For Democrats, the issue of paramount importance is identifying the person best suited to defeating Trump in November 2020.
The United States of America is facing a constitutional crisis of an unparalleled magnitude. The Founding Fathers of the nation wisely created the executive, judicial and legislative branches of government to ensure checks and balances between them. Should the executive branch blatantly overstep its boundaries, they had provisions for the legislature to rein it in, under the auspices of the judiciary. They probably did not foresee a situation where the Senate shamelessly colludes with the president, while the House of Representatives gets mired in its own political incompetency against the backdrop of the Supreme Court that is in danger of losing its neutrality.
Chief Justice John Roberts tried to convince the country that ideological differences in the Supreme Court are not due to political affiliation of the judges, telling an audience at the University of Minnesota last October that “we do not serve one party or one interest, we serve one nation.” Yet Justice Roberts does have the right to vote, which he can exercise every two years and, in the process, align himself with a political party. If one were to look into the leanings of the Supreme Court justices, it is clear that all five judges nominated by a Republican president fall under the conservative spectrum, and the remaining four judges nominated by a Democratic president fall on the liberal side.
The intersectionality between religious, political and ideological beliefs is hard to escape, notwithstanding Justice Roberts’ assurances that the Supreme Court is immune to it.
The challenge to the democratic institution in America comes not from the ideological underpinnings of the Supreme Court, but rather from its imbecile president and the spineless Republican senators marshaled by their hypocritical majority leader, Mitch McConnell. After successfully sabotaging President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016 after insisting that it is improper for a departing president to fill any judicial vacancy, McConnell asserted that in 2020 he would allow President Trump to fill such vacancies, including the Supreme Court, should one arise. The lengths to which McConnell will go in order to shift the judicial landscape to a decidedly conservative one ought to scare anyone who believes in a fair democratic process.
A Constitutional Crisis
Assured of the unwavering support and protection from a Republican Senate, Donald Trump’s behavior is turning increasingly authoritarian. Fancying himself an emperor, Trump has floated the idea of extending his presidency to more than two terms in violation of the Constitution. He also wants two years added to his current term to account for the time lost on the Mueller investigation.
Already taking for granted a win in 2020, Trump is laying the foundation for a potential civil unrest in the country should he lose his reelection bid. In a tweet, he stated that his supporters might “demand that I stay longer.” In the same tweet he also discredits media that he disagrees with, specifically calling out The New York Times and The Washington Post.
In order to secure a second term, Trump unabashedly stated in an interview with ABC that he would accept dirt on his opponents from foreigners, tacitly extending an open invitation to Russia and any country that may want to interfere in the 2020 election. It is not only unethical, but unprecedented for the president of the United States to solicit dirt on his political opponents from a foreign power. Unfortunately, ethics and decorum are concepts that do not exist in the world of Trump, the most unscrupulous president America has seen in recent times.
In the midst of this remarkable crisis facing the nation, 24 Democrats have thrown their hats in the ring for a chance to unseat Trump. Let us not forget that Trump had methodically dismantled more than 20 Republican candidates and the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, during the 2016 election to win the presidency. Going through a traditional nomination process, Democrats would lose valuable time in identifying the candidate to take on Trump and devising a strategy to defeat him.
Twice in recent times a Democrat who won the national popular vote failed to win the presidency: Al Gore against George W. Bush in 2000, and Hillary Clinton against Trump in 2016. Representative democracy and the convoluted nature of the Electoral College provides a means for a person to lose the popular vote and become president. Fully cognizant of this fact, only eight candidates endorse the need for Electoral College reform, while three are against it, and the remaining ones dance around the issue.
Without waiting for the improbable abolition of the Electoral College, 15 states and Washington DC have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact — an effort to ensure that every vote in every state counts in deciding who gets to be America’s president. In a reflection of the dysfunctional politics among Democrats, Nevada refused to join this coalition when its Democratic governor, Steve Sisolak, vetoed the bill that would have made it possible for the state to join the group. That the Democrats cannot get their heads around an issue as important as Electoral College reform, even after losing the 2016 election to a reprobate like Trump, is most disconcerting.
Getting Their Act Together
America faces a plethora of issues that need to be addressed urgently to restore balance and decency in the country. Some of the Democratic hopefuls have centered their campaign around a specific issue they are passionate about. Julian Castro’s People First Policing is a comprehensive plan reforming how policing is done, the only candidate as yet to present such a complete proposal. Beto O’Rourke has reignited the issue of congressional and Supreme Court term limits in his comprehensive voting rights plan aimed at improving participation in and functioning of American democracy.
Unafraid of being labeled a socialist, Bernie Sanders’ campaign is centered around economic, social and racial equality. In addition to embracing some of the issues Sanders espouses, Elizabeth Warren highlights a bold foreign policy that is not anchored in military conflicts and bloated defense budgets, but rather friendly collaboration with allies and peace with everyone. When it comes to gun control, Cory Booker goes the farthest by supporting a federal registry of gun owners, making gun ownership much like having a passport.
Health care, affordable housing, voting rights, free college education, gun control, immigration, climate change, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, racial justice and more feature in the long list of issues all these various candidates highlight. Each and every one of the issues is important; some more critical than others.
But the issue that is of paramount importance is identifying the person best suited to taking on Trump and beating him in November 2020. In a recent survey conducted by Ipsos, 82% of Democrats and independents polled said they want a candidate who can beat Trump, even if that means not nominating a woman or a minority candidate. Ideally, the 24 Democratic hopefuls should get together in a closed room and emerge with a candidate and his/her running mate with unconditional support, along with a well thought out plan on how to tackle the constitutional crisis being precipitated by Trump and McConnell.
Identifying that candidate should not turn into a reality show circus that the Republican nomination process was in 2016. It is imperative Democrats get their act together soon, lest 2020 becomes yet another unlearned lesson and an exercise in hindsight.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.