The Democratic Party has evolved greatly over the years, especially recently. The liberal faction of the Party has grown exponentially and continues to grow. A recent study by the Brookings Instituteshows that in 1993, only 25% of Democrats considered themselves liberal, while 48% were moderate. As of 2018, 51% of Democrats regarded themselves as liberal, while only 34% claimed to be moderate. The voting population as a whole has moved left in recent years as well, jumping from 17% liberal to 26%. Although some voters may be elated by this news, this liberal shift will likely make it much more difficult for Democrats to unite around one nominee to take back the White House in the 2020 election.
There are currently 23 Democratic candidates vying for the 2020 nomination. With the first Iowa caucuses still months away, there is plenty of time for a shakeup in the field, such as candidates withdrawing and poll rankings surging to the top or falling. However, with the first debates just weeks away, there are three somewhat familiar figures atop the the “already crowded field.”The candidates polling in the top three(as of June 10, 2019) are as follows:
#3: Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator: “Persist.”
Elizabeth Warren’s name has been “tossed around in discussions of possible presidential candidates”for a few years now. According to her campaign website, she seeks to tackle the following issues:
· Ending Washington corruption
· Rebuilding the middle class
· Strengthening our democracy
· Ensuring equal justice under law
· Developing a foreign policy for all
Warren’s extensive economic background gives her a strong foundation. This background, coupled with her progressive platform has expanded her base among Democratic voters.
#2:Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator: “Not me. Us.”
A self-described Democratic Socialist and Progressive, Sanders provides far-left ideas and platforms that previously were not seen very often in the political arena. He is an avid supporter of a universal health care system, free tuition, the Black Lives Matter movement, the legalization of marijuana, and LGBT rights, just to name a few. Some of the issues that his campaign mentions are:
· Providing health care, college, and jobs for all
· Expanding social security
· Combatting climate change
· Fighting for rights (women’s, disability, etc.)
· Reforming gun laws, criminal justice, immigration, and Wall Street
If Sanders’ stance is perceived as radically progressive and too far left, this could limit his ability to attract a vast majority of moderate voters to secure the Democratic nomination.
#1:Joe Biden, Former Vice President and U.S. Senator: “Our best days still lie ahead.”
Serving as the 47thVice President and a U.S. Senator from Delaware, Biden’s extensive background is not new to the public. According to his campaign website, some of the issues for which he is advocating are the following:
· Investing in the education system
· Making health insurance a right, not a privilege
· Tackling climate change
· Reforming the criminal justice system
· Reforming immigration policies
· Reevaluating how the U.S. uses military power
· Ending the dominance of big money in our democracy
As a long-standing visible public figure, Biden’s historical policy positions through the years may become present issues for him. For example, Biden spearheaded the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The bill included provisions that many feel contributed to an increase in mass incarcerationand led to the current abysmal state of U.S. prisons. It is also important to note that Biden is older, and could be perceived as possibly out of touch with the new Democratic Party.Many millennials worry that Biden will earn the party’s nomination, claiming he “appeals to moderates”and is not as progressive as they would like.
Historically, moderates have dominated the Democratic Party. However, in the 2016 presidential election, Bernie Sanders’ far-left ideas changed the dynamic of the Democratic Party substantially. His campaign and subsequent endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s campaign caused a major shift leftward in the Democratic Party, which likely has contributed to his popularity. Considering this shift, he is the candidate I believe would most likely fit the “New Democratic Party.” However, his platform is still too far left to unite the party and take back the White House. Therefore, I do notbelieve he will receive the party’s nomination.
After extensive research, Joe Bidenis the candidate that I believe will receive the Democratic nomination for President. He is a recognizable, established figure in the public eye, and he already has a strong political foundation and broad base. Despite a candidate’s past policy positions, voters generallyappreciate someone with whom they are already acquainted, so they know (for the most part) what to expect out of that person. I do believe that it will be challenging for Biden to integrate/take over the New Democratic Party, but his familiar and steady presence will be an advantage with voters.
There is a possibility that another candidate may surge to the top ahead of Biden, due to the element of the unknown and unexpected in a candidate’s past, a candidate’s skill to navigate and express coherent policy positions in response to real-time news events, a candidate's ability to amass the necessary campaign financing to remain competitive, and merely the large size of the field of Democratic candidates, which could reveal a “dark horse.” However, I do not envision those factors changing the current direction of the Democratic nomination.
What does this all mean for the 2020 presidential election? Nothing is guaranteed, and the race for the Democratic nomination will likely remain unpredictable until the convention. Although the Democratic party has experienced a large leftward shift in ideology, that shift may not be enough to control the future of the party in 2020. This will be particularly true if moderate wings of the party continue to back more establishment candidates like Joe Biden. On the other hand, more liberal voters could prevent a moderate candidate from receiving a majority of votes, possibly setting up a showdown in the final days of the nomination.
It is still much too early make solid predictions of who will secure the nomination. The crowded field and ideological split in the Democratic party likely makes choosing a candidate even harder for voters. However, following the upcoming debates and leading up to the February caucuses, things will heat up quickly. Although no one knows what will happen, it is sure to be an exciting moment in history, as America watches the democratic process unfold.
This article was written by Sierra Bowens, a summer intern at Reid Law. Sierra is currently studying Psychology and Africana Studies at Auburn University.