To win in 2020, democrats need to be willing to look beyond the oval office
With 2020 election coverage seemingly impossible to escape now, one issue has been even more impossible to avoid for democrats: electability. “Can they beat president Trump?” is becoming the question that democratic primary voters are asking when they figure out who to vote for in just under a year. But 2020 isn’t just any other presidential election, and the question of electability becomes much more important because it’s being asked in 2020. Whoever ends up as the democratic nominee for president will not only be taking on president Trump, but they’ll be responsible for leading a democratic ticket that helps elect democrats across the country in a time where the future ideology of the party will be decided. Does the party pivot towards the once radical ideals set forth by “democratic socialists” such as Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio Cortez? Or do they try to appeal to moderate republicans with “moderate” or “centrist” views like those of Amy Klobuchar or Joe Biden? Either way, focusing only on the presidency and neglecting to look at electability as it relates to “down the ticket” races could prove catastrophic to democrats in 2020, as it did in 2016.
Just as soon as the candidates began to announce their candidacies, if not sooner, the enormous fundraising efforts of this cycle kicked off as well. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) has already started ramping up their fundraising efforts with the eventual goal of taking back a 51 vote majority, which would require flipping 4 republican held seats. In a recent email to potential donors, they seemed to highlight 8 of the 22 total republican seats up for reelection in 2020. The list included the obvious swing state senators such as Cory Gardner from Colorado, Susan Collins from Maine, Martha McSally from Arizona, Thom Tillis from North Carolina, Joni Ernst from Iowa, and David Perdue from Georgia. But, surprisingly, the list also took aim at prominent republicans such as Mitch McConnell from Kentucky and Lindsay Graham from South Carolina. Coming off an electric round of midterms in the house, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) put out their own list of 33 seats they’re targeting to flip come November 2020. It focuses on swing states like Michigan, Arizona, North Carolina, Colorado, and Georgia, while also targeting prominent, controversial republicans like Andy Barr (KY-06) and Steve King (IA-04). In addition, democrats are going all in on Texas house races this cycle around, targeting a staggering 6 seats from there.
The house and senate are up for grabs every year, so why is electability such a big deal in 2020? To answer this, we have to look at the lasting impact that state legislature races will have. Every ten years, the US is constitutionally required to have a census, and 2020 is once again a census year. At the same time, however, the state district lines will be redrawn. In 42 states, the state legislatures, with the governor’s approval, are in charge of drawing the lines that will determine the voter makeup of each congressional district. As it currently stands, republicans hold a total of 61 state house or senate chambers, while democrats control just 37. We’ve all seen how republicans are more than willing to gerrymander the map for political gain with examples in North Carolina, where republicans won just 50.3% of the vote in the 2018 midterm elections, yet held on to 10 of the states 13 US house seats and Ohio, where republican candidates barely received a majority of all votes, yet have 12 of the states 16 congressional seats and a veto proof majority in the state house. We need to make sure that we elect state legislators who will stand up against the biggest threat to our democracy, partisan gerrymandering, and, unlike the fight for the senate or house, this election only comes once every ten years. There is no “we’ll get it next time” this time.
When it comes to competing in these tough senate and house races, it’s irrational to think that they’re going to be handed to democrats on a silver platter, and ignorant to expect that candidates in these races won’t be affected by whoever is at the top of the ticket, so the primary electorate has a responsibility to nominate someone who can tip the scales in favor of democrats up and down the ticket. However, it’s also important for strong candidates to run for these seats instead of fantasizing about potentially winning the white house. Montana governor Steve Bullock and former Denver mayor John Hickenlooper, 2 strong candidates who could flip 2 republican held senate seats in Colorado and Montana, have instead either announced or are laying the groundwork to announce their campaign for president. This “shoot for the moon” approach in politics is both unrealistic and potentially damaging to the country. If they truly believed in promoting and advancing democratic ideals, wouldn’t they want to help the american people in any possibly way, instead of trying to simply build up their brand? Simply put, both of them should run for the senate seats in their state that are up for reelection. The good news is it’s not too late for them. Even if they do run for president, they can still mount a strong senate campaign if they drop out after super Tuesday, when California among other states will head to the polls.
With Beto O’Rourke running a highly competitive race against Ted Cruz in a deep red state like Texas during the midterms, it’s shown that democrats can compete in red states in a way that republicans simply can’t compete in blue ones. But, that isn’t going to happen this time around if 20 some odd strong candidates are vying for the nomination to the white house, and other state or federal races are hung out to dry. This same tactic goes for voters too. We have a responsibility to fight for progress across all forms of government. So, Consider donating your time and/or resources not just to presidential campaigns, but to your state or federal representatives campaigns as well. Because, after all, the fight to take back America isn’t just a fight to make sure Donald Trump is a one term president. It’s not a fight to simply return to normal, but one that propels this country forward by helping the working class of people. Lastly, it’s not a fight that can be accomplished solely by winning back the oval office, but one that will require a coalition of elected officials willing to go to bat for the common person to prevail.