The 2020 race for the White House

New high rent tower, San Diego

As the 2020 Democratic Party primary takes shape, we are seeing some old patterns emerge. These could cost the Democrats the White House with incredible consequences for the future of the United States. It is with no doubt that the United States is fast becoming a former super-power, and stepped into the past. What Donald Trump wants is not a future world, with diversity, hope, and opportunity for all. He desires a country stuck in the past, where whites will dominate all political aspects of life. In some ways, but only if Democrats take advantage of it, he is taking the National Republican Party down the same path as Pete Wilson took the California Republicans. At this point, and this is worth mentioning. Republicans hold no statewide office in the state. Once they were the dominant party.

Prop 187 was the beginning the end of this dominance. It made it clear for many people of Mexican-American decent that the time to stand on the sidelines was over. The rush to become citizens was on, and so was the rush to vote. Within a generation, the Republican Party is consigned to deep rural counties in the state. Almost every urban area of a certain size is in the hands of Democrats. They also have supermajorities in Sacramento, and the state has become far more liberal in both policies and outlook. This irritates Republicans in the state. However, they are unable to capture the imagination, and formerly red towns, such as San Diego, are now purple to blue. While others are making the translation as I write, for example, El Cajon and La Mesa in San Diego County.

Does this mean that Democrats are not making serious mistakes? Of course, it does not mean that. For a prime example of this see the housing crisis in the state. While some of the policies started earlier than that, such as the Costa Hawkins legislation that prevents rent control from taking shape, at this point Democrats own it. Costa Hawkins prevent the following:

* It protects a landlord’s right to raise the rent to market rate on a unit once a tenant moves out.

* It prevents cities from establishing rent control — or capping rent — on units constructed after February 1995.

* It exempts single-family homes and condos from rent control restrictions.

However, and this matters, the housing affordability crisis is.not just limited to California, but in California, we are at a crisis point. Regardless Democrats dominate state politics, partly because of identity politics and the fact that they are preferred in this majority-minority state. This process may be starting in other places around the nation, as the population changes from a majority white to a majority-minority nation.

This is one of the reasons for the high-status loss anxiety that we are seeing and the embrace of white nationalist and white supremacist populist candidates. The Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, is embracing these people as well. And it did not start today. The party inversion, when KKK members and white supremacist left the Democratic party started early in the 1960s, and it was pretty much over by 1970. This is why Strum Thurmond started his political life as a Democrat and ended his career as a staunch Republican.

This process is known as the flight of the Southern Democrats and it is not that well understood outside of specialist context. This is why many Republicans to this day, call Democrats racist. There was a deep commitment to the preservation of Jim Crowe in the South, and the Republican Party was far more moderate in this respect. This is true. But this changed over the course of ten years, less than a generation. As the decades moved on, Republicans became more committed to gerrymandered districts, minority voter suppression and now, electing a white supremacist to the White House and standing by him no matter what.

The party is rapidly aging and is in danger of following the path of the Know-Nothings in the 19th century, who were also a racist. nativist party. Republicans are stuck with this. Partly ti is who their members are. When combined with their leadership, nativism, white supremacy and white nationalism makes sense.

The party is having a primary that is also pitting at least two different visions of the future of the country. Perhaps there are more. One of the main vision is to continue the path of the last thirty years. Oh never mind that one reason for the rise of populism globally, and Trump, in particular, is the form that globalization has taken. This is precisely where at least four candidates are: Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Senator Cory Booker. In one way or another, they are running on moderation and returning the country to the path we have been for thrifty years. Never mind that this path is one reason for the anger among working-class workers and in particular white working-class voters in three critical states.

Then there are the change candidates. These are Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders. I am mentioning the top tier for a reason, Democrats have already made a major mistake by having debates with twenty people on the stage. It makes it hard for voters to really get engaged or differentiating candidates.

