Although we are still some way off the 2018 midterm elections let alone the 2020 US Presidential election Donald Trump has already stated his intention to run for a second term and the Trump 2020 is up and running. However, as of yet, we have heard very little about who is likely to stand against Trump for the Democrats (presuming that he isn’t successfully challenged by the Republican Party itself).
In fact, it may surprise many even seasoned followers of American politics that there are already several confirmed Democrat candidates. These include John Delaney a former businessman who represents Maryland in the House of Representatives conspiracy theorist Jeff Boss, renewable energy researcher Harry Braun businessman, Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, former football coach Robby Wells and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. However, all of these candidates are effectively lightweights who have little chance of gaining the nomination.
The most popular man to challenge Trump on the left of the part is Bernie Sanders. The senator from Vermont who does not represent the Democrats in the Senate but did run for the Democratic nomination last time has yet to confirm whether he is running but is definitely the choice of the left of the Democratic Party. There has been constant debate and tension between the left and right of the Democratic Party about which ideological strategy is best to defeat Trump a left-wing candidate either Sanders himself or somebody similar or a more moderate Clintonian candidate. This debate has only intensified in recent weeks with the shock defeat of incumbent establishment Democratic New York senator Joe Crowley at the hands of Socialist Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in the recent New York Primary. Since the 2016 Presidential election supporters of Bernie Sanders (sometimes rather disparagingly referred to as ‘Bernie Bros’) claimed that not only had Sanders been cheated out of the nomination by the Democratic National Convention but that he would have been elected President as he would have captured the key working class vote in ‘Rustbelt’ states that pivoted to Trump. Clinton supporters naturally say that he wouldn’t have won as his ideas were unworkable, Trump and GOP would have destroyed him through their propaganda and he was unable to capture the African American vote that propelled Barack Obama to the White House. Potentially a Sanders campaign in 2020 would excite many progressives with a recent Zogby poll indicates that he was the second favourite of the Democrats asked. However, the man himself has yet to indicate if he will stand and given the fact that he will be 79 at the time of the 2020 election.
Barack Obama’s Vice President Joe Biden is also a possible contender with some pundits labelling him the front runner and a candidate that is popular with the Democrats base as well as a candidate that might appeal to the white working class voters that the Democrats surely need to win back in order to win in 2020. Biden not only has top level experience as Vice President but was a Senator for Delaware from 1973 to 2009 along with experience of the Democratic Party machine from Carter to Obama.
Prior to his Vice Presidency Biden had experience on the Senate Foreign Relations, International Narcotics and Senate Judiciary Committees. As well as winning in 2008 and 2012 on a successful ticket with Obama Biden he also infamously attempted to run in the Democratic Primaries for President in 1988. However, despite being initially considered a frontrunner Biden eventually had to drop out of the race after it was discovered that one of his speeches was plagiarised from Neil Kinnock then leader of the British Labour Party. It should also be noted in the 1988 race Biden was hoping to be the youngest President since JFK but in 2020 he will be 78.
However according to Bill Pugliano writing in Politico magazine notes there are possible downsides to a Biden candidacy. Pugliano argues that Biden has an overtly familiar manner with Women which may not go down well with the Feminist base of the party in the ‘Me too’ era. There is also the controversial bankruptcy bill he promoted for years sometime heavily favoured by credit card companies in order to make it more difficult to escape debts through bankruptcy. Biden defended himself by claiming that he was attempting to protect the large number of jobs in Delaware based in financial services but it may not go down well with Progressives. Biden could also be attacked from within his own party based upon his support for a 1994 law under the Clinton administration that critics say led to mass ’incarceration’ as well as his support for the Iraq war.
Elizabeth Warren is often mentioned by pundits a potential unifying figure who could unite both the left and pro-Clinton factions of the Democratic Party. Warren originally from Oklahoma has been senator for Massachusetts since 2013 and previously taught Law at a number of Universities across the United States. Although Warren was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2016 playing down suggestions that she would stand herself (supposedly she was considered as a Vice Presidential running mate before Tim Kaine was ultimately chosen) she has a number of policy positions that may appeal to the left of the party. For example, Warren supports increasing the minimum wage; small tax rises in order to fund infrastructure development and supports moves to allow workers to organise for better wages. Warren opposed the Obama inspired Trans Pacific Partnership as well as the ongoing US involvement in Afghanistan while supported LGBT rights, renewable energy , abortion rights and the rights of the so called ‘Dreamers’(undocumented migrants) to obtain US Citizenship. Warren also favours a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more rigorous background checks on those buying assault weapons and has spoken for the concern for the debt facing University graduates.
