Six nationally televised debates, an assortment of high-profile “town halls,” and numerous regrettable comments on the campaign trail have made it abundantly clear that Democrats have been saddled with a thoroughly mediocre field of contenders for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. After being swept away by a red tide in the Heartland and losing the Rust Belt in 2016, Dems vowed to learn from the experience and better connect with average Americans next time around. Then came 2019, and they fell back into their hard-left bad habits once again.
Along with strident progressive talking points that drive and define the primary, major candidate flaws also have risen to the fore. Former Vice President Joe Biden has dished out bizarre and erratic talking points. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has shown a pattern of lying about simple and even innocuous truths about her personal life. The much-ballyhooed Pink Wave of female White House aspirants has proven a complete dud.
There is a host of lowlights to choose from among the primary pratfalls over the past year. Some were far more damaging than others, however, as they remind voters of the fundamental failure that crushed Hillary Clinton in 2016. These were the occasions that starkly defined Democrats as cut off from the basic concerns of working and middle-class Americans. These five surely will come back to haunt whoever captures the 2020 nod only to have to face an incumbent president who has been taking copious notes.
1. Raise Your Hands
The candidates wasted no time smacking themselves in the eye right out of the gate. At the second leg of the first debate, held in Miami on June 27, moderator Savannah Guthrie of NBC News asked the ten contenders on stage to “raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.” All ten promptly did so, including anointed frontrunner Biden, and touted candidates Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. The haughty disdain for citizen outrage on the hot-button issue was driven home with a vengeance. Not only were Dems saying they did not care if voters disapproved of illegal immigration, they were telling them that they will have to pay to support it as well.
2. We ARE Going to Take Your Guns
Now that his train wreck of a campaign is over, it’s easy to forget how hyped former Representative Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) was entering 2019. The Vanity Fair cover boy collected swooning comparisons to Robert F. Kennedy. With these and the seeming momentum O’Rourke brought into the race from his competitive challenge to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) in his 2018 re-election bid had many a progressive leg tingling, as Chris Matthews would say. Pushed into the national limelight, however, O’Rourke was unmasked as an intellectual lightweight hoping to skate by on image alone. Unfortunately for Dems, though, he did leave a mark. His lasting legacy will be his authoritarian posturing on gun control. At the third Democrat debate in Houston on Sept. 12, O’Rourke decided that taunting millions of gun owners in America with confiscation threats was a smart way to boost his candidacy. “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he declared in support of his policy plans. The arrogant tone was every bit as offputting as the declaration. If the National Rifle Association had created an ad campaign about a fictitious gun-grabbing Democrat, could it have come up with a more perfect caricature than O’Rourke?
3. Transgender Kid Asks Question on National TV
“My name is Jacob and I’m a 9-year-old transgender American. What will you do to make sure kids like me are safe in schools?” This is what a child used as a political prop asked Warren at a town hall televised nationally by CNN in October. The town hall was co-hosted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an advocacy group that claims to fight “homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and interphobia” and backs the “rights” of transgender children. The fact that the HRC engineered a provocative episode to advance an exotic cause showed how all Dem candidates seem forced to be tethered to progressive radicalism.
4. Unhinged Moderators
If you’re trying to tamp down fears that your party is too extreme for those residing outside of the blue bubble, it’s hard to do worse than having open-borders cheerleader Jorge Ramos, one-sided CNN host Don Lemon, and Russia conspiracy theorist Rachel Maddow asking the questions at your nationally televised debates. Yet all three did just that in 2019. Ramos’ inquisitional interrogation tactics at the September debate did more to shrink the stature of the contenders on stage than 100 Trump zingers. The Democratic National Committee knew with certainty that it could not challenge the activist Ramos, aware that meekly acquiescing to his loaded framing made them appear weak and passive. Lemon predictably focused on race throughout his questioning at the Dem debate in July, and the baked-in assumptions in Maddow’s questions reinforced to moderates and undecided voters that the dominant media are openly allied with the progressive Democrats who run the party.
5. Hillary’s Eternal Shadow
Among all the fatal foibles that affected Dem candidates in 2019, this one ran 24 hours a day all 12 months without letup: the haunting specter of Hillary Clinton. The ghost of Hillary loomed over the field, further accentuating how uncharismatic each candidate is. The two-time loser who would dearly love to give it another go was either oblivious to or completely uncaring about the serious damage she was doing to these aspirants, of course. Whether teasingly warbling about having “no plans to run” or preening how she was concerned only with “beating Trump in 2020,” Hillary let it be known that she was not going away. Ever. Thus the Clinton baggage that Dems need to jettison if they want to move forward as a party seems to be loaded onto the back of the 2020 nominee. Hillary has made it clear that she will be a part of the conversation next summer. Donald Trump wouldn’t have it any other way.
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