2020 Presidential Election – The Democratic Candidates Thus Far
Almost as soon as Donald Trump was declared president-elect on that long November night so very long ago, one question has been on the lips of every politician, every reporter, every pundit, every citizen: who will run against Trump in 2020? A plethora of names have abounded from former Vice President Joe Biden to the runner-up in the 2016 Democratic primaries Bernie Sanders, with some even suggesting the return of former presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Kamala Harris and Corey Booker rose in profile during the Kavanaugh hearings, while the 2018 midterms brought even more names into the mix, such as Texas Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke, Georgia Governor nominee Stacy Abrams and Florida Governor nominee Andrew Gillum. But in the midst of such speculation of what is sure to be one of the largest pools of candidates seen in recent history, what is there to be learned about the party’s prospects by looking at those who have already declared their candidacies, rather than those who might?
First to declare his candidacy was Robby Wells, a former football coach from the state of Georgia with a Masters degree in education. 2020 will mark Wells’ first attempt at the presidency, after starting as an independent then trying for the Reform party before failing to clinch the nomination for the Constitution Party in 2012, (a minority conservative party) when he ran on a platform of bringing an end to two-party rule and effecting real change. In 2016, he began as an Independent before claiming to be running as a Democrat and then switching back to independent amidst accusations of lying about his career and the number of delegates he had secured at the conference. A grandstander with a murky past, Wells is unlikely to make any waves.
Second came former Congressman John Delaney, Representative for Maryland’s sixth congressional district and retired businessman. Delaney hails from the centrist wing of the Democratic Party and is running on a platform of practical politics, centred around economic growth and infrastructure. As a former elected official he holds more credibility in the race than Wells, but, despite his working-class background, fails to resonate with many as a charismatic voice. Delaney’s main attraction would probably be his ability to appeal to more right-leaning voters who previously considered themselves Republican, though many believe that this is a lost cause and appeals should instead be made to those who ordinarily do not vote.
Next of all was Ken Nwadike Jr., a social media activist known as the Free Hugs Guy. After Clinton’s unexpected loss in 2016, many Democrats called for a vast recalibration of the party, investing in younger, more diverse voices to take centre stage and win the youth vote – Nwadike is at the more extreme end of this trend. His platform is ostensibly more humanist than political, a form of radicalism which may resonate with younger people, tired of the seemingly inherent nastiness of politics which deters them even before coming of age. Though unlikely to succeed, he could serve as a bellwether in the primaries to determine whether the party remains loyal to the old guard or is shifting toward a new age.
In November of last year, Andrew Yang became the fourth Democrat to declare his candidacy. An entrepreneur from New York, Yang is running with a policy-heavy progressive message of innovation and revolutionising the economy so that it serves the people, with the slogan ‘Humanity First’. As the first Asian American man to run for president as a Democrat, his entry to the race reflects further the changing face of America, as old ethnic divides dissolve in an attempt to face the future. Despite his well thought out plans for administration, his relative obscurity means that he will likely be unsuccessful.
The first declaration of 2018 came mere weeks ago as generalist Michael E Arth announced his bid. His core concerns of totally overhauling the electoral system, and reforming campaign finance will likely preclude him from any success at the Democratic National Convention, especially given his scathing diatribe of the Democratic Party back when he ran for Florida Governor but was rejected by the party, which he accused of exclusivity and elitism.
The latest candidate to declare is the West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda, a former army officer, and congressional nominee. After conceding the race to win West Virginia’s third district in 2018, he announced his presidential bid and affirmed a message of fighting for working class citizens like those he represents at the state level, people whom Donald Trump vowed to help but, by and large, has not. This candidate, however, was dead in the water before he even announced – not only has he never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate before, but he voted for Trump in 2016. Whilst Democrats will be keen not to repeat the mistake of running the election again as a referendum on Trump, the final candidate’s opposition to the president will undoubtedly form an integral part of their potential success.
So what can we take from these six candidates? Firstly, it’s worth noting that no women have declared, but with veterans such as Elizabeth Warren as well as the Harris as mentioned above and Clinton, the final pool is unlikely to be any more male-dominated than usual, which, unfortunately, is a very low bar. Furthermore, it’s interesting to note how all these candidates are running on widely different platforms, but how all of them are mostly positive messages, rather than purely anti-Trump posturing. From business to the working class to something as simple as love, each of these candidates has something that they are fighting for, rather than fighting against. The last takeaway, surely, is that this volume of nominees this early in the game portends an unprecedentedly large pool in the primaries. At a moment where the party lacks clear leadership, this grand exercise in democracy will act to sift the non-starters from the winners and will bring cohesion to the party and an indubitable mandate to whoever clinches the nomination and takes on the president in 2020.