it might just mean showing folks who well armed she is to debate Trump by ripping his minions to shreds.  For Warren, it might be being the most reasonable progressive with heaps of policy wonkiness.  For the rest? Damned if I know.

See, I am guilty too, as 20 plus candidates are too much to follow.  I am not making decisions based on viability as I have no idea.  I just write selectively because the press has already selected which folks I know more about.   Oh, I also know about Beto and Pete.  Oy.  No thanks.

Anyhow, my mantra will be that it is too damned early.  And I will focus on one single question--not who will win the nomination, but whether they can win without alienating a hunk of the Democrats.  As Obama said three years ago, Democracy is on the ballot.  Let's keep that in mind rather than insisting on a candidate that is 100% perfect.  This is an awful time for purity tests.

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