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It Came to Me Who Should Be the Democratic Nominee for President in 2020

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The other day, it came to me who might be the right choice to be the Democratic Nominee for President in 2020—especially if the opponent is the impeached-in-the-House, but not-convicted-in-the-Senate Donald Trump seeking re-election.

That idea struck me in the midst of this chain of thought:

It’s not too soon, I began, for us Democrats to be pondering who should be the Democratic candidate for President in 2020. It’s pretty imperative that the Democrats win this one.

And it’s not so very far away that we’ll be entering the season when the race for the nomination gets started. So it would be good if we did our homework during the intervening months so that, when the time comes that the Democratic electorate starts making its choice, we would have thought through the question of just how we should choose.

This is in no way to deny, of course, that the immediate priority is to achieve the urgently-needed Big Blue Wave in the upcoming mid-terms. But any outfit with ambitions to run a large, complex nation — not to mention to turn back the dark force that’s arisen on the right, and whose damage to the nation will need to be repaired — should be able to attend to more than one thing at a time.

So, it’s not too soon to discuss

  • what qualities we most need in a Democratic flag-bearer at this fraught historical moment.
  • what difference it makes, in terms of the necessary qualities, whether our candidate will be running against Trump or someone else.
  • which Democrats —based on their stature and standing and apparent intentions— will likely be our options.

On that last question, I started going through the list in my mind.

  • Joe Biden seems out there and willing to be talked about in that way.
  • In perhaps the same way, Bernie Sanders shows himself willing to carry the flag.
  • Elizabeth Warren has an enthusiastic following, and has not (so far as I know) given any Shermanesque denials of interest in 2020.
  • Kamala Harris is generating some interest.

As I began developing that list, a couple of my own predilections surfaced:

1) I lean toward focusing on a new generation of leaders. As one whose own political work began as part of Eugene McCarthy’s anti-Vietnam War campaign in 1968, I do not favor candidates who would be, say, 78 or 79 years old upon taking the oath of office in their first term; and

2) I don’t think the emphasis should be on where the candidates stand on the centrism-to-progressivism spectrum—not when there’s so much damage to be repaired to so much that has been built by FDR, LBJ, even Nixon, and Obama.

But then it came to me.

Someone — whom I hadn’t been thinking of before in terms of the 2020 presidential race — popped into my mind. But once I thought of him, it seemed somehow obvious that he’d be very electable, quite able, animated by the right values, and capable – once elected — of providing the kind of leadership America needs:

I propose: Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

I think Senator Murphy would be strong against any potential Republican candidate. But especially against Trump, for he palpably possesses — in ways most Americans would find deeply reassuring — all the qualities that Trump so dangerously lacks.

I’ve seen Murphy interviewed on TV maybe a couple dozen times. He’s very smart. He seems to genuinely care about people, and about American values generally. He seems to be both lucidly rational and animated by moral convictions.

(He also has a consistent political record that Democrats will find admirable. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Murphy )

His decency comes through so exceptionally well that he’s less likely to give offense when he firmly speaks the truth about some of the Republicans’ shameful doings. He seems willing to fight, but not naturally combative. Which could be reassuring to Americans as a contrast with a President Trump whose repertoire is confined to fomenting division.

And this next point seems to me important: Murphy would be difficult for the Republicans to demonize. That Murphy is a decent guy is just too obvious on the face of it for people to believe lies about his character and intentions as so many did with the more reserved, thus somewhat more hidden, Hillary and Obama.

I also expect (though I’m uncertain about this) that he would not stand passively by – as Democrats have so often done – while Republicans launched a campaign to demonize him.

Another point that, regrettably, needs to be made: when we take into consideration some of the current defects in the American electorate, it is worth noting that Chris Murphy, as a white man of Christian heritage, cannot be so readily tarred as “other” like Obama, or come up against misogynistic obstacles like those that hindered Hillary.

So, if I read Murphy right, he combines two crucial characteristics that I think we need in the Democratic nominee for President:

  • he is capable of going toe-to-toe with a liar, and coming out on top– exposing to Americans the ugliness that Trump and the Trump Party have brought into the way power is being wielded in the United States. And
  • his self-presentation so drips with decency and honesty that attempts to persuade people that he is the devil – as Republican smears have successfully done with the likes of Pelosi, Hillary, and Obama – will not succeed with anyone who actually sees and hears him.

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All that being said, I don’t see Murphy as the voice that the Democrats need right now. When people are listening, he will be effective. But some of the same qualities that would reassure Americans when the final choice is made would likely make him less effective at capturing public attention – as a mere Senator — than someone more dramatic, more capable of denouncing the corrupt Trump Party with palpable passion. Someone like, for example, Senator Kamala Harris.

Indulging my imagination a bit further, I would like to see Senator Harris announce right now her candidacy for President — as a way of getting immediate national attention — and then deliver, with her strong voice, the message  that is most important for the Democrats to be putting before the entire American public: i.e. whatever message will most effectively persuade as many Americans as possible that the Republican Party of today has behaved so disgracefully that all power should be taken from it.

Because of my concern about the levels of racism and misogyny in the American electorate, I fear that it would be imprudent for Democrats to make Senator Harris their standard bearer in the coming presidential race. But I think that a Murphy/Harris combo might be just the ticket!

(Oh, and I like the idea of President Murphy appointing Adam Schiff to be his Attorney General.)