Are too many dang Democrats running for president? | The Tylt
Are too many dang Democrats running for president?
Billionaire Tom Steyer has long used his wealth to attempt to sway politics, pouring money into campaigns and initiatives. Steyer had previously promised not to enter the presidential race as a candidate, merely pledging money in support of other candidates. However, just hours after Rep. Eric Swalwell became the first candidate to drop out of the race, Steyer announced his candidacy. Many people immediately began questioning the point of his campaign, as Steyer has never successfully broken into the public consciousness and, as a billionaire, does not seem to have a special connection to the public at large. Jamelle Bouie writes:
His advocacy campaigns on impeachment and the environment have not been enough to build a connection with ordinary Democratic voters. He is a prominent donor, but not a major force among the Democratic grass roots. And while there is tension between the Democratic base and the legislative leadership, there’s no issue that Steyer could exploit the way Trump did with immigration.
Not everyone agrees that the crowded field is a negative, or even that unusual. Vox writer Mark Schmitt argues the number of candidates is not as unusual as it initially seems.
[T]he number of candidates really isn’t so unusual for an election like this one. Political opportunities like 2020 don’t pop up very often. There’s no Democratic incumbent seeking reelection, no obvious next-in-line Democrat (like Al Gore in 2000 or Hillary Clinton in 2016), and there’s also a solid, though not certain, chance of Democratic victory. In the recent past, whenever those three conditions have aligned, quite a few candidates have been lured into the race.
At this point in 1987, for example, nearing the end of Ronald Reagan’s second term, there were 13 candidates, including many whose names would occupy the highest difficulty tiers of any political trivia contest. Who remembers former Rep. Doug Applegate of Ohio? Probably not even the 25,000 people who voted for him in 1988.
Yet with this many candidates, typical aspects of election season are taking on a gameshow feel, with candidates frantically competing to meet arbitrary requirements. After a 2016 election in which they were accused of heavily favoring one candidate over others, Democratic party leadership has attempted to make sure each candidate gets their fair share of attention. As such, they have planned numerous debates leading up to the primary, including up to 20 candidates. While initially it seemed unlikely that many candidates would reach the designated threshold—1% or more in three polls and "received donations from at least (1) 65,000 unique donors; and (2) a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states"—it now seems like more than the allocated 20 will qualify.
As such, candidates are scrambling to meet both qualifications in order to guarantee a slot, which is not fostering the kind of productive debate party leaders may have been looking for. Per Politico:
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sank a ping-pong ball into a cup of water — a spin on the drinking game, beer pong — and turned the moment into a digital ad urging $1 donations to her presidential campaign. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is hawking bumper stickers for $1 donations and used his recent CNN town hall to make a televised plea for more campaign contributions. Former Rep. John Delaney promised to give $2 of his own money to charity for each of the next 100,000 individual donors who gave to his campaign.
The unconventional, often gimmicky fundraising arms race is part of a desperate scramble to make it past a new threshold set by the Democratic National Committee, 65,000 individual donors, to the first primary debates in June and July. The televised debates could be make-or-break showcases for the 2020 presidential candidates, and the requirement has reshaped the strategy of candidates struggling to cross the donor mark, changing spending priorities and altering the path of their campaigns.
As Salon reports, the large number of Democratic candidates reflects a similar field of Republicans in 2016.
The fact that there is such a huge potential field can't be dismissed lightly. During the 2016 campaign, the Republican Party fielded more candidates than had ever previously competed in a major party's presidential primaries — there were 17 going into the Iowa caucuses. As we now know, the end result, after many twists and turns, was the nomination and election of Donald Trump, the first U.S. president to lack either military or political experience, and the party's large-scale abandonment of what were previously understood to be its core principles.
With so many candidates, no clear frontrunners pulled into the lead, allowing Donald Trump to step in and fully differentiate himself from his opponents.
FiveThirtyEight reports that while there is a possibility of the full Democratic field making it through the Iowa caucus, it's not likely.
But it’s unlikely all these candidates run well into the 2020 primary season. Some Democratic candidates will likely drop out even before the Iowa caucuses, which are scheduled to kick off the voting process on Feb. 3, 2020. And large candidate fields have historically winnowedpretty quickly a month or so after Iowa, though there are reasons to wonder if 2020 could be different.
The primary process is designed to winnow out weaker candidates, so there is no reason to worry about a large field.