March 26, 2019
If you read or watch political news these days, you’ve probably already realized the Democrats’ presidential nominee next year will be Robert Francis "Beto” O’Rourke.
So great was the media’s adulation over that campaign launch this month that his selection seems preordained. So, you have to wonder why Democrats are going through the painfully divisive and expensive process of staging primaries to determine who will actually face President Donald Trump in 84 weeks.
Coronating a nominee this early is, of course, ridiculous given the amount of time and the number of competitors seeking to inherit the Hillary Clinton Chair of Presidential Campaigning.
Trump looks weak in the gauzy eyes of wishful liberals. So, ambitious Democrats may well exceed the 17 GOP wannabes in 2016, which sets up an intriguing potential 2020 scenario designed by the political gods who’ve watched over Trump’s brief career in electoral politics.
Even more Democrats wait in the wings, including former Vice President Joe Biden, who thinks a third shot is his charm, and Sen. Michael Bennet from Colorado. Never mind, he won’t matter either in the end.
Let’s be honest. With so many competitors appealing to so many sectors of that fractured party, no single candidate is likely to attract majority support anywhere. Think Republicans 2016.
This sets up perhaps a contested convention in Milwaukee and/or victory by an unexpected one who squeaks through with a slightly larger plurality. Which is why the party has kept some establishment superdelegates in reserve to rig results again the least worst way.
Already, the field has blacks and whites, a Hispanic, a child of immigrants, a Hindu, ex-mayors, ex-governors, current senators, a former professed Native American, a retired microbrewer who claims to have been bullied in childhood, a candidate opposed to circumcision and a New Yorker who calls herself "a young Mom ” at 52.
There’s also a democratic socialist who’s OK with owning three homes and is a half-decade older than the incumbent president, who at 70 was the oldest man ever to take the presidential oath.
For now, voters can learn about them from scattered print profiles. In an elongated act of contrition for carrying so many full-length Trump rallies last time, CNN is staging a stream of town halls with Democratic candidates, even unannounced ones. And there’s my favorite, C-SPAN’s vaunted and unfiltered "Road to the White House” series.
How are all these similar progressives going to differentiate themselves? The quick answer: with difficulty.
That’s a real opening for a celebrity candidate to compete against a celebrity president. At 46, O’Rourke has consciously avoided specific policy pronouncements beyond a desire to unite Americans.
You’d think as an empty vessel with a nice smile, he’s likely to get eaten alive on a debate stage with sharks. But such an inviting void allows would-be supporters to see in him whatever their heart desires.
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