The Democrats’ Winnowing Process

On Monday, a depleted Cory Booker dropped out of the presidential race, three weeks before the Iowa caucus.  He had been running for president for nearly a year.  The senator’s departure leaves a dozen Democrats still in the race.  In the incredibly silly yet arduous process used to sift through presidential contenders, sixteen Democrats who were running have already failed.

Yes, they recruited campaign staffs, solicited donations, spoke at rallies, sought friends in wine caves, and pontificated on debate stages, only to gnash their teeth in despair over low statistics gathered through doubtful methods but taken as proof that they wouldn’t catch on.  The reasons remain mysterious, but the polls “say” that these candidates are not what the American Tigger likes.

So Marianne Williamson, Kamala Harris, Julian Castro, Beto O’Rourke, Steve Bullock, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bill de Blasio,  Eric Swalwell, Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper, Tim Ryan, Joe Sestak, Richard Ojeda, Seth Moulton, Wayne Messam, and now Cory Booker, have all dropped out—beaten before even a single vote has been cast.

Meanwhile, likely voters (and donors) are being looked to determine what the Democratic Party needs.  The Democratic National Committee  is being decidedly hands-off when it comes to the all-important matter of picking a standard-bearer who can beat Trump.  Given the divide that has opened up between progressives and moderates, the candidate who wins the nomination will fatefully determine the tilt of the entire party.

It’s left to the voters to judge the vast assemblage that has shown up in response to what is essentially an open casting call.  The debate stage is an audition for the presidency (a crude test, given what being an effective president actually involves).  Not surprisingly, many voters are holding off in picking a favorite, until they can see what other people think.  Who is a winner?  This is what ordinary voters expect someone else to decide.

Am I a typical voter, I who could imagine voting for Sanders, or Steyer, or Bullock, or Bloomberg?  Even very well-informed voters may well yet be holding fire.  Which makes me wonder about the meaning, at present, of those all-important opinion polls that sites like FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics keep track of for us, and which have caused so many interesting Democratic talents to drop out.

Image: from this source.
Joseph Keppler’s 1884 “An Unpleasant Ride through the Presidential Haunted Forest,” shows Uncle Sam and Dame Democracy riding in terror through a woods haunted with the ghosts of some twenty “dead” presidential hopefuls. Click to enlarge.


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5 responses

  1. Two changes in the selection process need to be made:

    1. The DNC should create a process for each person interested in/wanting to run for president. Prominent democrats with longstanding ties to the party at the national level could narrow the field to a few (say 2-3) people. The DNC is a very diverse group of people, representing by far and away much more of this nation than the GOP. They know who could attract the big donors that seem to have become a necessity now.

    2. Iowa and New Hampshire should definitely NOT be the first states to hold primaries. Neither has a diverse population, and diversity is a cornerstone of the DEM party. States like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri, California, etc, etc, should come first and foremost. Maybe next time around, some reforms will be introduced.

    • Your second point is one Bloomberg and some editorialists have made lately. I think the influence that comes with being the “first” primary is one the states should enjoy in turn. But changing the primary process is thorny and complicated. This time, I’m hoping that Iowa voters will fail to choose the eventual nominee–part of their justification is that despite lacking diversity Iowa voters are in some mystical way a bellwether of national Democratic sentiment. I don’t think arguments should be made for or against a certain order based on race, but I can see how voters in some states get disillusioned when year after year their votes have no observable influence over the contest’s momentum. Otherwise, in the end, our delegate votes contribute proportionately to the result. . . .

      Personally, I do wish both parties were more “interfering” when it comes to picking the lead candidates or the nominee (your point #1). Politicians who have campaigned in each of the states themselves know, far more than voters, the overall character of the state electorates. Party leaders should also be doing more to articulate and establish what policies the Democratic party stands for. (Republicans should do this too, for that matter.) Otherwise the parties are each going to become increasingly splintered, and the gap between the president and the Congress could become unworkably large. This is what happened in the case of Trump. When no one agrees, nothing gets done, and the nation languishes as a never-ending power struggle prevails.

      Thanks, RB

  2. By the by, I want to congratulate you on that fantastic political “cartoon.” You must have done a lot of digging and hunting to find it ! Great Job !

    • Thanks, RB. I did look for a long time. I could have used a contemporary photograph of the candidates, but I think this cartoon is better at capturing my theme. Plus, looking back at political prints from various eras brought to mind other eras when one party or the other was directionless/divided. At such times, more candidates tend to run.

      This particular drawing is masterly, in that many portraits are indeed woven into it. Each time I counted, I found a few more.

      I appreciate the feedback. Stay calm!

  3. I also would like to leave a comment on a different topic, but one that relates to the politics of selecting a President.

    Since Tuesday, the day after MLK Day, the Senate has been listening to arguments on whether to convict Rump or not. Sadly, up to this point, in their “listening only” phase, I definitely would not call this a true and real “impeachment trial.” In fact, as I’ve read and heard, the vast majority of Americans don’t even think it a trial, cuz it’s not.

    Since being called for jury duty is part of the responsibility of every US citizen, we all know that serving on a jury and listening to only “arguments” is NOT a trial. Trials do indeed have opening arguments that the defense and prosecution present. Then witnesses are called and documents are presented as each side attempts to prove its case. Period. That is a trial, held in front of twelve jurors, who then weigh all the evidence from both sides and decide whether to aquit or declare the defendant guilty. All EVIDENCE must be presented, ALL. Even whisper to the word “trial” without evidence is to defame the very definition.

    Now, here stands our current President indicted by The House of Representatives on obstruction of justice and abuse of power. The House held true and fair public hearings, with witnesses, documents, arguments, and examination and cross-examination of witnesses. We all saw this on TV, heard it on radios, tuned in via computer, etc, etc, or read the coverage of it in the newspapers. And now, what is occurring in the Senate? A sham: no trial, no witnesses, no documents, no exam and cross exam. Lady Liberty is weeping, as am I.

    In many courtrooms throughout our nation there she is, in a statue, carved into a fresco above the courtroom or otherwise depicted as holding a scales, which represents equality under the law: HEARING BOTH SIDES. All evidence is to be brought in during a trial, for someone’s liberty and livelihood is at stake.

    Our Republican-led Senate is so far dead set against allowing witnesses and documents. The jurors in this proceeding (it should be a trial but isn’t) are the 100 Senators. Fifty-three of the jurors are of the Republican party. So far, not even one–not one–has insisted that the Senate “hearing” become a real trial, even to the extent that the hearings in the House of Reps were. This despite the fact that the Constitution charges the Senate with TRYING persons who have been impeached.

    The American people know this is a sham trial, a kangaroo court: fixed, rigged, its outcome predetermined. The Republicans bow and kneel to McConnell; they quiver in fear. And McConnell takes orders from Trump like a dog: “Fetch, run, retrieve, cheat, deceive, no witnesses, no documents. “Yes, you know I’m guilty, but YOU must help me cover up my guilt. I’ll reward you handsomely, grant you more and more power, the name you are called (and gave yourself) ‘Grim Reaper’ will remain, and all the other 52 Republican Senators who follow you like dogs will forever jump and do as you tell them.”

    All you people out there reading this, what is going on in that Senate is truly a battle of evil vs. good. “I’ve done nothing wrong,” our king-to-be proclaims again and again. Yet he cowers and hides, counting on 53 dogs to cover up for him and ward off his removal. Why, why, and why???

    The rallying call for the 2020 Presidential elections is sounding now. Voters, if you want justice, if you want a true and real republic, do not vote Republican again. Doing so will shut off the lights for another four years, sending our fine country to a hell created by Trump. He is the cause of this entire mess.