Who's Not Running for President?

Stephen Rockwell • 27 January 2019
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So you wanna be President?  Who doesn't?!

On an almost daily basis, a new entrant emerges on the Democratic side for President.  Each candidate announcement sets off a range of speculation from the mass media talking heads and the social media chattering class. Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes shift their coverage on Trump/Russia collusion and the government shutdown to allow candidates to preview their campaigns with an initial TV appearances.  Twitter polls and already heated Facebook conversations speculate on the preferred candidates and which candidates are supposedly dealbreakers for their votes in a general election.  

The understandable Democratic zealotry to remove Trump from office in one way or another, has potential candidates announcing earlier than in any other campaign season.  This elongated campaign will invariably suck up much of the oxygen around social change activity and transfer to campaigns, punditry, and electioneering.   In this series, I offer a few cautions as we head into this new period in our history.

Progressives:  Steward Our Energy and Attention 

A full year away from the first primaries, we progressives need to keep our eyes on the current challenges.  The immediacy of the government shutdown certainly helped focus our attention to begin the new year, but there's still so much to do over the next 18 months before the fall election period.  Where we do not believe we will achieve a legislative win, we can frame the issues for the 2020 election and beyond.   Here's what rises to the top in terms of a legislative agenda and a framing of issues:

  • Securing Democracy - HR 1 is an excellent start in confronting the political corruption from the influx of significant sums of money and addressing some of what is fundamentally broken in our democracy.  Issues address include: Automatic Voter Registration, Restoration of the Voting Rights Act, Public Financing of Elections, An End to Gerrymandering, and A Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United.  These measures would restore faith in the democratic process and create a more just political playing field.   
  • Medicare for All - Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and other progressive coalitions are actively engaged in education and canvassing efforts, pushing the universal health care agenda.  There is broad public support and multiple Democratic candidates are now on board with a measure that Bernie Sanders's first brought to the fore.  We certainly must defend the gains of the ACA, encourage all states to accept Medicaid expansion.  And we must continue to education why the United States should join most of the rest of the world in provide health coverage to all citizens.
  • Green New Deal - There is a growing movement with new entrants like Sunrise who are lifting young voices and taking an adamant stand around the Green New Deal set of policies to fully address the impending and immediate threats of climate change.  In her few weeks on the job, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez provided tremendous exposure to this agenda which also includes economic justice issues.  We need to figure out in greater detail what this agenda means at state and local levels and start implementing.  
  • Immigration Reform - With all the talk about the the wall and border security, it would seem that there is an opportunity to put forward a new framing as opposed to just reacting to Trump administration racism and xenophobia.  I hear many Democrats expressing their support for border security without fully embracing the notion that we need to be welcoming of immigrants.  Immigration reform has been on the table for years, but perhaps now there is an opening to move in a bipartisan manner.  

With firm control of the House and dozens of wins in state legislatures and governorships, progressive and Democrats should keep the focus on issues and making some headway..  Yes, campaigns can help amplify issues, but there is also the risk that a particular policy solution gets solely associated with one candidate and one campaign.  More to come on this topic...

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