Things Look Good. That Scares Me!

Today I’d like to take a look ahead to the 2020 elections. 34 Senate seats, all 435 House seats and the presidency are all up. At this distant point it looks very good for the Democrats and by extension progressive causes. It almost looks too good and that is what concerns me. Let’s explore.  

If I had to bet it right now. I’d wager that the next president will be a Democrat and that both chambers of Congress will be in Democratic control come January of 2021. The old saying about counting chickens comes to mind.

The Democrats took control of the House as part of the Blue Wave of 2018. Turnout was high for a mid-term and should be considerably higher in 2020. That would make you think the majority of those who had narrow 2018 victories in Trump districts should win a bit more comfortably in 2020 with the larger turnout, coattails and advantages of incumbency. I don’t expect the partisan makeup of the House to change much but at this point I have to project the Democrats will actually pick up a handful more seats.

Assuming the Democrats take the presidency, they only have to flip a net of three seats to take the Senate. I’m willing to concede the Republicans defeat Doug Jones in Alabama but I don’t see another vulnerable Democratic seat. With that concession the Democrats have to flip four seats and I see at least twice that number of vulnerable Republican seats. I like the Democrats’ chances.

That brings us to the big enchilada – the presidency. While conventional wisdom would tell you that it is a Democratic lock; remember that same conventional wisdom told us Trump couldn’t win in 2016.

My biggest fear won’t be resolved until at least early 2020. It is that the huge field will produce a “Democratic Trump”. I don’t mean someone as corrupt, but someone as unqualified. Neither America nor the Democratic Party needs that! There are several potential candidates that I think would make a good if not great president and I hope one of them emerges. There are others who, though in most cases are admirable people, should not be the next President of the United States. Adding to my anxiety is that Super Delegates do not vote on the first ballot at the 2020 convention. Political “pros” may help perpetuate the “old boy system” of politics, but they also serve as a firewall against a renegade. Secretly I bet there are a lot of Republicans who wish they had a large number of Super Delegates in 2016 who could have stopped Trump. America and the GOP would have been better off with a Jeb Bush or John Kasich. (If you are thinking Ted Cruz the Super Delegates would have stopped him too.)

Trump is at the lowest political point in his presidency coming off the disastrous shutdown and a drubbing in the mid-terms. Politics is a funny game and fortunes could turnaround between now and November 2020 but I’d bet against it. I think there is a decent chance that Trump will not be the Republican nominee in 2020. If he resigns or is impeached that resolves the issue. However if a challenger (and I expect more than one) defeats him in the primary that is another story. Would Trump launch an independent campaign? If so would that split the Republican base? I think that is possible but it is way too premature to predict that.

On the Democratic side let’s assume that one of the several solid candidates emerges to secure the nomination. They all in varying degrees have a progressive platform so progressives who vote Democratic because they see no other option should show up to vote. What if a well-heeled progressive like (i.e. Howard Schultz or Oprah Winfrey) decides to run as an independent? They could stay in it to the end and while they would have no chance of winning 270 electoral votes they would siphon off votes, volunteers and small donations that would normally go to the Democrat. Part of the perfect storm that allowed Trump an Electoral College win in 2016 is the impact of Jill Stein and Gary Johnson votes in a few very close key states.

A “third party” candidate on the left could have a significant enough impact to sway a close election (although the coattail effect would largely still be there for Congressional Democratic candidates). If that “third party” candidate on the right is Donald Trump that would pretty much lock it up for any decent Democratic nominee.

Another factor I think will be in the mix is a Trump recession. I know that going into the fourth quarter of 2018 the economy looked good but I contend Trump and company were making a plethora of mistakes that eventually have to come home to roost. The Trump Shutdown 3.0 only exacerbated the situation. I’m willing to bet we will be in a recession when people start to vote in 2020 and that never plays well for the President’s party.

There were a lot more positives than negatives for Democrats in the above paragraphs so why is a progressive like me apprehensive? Democrats are perfectly capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and have proven it time and time again. At this point 2020 looks a lot like 1972 in that it is the Democrats’ to lose. It’s too early to make any calls. To put it in basketball terms not only hasn’t the game started yet, the warmups haven’t begun either; the teams are currently in the shoot around stage. What progressives need to do if we want to have some fine baby chicks come November of 2020 is make sure we don’t break our own eggs.

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