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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Is Experience Necessary For 2020 Democrats?

The huge field of Democrats running or considering a 2020 presidential race has a lot of diversity. I discussed one aspect of their differences this week at New York:

In assessing the very large Democratic field assembling to challenge Trump in 2020, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that a lot of politicians with résumés that would not normally bespeak presidential timber have taken a look at the 45th president’s rise to the White House and concluded there are no longer any minimum requirements. Yes, there have been presidents with no prior experience in elected office, but before Trump they were all war heroes (Taylor, Grant, and Eisenhower) or Cabinet members (Taft and Hoover). A few major-party nominees were closer to Trump in the empty résumé department (notably 1904 Democratic nominee Alton Parker, a state judge, and 1940 Republican nominee Wendell Willkie, a utility executive), but for the most part, especially in more recent times, the major parties have nominated former or current senators and governors.

A recent Morning Consult poll suggests that rank-and-file Democratic voters still value that kind of high-level experience, with 66 percent saying that “decades of political experience” was “very important” or “somewhat important” to them in choosing a 2020 nominee. That could help explain why two candidates (one potential and one actual) who together have 81 years of experience in elected office, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, top every poll. And there’s more where that came from: An astonishing seven former or current U.S. senators are in the race.

It’s possible that while Trump hasn’t totally dispelled an interest in experience among voters in either party, Democrats are less worried than they might normally be about sending up a relative novice to oppose him; it’s not like Trump is going to depict himself as the wise, credentialed, steady hand on the tiller. It’s notable that candidates at both ends of the experience spectrum — Biden and Sanders, and O’Rourke and Buttigieg — are thought to be potentially strong among the white working-class voters so important to Trump’s 2016 election and 2020 reelection prospects. Perhaps all that’s going on is that against the terrifying Trump Democrats are valuing perceived electability above all.

It’s also possible that candidates like O’Rourke and Buttigieg are best compared to recent flash-in-the-pan presidential candidates on the Republican side like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain (in 2012) or Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina (in 2016), who got an audition but were eventually cast aside. But one thing’s for sure: Democrats won’t forget about Trump and what happened in 2016 for a moment in selecting their next nominee.


One comment on “Is Experience Necessary For 2020 Democrats?

  1. Candace on

    yeah, why not make being the potus an entry level position anyway?
    Sure its been said that the potus is the most powerful person in the world but that sentiment is really just some old tradition, right? What could those words possibly mean to us lousy Americans? I mean you watch tv, tweet, sign and appoint who and what you’re told to sign and appoint, talk to crowds, get people to raise money for you and order that silly ol military of ours around. Lets not get uppity about experience okay
    Additionally if we already know a candidate then how will they shockingly surprise and/or disappoint us while on the job? Where’s the romance and thrill in that future? How will we be entertained?

    If we weren’t elitist democrats the only qualifications we would have for this job are a fresh face that belongs to a trending group identity. This person should have a pleasant personality with an ability to use words that makes us feel better about being Americans. Say the slogans we want to hear!
    And bonus points to any candidate that can either delicately shame Democrats for 2016 or is able to pretend the r e p u b l i c a n s, their master and what they’ve done doesn’t actually exist, because whenever they arrive they crush our sunshine and we just don’t know what to do! But also some of you like to delicately shame yourselves in front of Republicans so that shouldnt be too difficult.
    Maybe elitist democrats will shed their unrealistic expectations for the potus and be the clever ones this time! Democrats will choose whomever the Republicans are ignoring for the moment because uh the white working class and yes! we’ll win for sure.


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