[Note: this post is based on the perhaps questionable assumption that Trumplicans who have assumed discretionary control of the electoral mechanisms in some swing states don’t deny the 2024 Democratic presidential nominee fairly-won Electoral College votes.]
I would submit that each party has a two-word obstacle that it must finesse in order to win the White House in 2024.
The Republicans’ two-word problem is pretty obvious: Donald Trump. Given all of the opportunity we’ve had since 2015 to contemplate the former president’s psyche, I think it takes little insight to suggest that he is viscerally unable to relinquish the stage; he desperately fears being left behind, forgotten. I may at some point have to concede that I was wrong, but I currently can’t believe that Mr. Trump won’t seek the Republican 2024 Presidential nomination. If he wins the nomination, all of the animosities he stirs in those who oppose him, taken together with the political wounds he has seemingly suffered as a result of the hearings of the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol (the “Committee”), plus all of the unease and weariness that would exist in conservative Independent and moderate Republican quarters at the prospect of having to again deal with him, make it seem to me that it will be difficult for him to defeat the right Democratic presidential candidate (more on that below) in enough swing states to reclaim the presidency. On the other hand, if he loses the nomination, I would venture that Republicans are fantasizing if they think that Mr. Trump – who in defeat will almost certainly retain the diehard allegiance of at least one-third of the Republican base — will docilely accept his defeat and line up behind the nominee. The former president will instead claim that every primary he lost was “rigged” or “stolen.” He will loudly and continuously denounce the GOP nominee. He will threaten to start his own party – and may follow through. In short, he will stir up enough discontent and uncertainty that in swing areas, enough disgruntled Trumplicans may stay home to enable the right Democrat to win in the Electoral College – which is the only tally that matters.
[I deliberately pass over the debate as to whether Mr. Trump should be prosecuted for sedition. While I personally consider Mr. Trump guilty of sedition based upon the evidence uncovered by the Committee (while recognizing, of course, that if obliged to sit on a jury judging Mr. Trump, I would have to steel my mind and soul to consider only the sufficiency of the evidence admitted in his criminal trial), I am against such prosecution not because of any worry that such will set a precedent for future political persecutions but because I consider it extremely doubtful that with at least a third of our citizens in Mr. Trump’s cult, any prosecutorial team will be able to persuade twelve jurors to find Mr. Trump guilty of sedition beyond a reasonable doubt. The Biden Justice Department can’t, for the good of the country, afford to bring a case against Mr. Trump, and lose.]
The Democrats’ two-word problem is almost as obvious: Kamala Harris. While I consider President Joe Biden to have thus far done a good job overall – a discussion for a separate post – he is showing every bit of his approximately 80 years (even those that support him concede that he looks old). Elections are about matchups; up against Mr. Trump, he might well win despite his advanced years — by simply running on a slogan, “Do you really want to go back to him?” – but against any other, inevitably more vital-appearing, Republican nominee, it’s difficult to conceive of him overcoming understandable reservations among Independents about his ability to serve out his term. Accordingly, if he runs and retains Vice President Harris as his running mate, this will necessarily cause any open-minded voter to seriously consider whether she is qualified to be president. My conclusion – not new to anyone who read a number of entries in these pages during the 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination process, and regrettably unchanged by anything I’ve seen in Ms. Harris’ performance as Vice President – is, she’s not. My impression of Ms. Harris seems, crucially, to be shared by a number of our progressive Madison, WI friends. If they have misgivings about her ability to conduct the presidency, concerns about her among Independents and moderate Republicans – the electoral segments which will determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential election – make her a political liability that could sink Mr. Biden even against Mr. Trump, and an albatross that he cannot afford against any other Republican presidential nominee.
If the President is serious about running again, I hope that his closest aide will be sitting down with Ms. Harris immediately after the midterms, advising her that she will soon be announcing that for personal reasons and with great regret, she had advised Mr. Biden to nominate someone else to run with him in 2024.
I would suggest that the 2024 political hazard Ms. Harris presents to Democrats is potentially exponentially magnified if Mr. Biden chooses not to seek a second term. Unless the Vice President affirmatively and promptly declares that she will not seek the presidency, Mr. Biden’s withdrawal will immediately cause some in the media – in both liberal and conservative quarters, for different reasons — to anoint Ms. Harris as the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. If she seeks the 2024 Democratic Presidential nomination, I have severe doubts that progressive Democrats – who have an outsized voice in party affairs — will be able to unemotionally and pragmatically assess her qualifications and electoral prospects. If she wins the nomination, I — as a resident of Wisconsin, which has become the ultimate swing state — don’t think she will be able to carry this state against Mr. Trump, let alone any other likely Republican presidential nominee with less baggage. I’m finding that even those of our progressive Madison, WI, friends who are unwilling to express outright doubts about her competence have little faith in her Wisconsin electoral prospects. If she can’t win here, it’s difficult to see how she can win the presidency. If she seeks the nomination but loses the nomination to another candidate, I fear that it will be after a bitter campaign in which Democrats supporting any other candidate who is not also a woman of color will be denounced by the Woke segments of the party as either misogynist (if the competing candidate is male) or racist (if the competing candidate is white) or both (if the competing candidate is a white male) – despite the fact that there are regular indications that rank-and-file Democrats who are women and/or of color pragmatically prioritize competence and electability over diversity. In a dilemma corresponding to the internecine discord facing Republicans related to Mr. Trump’s candidacy, I have severe doubts that if Ms. Harris runs, Democrats will be able to escape their own diversity-focused Wokeness sufficiently to cohere to defeat determined and organized Republican organizations in swing states (subject to the caveat that they might be able to do so if the opponent is Mr. Trump).
Make no mistake: running against the wrong Democrat, Mr. Trump – or another like-minded Republican intent on instituting an American Apartheid – could fairly (i.e., without manipulation or fraud) win an Electoral College majority (if not the popular vote) in 2024, and thus, the presidency; if such a Republican does win the White House, the Republicans will not give it back. And so: who at this extremely early stage do I consider to be the right candidate for the Democrats’ 2024 Presidential nomination? U.S. MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar is the first that comes to mind. From a politically pragmatic standpoint, I am hoping that Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris will step back to clear the way for Ms. Klobuchar or some other competent and electable moderate Democrat to give us an opportunity to preserve our democracy in 2025 and beyond.