In the 2020 presidential election, a flawed Donald Trump will go up against a flawed Democratic candidate — either an older fellow whose time seems to have come and gone, or an extreme liberal (or even a socialist) who would try to push the country far to the left. This raises important questions.
Why are Americans and Utahns once again likely to have an unpleasant choice of candidates who are outside the mainstream in conduct or policy?
Pignanelli: “This game didn’t start with Donald Trump. Decades of cynical, game-playing failure produced him.” — Chuck Todd, NBC News
We have all attended events with unappealing choices of entrees. This dilemma may mirror the next election.
We are amidst a major transformational era in American politics and society. Those who understand social media (Trump, AOC, etc.) are driving the discussions. Well-funded and tech-savvy special interest groups hold massive power in the nation’s capital, with chapters throughout the country. Congress appeals for succor from these organizations. This explains why the top tier of Democrat presidential candidates are former or current members of Congress, and not a governor (very unusual). Unfortunately, this dynamic signals most Americans are outside the sphere of influence.
The election dilemma creates an interesting environment for Utah next year. Candidates will paint their opponents with the blemish of their party nominee — each unpopular with voters — and respondents will be forced to straddle the fence.
Discerning event participants can deflect an unappetizing meal and catch a burger afterwards. Too bad this alternative does not exist for voters.
Webb: Personally, I find the choices unattractive. But I have to keep reminding myself that there’s a reason Trump was elected, and there’s a reason that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders attract adoring crowds.
Perhaps I don’t “get it” because I’m part of the old-fashioned, mainstream political establishment that is being disrupted by Trump’s brand of chaotic conservatism and Sanders/Warren’s brand of leftist liberalism.
As a longtime communications industry worker, I’ve been disrupted before, which explains why I’m not a billionaire co-owner of Google, Facebook or Amazon. It’s entirely possible that a bottom-up political disruption is occurring that is hard to see and understand by an old traditionalist like me.
President Trump’s polling numbers are bad (even in Utah). He seems not inclined to do politically fashionable things to appeal to a broader electorate — even risking an economic downturn with his trade wars. Can Trump win when he seems indifferent to the political consequences of his actions?
Pignanelli: Although Trump disapproval ratings are high, the Democratic candidates are equally disliked. So, the playing field is even. If the economy is sound next fall after China agrees to trade demands, Trump’s position is strengthened. But there is another dynamic — unique to 2020. For over 225 years, presidents spoke directly to Americans on rare occasions through traditional media. Because of Twitter, we know what this president is thinking almost every hour of the day. This could alter the outcome, with enough voters declaring “I don’t like what he says but at least I know his mind.” Trump’s ubiquity solidifies his perception as an outsider, disrupting a system that many despise.
Democratic presidential candidates need to alter the tenor and focus of their candidacies to counter these potential Trump advantages.
Webb: I gave a speech recently at a service club and was asked what I think about Trump. I said I dislike Trump’s demeanor, erraticism and a lot of other personal traits — but I like some of his policies. I also said I would vote for him over one of the leftist Democrats. That drew the ire of one audience member who said Trump is a racist, bumbling idiot who is destroying the country and the world.
Later, I walked out to the parking lot with a nice, reasonable, normal person. He said he doesn’t talk about it much, but he really likes Trump. He said Trump is exactly what the country needs to disrupt Washington, fight the liberals, return the U.S. to global preeminence.
So don’t underestimate Trump. He has some quiet support out there that may not show up in polls.
Joe Biden, a political moderate, leads all the younger, more liberal Democratic candidates. Can he maintain his lead and win the nomination, or is his candidacy doomed?
Pignanelli: Americans don’t care about Biden’s good-natured gaffes. They actually increase his appeal. But elections are about the future, a territory unknown to Biden. Therefore, he is unlikely to be nominated.
Webb: I don’t believe Biden can win the Democratic nomination or the presidency. Mainstream Democrats may support him, but they aren’t the most active in primaries and caucuses. Once the candidate field narrows, the liberal vote will consolidate around Warren or Sanders and Biden’s lead will dwindle. Besides, he’s not energetic enough to face off against the irrepressible Trump.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Email: email@example.com.