According to CNN Warren has stated that she isn’t running for President. It is also true to say that along with Clinton and Nancy Pelosi Warren is the one of the most famous current female Democratic politicians. Indeed as Brendan Gallagher argues Warren has developed a ‘rock star’ reputation for her frequent stacks on Trump and Wall Street. However there are also doubts regarding the Viability of Warren’s potential candidacy. For example her opposition to banks and big business has attracted criticisms on the right of the Democratic Party and could make a Presidential run difficult as of course big business fund so many campaigns. There have also been concerns about how Warren would play in ‘rustbelt’ swing states and that her ‘in your face style ‘may be off putting to very Blue Collar white men that the Democrats need to win back.
Cory Booker an African American Senator from New Jersey ( as well as formerly Mayor) since 2013 is another potential candidate. Booker won a Rhodes scholarship to study at the University of Oxford before embarking on a legal career in an echo of Obama’s background. In 1998 he won a seat on Newark Municipal Council and subsequently went on a 10 day hunger strike in order to draw attention to the issues surrounding drug dealing. Booker also spent 8 years living in a low income district Brick Towers prior to its demolition. Since his election to the Senate in 2013 Booker has been involved in Committees on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Environment and Public Works and Foreign Relations. Politically Booker has been described as a liberal, moderate and neoliberal as well as being critised by progressives for supporting Charter Schools (similar to Academies in the UK) along with enterprise Zones. Unusually for a Democrat, Booker supports gun rights and favours overturning the Roe V Wade(1973) legal ruling which permitted abortion in the United States. However he also has a number of traditionally Liberal positions such as support for LGBT rights, minimum wage and gradual withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
Recently Booker has been traveling across the United States including States were the Democrats have struggled in recent years such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida promoting talk of a Presidential run. Generally, he is considered a powerful and dynamic public speaker who may be able to energise to large number of African American voters a key part of the Democratic coalition that Hillary Clinton and arguably Bernie Sanders failed to mobilise in 2016. Booker has stated that he will wait for the mid-term elections before deciding to run but his stance on guns and women mean his chance of winning the Democratic nomination would be practically zero against any serious candidate.
Kamala Harris who only became a California Senator last year has also spoken as a possible Democrat hopeful to fight Trump in 2020. Harris who comes from an Indian-Chinese background studied Political Science and Economics at Howard University in Washington DC before becoming a Lawyer in her native California eventually becoming District Attorney. Since being elected in 2017 Harris has sat on the Budget Committee, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Intelligence and Judiciary. Politicially Harris is seen as a liberal being pro-Abortion and LGBT rights as well as support for gun control and critically single payer healthcare system. Some have argued that Harris could give the Democrats the radical edge they will need to topple Trump while Harris herself has said that she hasn’t ‘ruled out’ a Presidential bid.
Kirsten Gillbrand who has been a New York Senator since 2009 succeeding Hillary Clinton when she was appointed Secretary of State by Barack Obama. Gillbrand attended a Private Girls school before attending Dartmouth University majoring in Asian Studies which involved studying in Beijing and Taiwan. Following this, she pursued a legal career in Manhattan before working on Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign in 2000 developing a close relationship with Clinton who encouraged her to stand for election and win firstly to the House of Representatives and then as her successor when Clinton was invited into Obama’s administration. In contrast to many of the other contenders but perhaps unsurprising given her links to Hillary Clinton Gillbrand is linked to the Conservative Blue Dog faction of the Democratic Party although she has moved leftwards in recent years leading to accusations of ‘flip flopping’. For example, she has backed Abortion and LGBT rights as well as favouring a single payer healthcare system and has moved in favour of gun control.
Clearly, the mid-term elections preoccupy most Democrats at the moment but once they are over expect the race to win the nomination to begin as the party seeks to overturn the bruising trauma of defeat in 2016 and seek the first candidate to unseat a sitting President since Bill Clinton in 1992.