Today, 1.13.2020, Cory Booker dropped out of the 2020 race. America lost out on Kamala Harris. And Julian Castro. The press is pointing out the ironies of a “big tent” party, a party that would like to back so-called “minorities” like Americans of African descent and Americans of Spanish descent and women (not a minority at all but still classified as such). In fact any Democratic candidate who is trying to run a grassroots-funded campaign will continue to be in trouble in the race for office in 2020.
Democrats are strong opponents of the Citizens United decision which, in a sense, gave votes to corporations, to money (not an organic life form) and to wealthy Americans (they can buy votes with ads and deeply-strategized ground games). If you saw Rachel Maddow’s wall graph showing the campaign war chest for each Democrat in the 2020 presidential race (except Mr. Deval) then you saw the enormous funds backing the billionaires and you saw the puny amounts raised from individual voters. Our donations are small and they still impact our personal budgets. It begins to seem ridiculous to even bother sending in our ones, tens and fifties. We are each a David fighting a Goliath and it is becoming clear to us that even hundreds of thousands of us are unable to make even a dent in what the Goliaths can come up with. And, although they may feel pained by their enormous expenditures, we know they will not be poor when this is all done.
So it is interesting to note that there is not a pool of Americans of African Descent who can run as billionaire candidates even though African Americans have been in American longer than most of our ancestors. Racism and its effects on black fortunes couldn’t require any clearer evidence than this. Nor is there a pool, or big enough pool, of billionaires of Spanish descent, or billionaire women to try to buy the Presidency. This election looks difficult enough without trying to inject financial purity into it.
There is also the Trump factor infecting all of our decisions about the perfect 2020 candidate, and it is hardly inconsequential. Trump has the charisma that Jack Nicholson displayed as the Devil in the film Witches of Eastwick, which some of you probably did not see because you are too young. For a while that devil charmed us all, until he didn’t. (The analogy seems to fall apart because some of us have never been charmed by Donald Trump, but it is apt in many ways.) Time marches on and we have now seen many sides of Donald that never bothered us much as long as he wasn’t our President. One of his worst sides is his belief in white supremacy and another is his misogyny. Lying of course, and cheating are also sins that have served him well in getting elected.
Because Trump runs a very duplicitous, alpha male, white-Europeans-rule kind of race Democrats realize that he would, most likely, have greater success demonizing minority candidates than he would against white male candidates, although they have not proven better at standing up to Trump’s patter (which should not work). We worry that with all the racist undercurrents being called forth once again in America and all the anti-immigrant feelings being whipped up and with the fact that Trump empowers white men (who knew they needed to be more empowered) a “minority candidate” could be brutalized in the 2020 election and that however hard they punched, Trump’s long years of practice with counterpunching and his lessons from expert counterpunchers like Roy Cohn and his dad, would leave these opponents bloodied and would give us four more years of a ruinous Trump presidency. Perhaps we are simply being protective of the members of our party most likely to be obliterated by the meanest old man we have ever encountered who isn’t spending his senior years in a recliner.
I’m still reading David Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass (it’s a long one). Mr. Douglass’s long career as a warrior who used words to fight slavery, which he understood intimately having been a slave himself, made him feel a bit despondent at the actual unfolding of the Reconstruction which was bloody and deadly for freed slaves in the south. But he immediately recognized that many white slave owners feared reprisals. He also recognized that the South never had to feel the real sting of losing the Civil War. These slave states were welcomed almost immediately back into the Union and as soon as the war was over many southerners returned to serve in the Senate and the House. By then Douglass could see that being set free did not mean that southern hearts had been changed. They still saw black folks as inferior to whites and they certainly did not want them to vote or own land or amass fortunes. Douglass would be saddened to know that these racist elements still exist in America, and be appalled by the amount of time that has passed, as time should have changed such prejudices far more than it has. He rejoiced when the 15th amendment gave freed slaves the vote, but despaired at the horrific backlash in some southern states.
It is such a sad commentary on American progress with respect to acceptance and tolerance, that in what could be America’s “space age” (if we aren’t too engrossed in simply trying to survive), we are still fighting the Civil War and battling for equal rights for Americans of color and for women (who achieved the right to vote last).
Don’t be too hard on the Democrats right now because we can only conjecture, run the numbers, employ a great ground game and accept what a tough road it could be to beat this bad man who is still an incumbent and who has both the Republicans and the Fundamentalist vote-getting machinery behind him.