Anybody who consumes large quantities of cable news, political podcasts or current-events comedy knows it is en vogue to make fun of the large field of Democrats running for president. It seems like no news anchor- whether they are a real one or a comedian posing as one- can mention the 2020 election without cracking wise about the “824 Democrats running for president.” I get it. It is low hanging fruit and they have to pick it. But after the polite laughter consider what a field of 22 Democrats really means- and how disastrous it could be if we only had one or two viable candidates running.
The primary message is that Democrats are very fired up by the prospect of throwing Donald Trump’s fat ass out of the People’s House. In fact, this energy goes beyond being fired up and actually reaches the point of desperation. And in this case desperation is a great thing. The Democratic Party, for all of its strategic failings, poor reflexes and weak responses, is well aware of the threat that a lame-duck Trump poses to America. There is no reason to doubt that all 22 announced candidates see Trump’s re-election as a red-alert emergency for the country. And one thing is certain: NOBODY wants to be sitting where Joe Biden was on election night in 2016. We all know he was kicking himself wondering “why in the hell didn’t I run? Had I run would this tragedy have happened?”
This enormous field also means that the opportunity for early engagement is much higher than it would normally be from coast to coast- and that is a great thing. People who don’t know who Michael Bennett is will probably know him soon. He is an unassuming but but very impressive Senator out of Colorado best known for excoriating Ted Cruz like nobody else has. His running can only aid the Democrats efforts to dump Republican Senator Cory Gardener who will be on the ballot in 2020. People who didn’t know Pete Buttigiege before surely know him now. The Military Veteran / Rhode’s Scholar / Indiana mayor is going to aid efforts to press Democratic messaging into areas where it wasn’t considered viable before. Indiana has turned blood red under Trump but Mayor Pete makes it a lot more of a fight. And who can argue against the proposition that the political sensation that is Beto O’Rourke will force the Republicans to spend time and money defending Texas? You can be damned sure that Trump would rather spend those precious resources playing offense in Pennsylvania instead of defense in Texas. Because of this big Democratic field that is exactly what he will have to do.
Another jewel that is being missed in the midst of the jokes is that this huge field is going to force conversations on a much broader scale than would ever have been possible in a traditional grouping of five or six high profile senators and governors. Most people don’t know who in the hell Seth Moulton is but they probably will soon. More than any other candidate since John McCain, Seth Moulton is a bona-fide war hero- serving three tours in Iraq after he graduated from Harvard. His main pitch is that Donald Trump is a brainless chicken-hawk and has been an abject failure as Commander-In-Chief. Because of all of the chaos Trump manufactures daily from his personal Twitter account it is easy to lose track of that crucial issue. Moulton is uniquely qualified to make the case that America is being undermined and humiliated by this draft-dodging, self-dealing, nation betraying scum-bag that other military people seem to have an odd affection for.
Another conversation that is being well served by this field is as much of an internal correction as it is a Trump-take-down. Climate change will not be back-burnered by Democrats as long as Jay Inslee is in this field. Inslee is largely unknown to the country but because he has thrown his hat into the 2020 Presidential Ring America is going to see that progressive policies can also be fueled by a heavy dose of testosterone. Inslee is the governor of Washington, a ferocious climate change advocate, and strikes the image of manhood on stage that will make Donald Trump look like the marshmallow soft, loud-mouthed prissy-boy that real men know him to be. Inslee is an impressive and imposing 68 year-old and I am confident that Trump would rather eat cat shit with a knitting needle than get into a fist-fight with him. I recognize how juvenile that sounds but image matters in politics and Jay Inslee projects the strength and toughness that often moves voters. And he is all about his vision of a progressive future of egalitarianism powered by solar panels. The longer he stays in the race the better off the Democrats will be.
I have no doubt that some of these candidates have nefarious motives for their White House run. Look at how well some of the dopes who have run for the GOP nomination have done in the past. Herman Cain has done especially well since he ran in 2012. Ron and now Rand Paul have made running in presidential primaries a family business. Mike Huckabee wouldn’t be known outside of Arkansas but-for his appearance in the early 2012 primaries. All of these guys have sold a lot of books, gotten TV or radio shows and really upped their speaking fees by leveraging the national spotlight that only a presidential candidacy can deliver. For the most part, these guys are shameless charlatans and hucksters. But if that is the case with any of the 22 announced Democratic candidates it has not yet been exposed. Being a ridiculously long-shot does not make you a bad actor. Maybe delusional, but not a bad actor.
In the end, we will wind up with one of our heavy hitters up to bat when Trump waddles out to the mound to start pitching his lies, excuses and attacks like Curt Schilling fast-balls. But after emerging from this field of determined candidates, I am far more confident that Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden or Kamala Harris will be ready to crush one out of the park.