It’s being characterized variously as “anxiety” (The Washington Post), “handwringing” (The Hill), “a Maalox moment” and “alarm” (The New York Times), and “growing uncertainty” and “a pervasive feeling of unease” (the Associated Press).
That’s how, in just the past week alone, articles in the mainstream media have described the flop-sweat panic setting in among what The New York Times called “the [Democratic] party’s class of donors, elected officials and strategists” about their prospects for retaking the White House next year.
That deep-seated dread stems from a growing recognition that the motley crew of 18 Democrats still vying for the party’s 2020 nomination have little chance — current polls notwithstanding — of denying President Trump a second term.
With just a little more than three months before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses that formally kick off the nominating process, some Democratic pooh-bahs are desperately casting about for a white knight to ride to the rescue of the party.
Names being bandied about include former New York City Michael R. Bloomberg; Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio; former Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, the party’s unsuccessful 2004 nominee; former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; and former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. And Oprah Winfrey reportedly has begged Disney CEO Bob Iger to jump into the race. (At 68, Mr. Iger would be younger than any of the current septuagenarian front-runners for the party’s nod, former Vice President Joe Biden, 76, and Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, 78, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, 70.)
“Mr. Biden’s lackluster debate performance and alarmingly low cash flow has fueled the Democratic disquiet,” The New York Times reported. “[T]here is genuine concern that the horse many have bet on may be pulling up lame, and the horse who has sprinted out front may not be able to win,” David Axelrod, a onetime adviser to then-President Obama, added, referring to the former vice president and the Massachusetts senator.
The handwringing among Democrats over the electability of their presidential nominee is, of course, a quadrennial occurrence, but it’s been taken to a whole new level this cycle, so hyperbolically hellbent are they on defeating Mr. Trump in 2020.
“This is like the Democratic bed-wetting of past cycles, except everyone evidently drank a gallon of chardonnay before they went to bed,” Democratic strategist Eddie Vale added.
Polls suggest that these incontinent Democrats are even willing to sublimate their desire for an ideologically pure (i.e., ultraliberal) nominee in favor of a candidate who can beat Mr. Trump, even if that means settling for a “moderate.”
There are two problems with that scenario. First, despite some squabbling over the feasibility of so-called Medicare for All and gun confiscation, the current field of candidates — and those on the outside looking in — span the ideological spectrum from left to far left.
Second, there’s the Democrats’ hard-left base and special-interest groups, which dominate the party’s nominating process and would never tolerate a genuine centrist as the nominee.
“What I think is really going on here is corporate CEOs and donors are whispering in the ears of their friends from yesteryear because their ability to game the system and rip off consumers would go down if an Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders was president,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Committee, told the Washington Examiner, scoffing at the angst in the upper echelons of the party. “They want someone they’re more familiar with.”
Meanwhile, standing on the sidelines is that “someone they’re more familiar with.” Hillary Clinton, the party’s twice-failed nominee, is thought to be waiting (and hoping) to be drafted into the race, and if the call doesn’t come, to jump in, uninvited.
The third time would be the charm, the former first lady surely believes, judging by remarks she made Oct. 8 in an interview on PBS’ “NewsHour.” Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump had taunted her in a tweet: “I think that crooked Hillary Clinton should try to enter the race to try and steal it away from uber-left Elizabeth Warren.” Asked about that, Mrs. Clinton answered: “Maybe there does need to be a rematch. Obviously, I can beat him again.” (The loss of the presidency in the Electoral College despite winning the popular vote clearly rankles her to this day.)
There’s only one way for Mrs. Clinton to prove her claim. And that may be what the Democratic power brokers fear most of all.
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