Much has already been written about the motley collection of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. While Dems comfort themselves with the assertion that a “top tier” has emerged from the overcrowded lunacy, are these allegedly higher-grade contenders really looking so good as the primary process heads into the Fall?
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) currently make up a Big Four. South Bend, IN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was once thought to be on the cusp of joining this top shelf, but that was always more illusion than fact. Buttigieg’s credentials are very meager, and despite fawning media attention, he has not given the American people a compelling reason to elevate his stature.
As for that Big Four, well, there certainly seems to be a lot of leaking oil.
Not So Fab Four
Biden, of course, has always been a gaffe machine, dating back to his initial run for the presidency in 1988. Now three decades older, his propensity for tongue-tied malaprops, cruel as it may be, brings whispers of age impairment forward. This only accentuates his unsuitability with younger progressive voters eager for generational change.
His latest flub, saying poor children are “just as bright and just as talented as white kids,” should draw shivers among Dem operatives at what the future would hold for Biden facing off against President Trump in a demanding general election. The more he campaigns, the more it appears Biden simply does not have the stamina to effectively carry the Dem banner all the way through to November 2020.
In a similar vein, it’s a tad surprising that more isn’t being made of the Sanders “eye test.” The self-avowed “democratic socialist” was able to successfully portray his 2016 primary campaign as a swashbuckling rebellion against establishment figurehead Hillary Clinton. This time around, he is missing that crucial foil, and the anger and surliness that served him well four years ago are with every passing day appearing to be a marked negative. Feckless RINO Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) got in his most effective dig at a rival politician in years simply by pondering why Sanders “is so angry.”
Sanders’ “stick to the issues” approach looked workmanlike and presentable when he squared off against Hillary, but in the two Democratic debates held so far, especially in the second round in Detroit, the senator came off as sullen and irritable. What’s more, Sanders could reasonably be considered the candidate most able to realize the need to attract Trump heartland voters, with his constant appeals to the working class. Instead, he has repeatedly fallen into the progressive PC trap of calling the president a racist and a white supremacist. How can a veteran populist agitator like Sanders not see that he is also tarring millions of Rust Belt voters with the same ugly brush when he denounces Trump policies these people support as bigotry?
Knee Jerks and Imperious Manners
The top-shelf candidate least likely to grasp this salient point is Warren. Her pattern of firing off knee-jerk reactions to every buzz controversy that arises is a severe drain on her attempts to position herself as a policy-driven heavyweight. Warren fell for the Jussie Smollett hoax completely, impulsively tweeting out that “no one should have to live in fear of being beaten on the street because of who they are” after the story broke, without taking time to determine the truth of the matter. She did the same when the Covington Catholic high school kids were smeared by a drive-by media, declaring her solidarity with “Omaha elder and Vietnam War veteran Nathan Phillips” as the social media mob ran wild.
Yet Warren has learned nothing from these spectacular whiffs. Her immediate take on the mass shooting in El Paso, TX, was to call Fox News a “hate-for-profit machine” driven by the “racist” and “white nationalist ideology” promulgated by Trump. Mere hours later, a second mass shooting happened in Dayton, OH, involving a disturbed individual who happened to have expressed his support for Warren. And once again the Massachusetts senator came off looking foolish due to an urge to quickly react to events rather than calmly gather information and draw sober-minded conclusions that will impress voters not already locked into the progressive mindset.
Finally, there is Harris. Touted as a veteran of the tough California political wars, the Golden State senator seemed anything but that during the second debate in Detroit. When Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) brought up her controversial record as a San Francisco prosecutor, Harris responded as if she had no idea she would be challenged on such an issue. Resorting to a personal attack on Gabbard as an “Assad apologist,” in reference to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Harris deflected in an impatient manner. Her reaction added a thin-skinned hue to the existing impression of an off-putting authoritarian personality.
No politician likes to have his or her record exposed to criticism, but Harris acted as if she considered it a personal insult. This brings up the biggest concern associated with the political correctness monster that so dominates the Democratic Party today. Not only does riding the PC treadmill make its presidential candidates soft and flabby – in a reverse fitness sort of way – but it also feeds them a strong dose of self-righteousness that could be a major turn-off to undecided voters.
It’s fair to ask whether Harris’ unwillingness to brook criticism of her record and Warren’s insta-judgments on events of the day are a direct product of the sanctimonious pulpits that Dems demand their candidates climb. While Biden and Sanders are more insulated from such insinuations due to their seniority, it is, of course, that very seniority that progressive voters adamantly do not want.
And so we have a top tier of 2020 Dem candidates awash in currents of anger, polarization, self-inflicted missteps, generational issues, and public gaffes. It’s hardly the presentation that a party seeking to be taken seriously by the American people can be thrilled to put forward as autumn beckons.