I’m using the word “doom” as in Mr. Santayana’s particularly prescient proposition that those who fail to pay attention will soon start feeling like they’re Bill Murray’s character in ‘Groundhog Day.’
And the whole “doomed to repeat it” dynamic is certainly a recurring First Ward theme.
To wit, we’ve discussed the pitfalls of candidates jumping into a crowded electoral field here, and that same topic figures prominently in my finally-to-be-released book, ‘So You Want to Win a Local Election?’
The perfect local examples of this too-many-choices phenomenon are the last three Elgin City Council races in which, with one notable exception, the four incumbents easily fended off three or more. The incumbent who did lose his seat had become somewhat of a lightning rod which can make or break you in a municipal election.
The bottom line is, if you give people too many choices, not only will they generally go with the devil(s) they know, but it depresses voter turnout which further favors the incumbents.
But even if there are no incumbents in the race, a crowded field will dilute the various campaign messages to the point where the crazier candidates automatically rise to the top. Look no further than the 2016 Republican primary where Donald Trump demolished 11 challengers who couldn’t find a way to offset his inherent lunacy.
Had there been just three or four contenders, Trump, who wasn’t even serious about running, would be nothing more than an afterthought.
And don’t give me that Lori Lightfoot won in a crowded Chicago mayoral field crap, either. She won by virtue of political lightning striking twice in three months. It was Alderman Ed Burke’s extortion charges and Jussie Smollett’s charges being dropped that did Toni Preckwinkle in.
So, having borne witness to what most pundits believed was an implausible impossibility, you’d think those 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls would’ve learned something from that very strange primary.
Trust me! I understand the Democratic National Committee can’t unilaterally stop anyone from running, but one would think they could do a far better job of dissuading those candidates who really don’t have a shot in hell. But no! It would take less time to list the Democrats who aren’t running for president than those who are.
Let’s start with the candidates who have the best shot:
- Bernie Sanders
- Joe Biden – he will run
- Beto O’Rourke
Then there are those who can’t be counted out, but…:
- Elizabeth Warren
- Kamala Harris
- Cory Booker
I know, I know! Bill Clinton came out of a one percent polling nowhere, but Bill is imbued with a rare kind of charisma that 99 percent of candidates will never enjoy. So, these are the candidates who should waive the white flag right now:
- Pete Buttigieg – no one goes from mayor of South Bend to president
- Julian Castro – why is he running?
- Tulsi Gabbard
- John Delany
- Kirsten Gillibrand
- John Hickenlooper – perhaps if he changed his name
- Jay Inslee – who?
- Amy Klobuchar
- Wayne Messam – slavery reparations will never fly
- Tim Ryan – bad Dem last name
- Eric Swalwell – who squared?
- Andrew Yang
- Steve Bullock – he’ll run too
- Marianne Williamson – a new age loon fits right into this gaggle
That ain’t a presidential primary, it’s a soccer team!
If Biden OR Sanders was running, they have the political chops to storm out of the gate with the kind of momentum that would quickly narrow that massive field. But with both of them on the ballot, the race will likely devolve into the old versus young Democratic camps just like the Sanders-Clinton contest did.
And we all know how that ended!
Though it’s very unlikely, if the loon factor does come into play, then Williamson, a New Age “guru” who makes a living recycling 5,000-year-old truths, could make it even more fascinating. And that won’t be a good thing.
Just when I thought the Democrats were finally figuring out how to contend with Trump and his absurd Republican lackeys, they insist upon doing their damndest to hand him a second term on a silver platter.
The truth is, the current President notwithstanding, political miracles are few and far between. So, beyond our six contenders, those 16 also-rans should immediately bow out to serve the greater Democratic good – defeating Donald Trump.
As far as the local election scene goes, try to get some sense of who else might be running before you throw your hat in the ring – especially if it’s your first time out. The smallest campaign requires a lot of effort and it’s sad to watch good candidates embark upon that quest when they have absolutely no shot at winning.