There is another critical mistake Democrats are making. This is trying to ignore the elephant in the room by avoiding mentioning Trump at all cost. The president is a racist, he is a white supremacist. His history in this regard goes back to at least the Central Park Five, if not earlier. There is no doubt that the president believes he has superior genes and is part of a master race of sorts.

His beef with asylum laws, for example, is that they tend to apply to people of color from Central America. He wants to change this system to delay the demographic change that is coming. He wants to make the country great again, meaning white. However, with a few exceptions, most Democrats are running away from this reality. or the possibility that the president wants an old fashioned spat of ethnic cleansing. Biden, in particular, is problematic and gaffe-prone. Partly, his experience in the Senate started when we had a few open white supremacists in office. Yes, he had to work with them, but no, this is not the kind of compromise we need at this point. We do not need to work with Congressman Steve King for example. In fact. his views should be confined to the dust bin of history, not elevated.

This is a critical mistake Democrats are making. Every time the president or his allies scream socialism and communism, Democrats are further defined. Every time the media calls them “far-left” with no pushback, they are further defined. Democrats. and it matters not who they elect in the end as their standard-bearer, will be communist and socialists, RUN!

Those in Wall-street and other places do not want a Democratic president, not because they are bad for the bottom line. They are not, and evidence tells us that Democrats are better for Wall Street’s bottom line, but because they believe they are not. Also, Democrats tend to clean up after the not so fiscally responsible Republicans who blow the deficit every time. This means raising taxes. There are Americans who believe that taxes are evil, therefore Democrats are worst than Republicans, even if company bottom lines are better. The Intelligencer had this to say a few months back:

“There’s tremendous fear,” said one banker who was there. The candidates who had long cultivated relationships with Wall Street — such as Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand — were struggling to gain traction and had grown more hostile to finance as their party had, too. Joe Biden, leading in early polls, had a comforting history in the Obama White House and a reputation as an Establishment Democrat but had never, until a few months ago, maintained any meaningful relationship with Wall Street, hadn’t even announced his candidacy yet, and struck many bankers as a dubious bet to beat Donald Trump. Nearly everyone else in the field, the financiers felt, was being pulled leftward by Bernie Sanders (the preposterously well-funded contender they considered too crazy to even imagine in the White House) and Elizabeth Warren (less crazy, Democrats on Wall Street think, and way more competent). “She would torture them,” one banker told me. “Warren strikes fear in their hearts,” explained a New York executive close to banking leaders from both parties — so much fear that such investors often speak of the U.S. senator from Massachusetts, a former law professor and consumer advocate, as a co-front-runner with Sanders. “How do we come up with an alternative?” asked one person at the dinner.

There were a few options, none perfect. Beto O’Rourke had recently launched his campaign, and his congressional record was essentially a centrist-shaped blank slate. Pete Buttigieg was a McKinsey alum who came from the Rust Belt but talked like a Silicon Valley exec or an Obama Treasury official, but no one, yet, took him seriously.

Kamala Harris was a favorite of many in the room. The U.S. senator from California now describes herself as a populist and highlighted a past confrontation with JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon over foreclosures in her pre-campaign book, but in 2012, as California’s attorney general, she passed on prosecuting OneWest and its CEO, Steven Mnuchin. In this cycle, she has been the Democrat perhaps most active in seeking Wall Street money (Citi vice-chairman Ray McGuire and Pine Street partner Brian Mathis are helping with her Wall Street outreach, and she recently headlined a fund-raiser hosted by LionTree CEO Aryeh Bourkoff) and occasionally its advice (BlackRock’s Michael Pyle, an Obama-administration alum, is advising her on economics). “People are generally in search of a candidate who has the right set of views, has the right character, but also can win,” Rattner told me later. “Right now, it is very hard to see who checks all three boxes.”

The right set of priorities, as far as Wall Street is concerned, is not taxing them too much, if at all. It is not regulating the banking industry and removing any regulations if possible. So they will not be too unhappy if Trump remains in office, as long as they keep people like Sanders and Warren out. Oh never mind that Trump is out of control and destroying institutions.

The party is not fighting back and is allowing their opponents to define them using very old fashioned red-baiting. Republicans know that this will bring out their older white demographic. The question is the effect among the younger voting block that is now starting to vote regularly.

This matters and it matters a lot. Party leadership still does not understand why the working class is turning out for Trump. They do not yet understand the anger. And while racism is part of it, eight years of a black president. there is also deep-seated anger at being left behind.

Democrats also do not understand that the changes afoot, including robotics and job displacement due to it, are creating a lot of anxiety So is the rise of the precariat. While some people are making insane amounts of money, most people need to work to or three jobs, and higher education is increasingly out of reach for most middle-class Americans, let alone working class.

Then there are the millennials who were promised an easier life as long as they worked hard in school and got their education, they have, and many are working at $10 dollar jobs, in a precarious economy that also required them to get insane amounts of debt. While many, if not most, will still vote for Democrats, they are hardly married to a single party.

Young people are also leaving organized religion in droves, so a more religious message may be a turn-off. This is starting to worry churches and other religious institutions, which see a pattern that first took shape in Europe a generation ago.

So we go back to this point. It is true, the country that older white Americans knew is disappearing. This is a rule about history. There is nothing that is constant in history. The past is a foreign country. This is a reality, even if older people do not accept this. But this is creating great anxiety among these people. They feel their country is disappearing and believe that the past was better, more familiar, than the present. The past is a foreign country, one we remember with more fondness than the present. This is why every generation often complaints about change and the young. However, this time around this is quite radical. Their country, their dominance of the political system, is about to pass.

Democrats are seemingly unaware of these dynamics. Partly because the party leadership comes from urban coastal cities where these changes have already occurred in some cases. A good example of this are places like Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle. When they say change is good, for them this is an obvious thing. Even if in what they derisively call flyover country is fighting with tooth and nail against these. Then there are the people who were left behind by globalization, mostly in the working-class, rust belt states. This changed the dynamic with working-class whites. The leaders of the Democratic Party do not come from these areas. They are the very successful, very educated, coastal elites that Donald Trump rails against, never mind he is part of that same coastal elite. What he has done is tap into the resentment politics that are part of this dynamic.

Democrats first need to acknowledge the pain in that flyover country. They need to understand the fear, and they need to get the resentment. Making fun of it plays into the dynamic, and when these conversations leak, this leads to an even less receptive audience. For example, Hillary Clinton speaking of the basket of deplorable played right into it. Democrats need to studiously avoid that, or they will face the same voting block that will not want to listen to them.

What is at stake is the future of the nation. Also realize, that going right off-center to gain conservative voters may not work. In fact, going after Trump voters is a losing proposition. Most of them will not admit the disaster that is the Trump administration. Nor will they vote for Democrats for the most part. Especially if the Democrats chose a steady, run of the mill, center-right Democrat that promises a return to the normalcy that was the Obama administration.

The future of the Democratic Party is with the young, and minorities. They need to appeal to those voters and drive registration and voter participation through the roof. Trump voters are not going to vote for others. There are many reasons, including the above-mentioned politics of resentment.

Democrats stop with letting Republicans define them. On the other hand, it is beyond the time that Democrats call Republicans what they are: Racist and white supremacists. They need to pain this election exactly for what it is. There is a choice between an appeal to that past, or a bright future. It is well past time to call Republicans what they are and lose the fear of getting called for practicing identity politics. Yes, Democrats may run on identity politics, but Trump is the ultimate white identarian in the White House. It is time to go on the offensive.

Democrats also need to run on a forward-looking program. If out of the primary they have center-right middle of the road candidates, I will call it right now. Donald Trump will win the election.

The young are not scared of socialism or a different system. Their future depends on revolutionary change. Without that promise, they will stay home. Healthcare is one issue that matters. But for the young, it is with the climate emergency that you will find a home. What is needed to deal with it is systemic and revolutionary. So strap in. The election will be all but fun. The primaries will be critical though.

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store