The only thing more ridiculous than 17 Republicans running for president in 2016 will be the 20 -plus Democrats running for president in 2020. There will never be that many people in either party – or in both parties, taken together – at any time who ought to be seriously considered for the presidency.
And it doesn’t take almost two years to pick a national leader. Ted Cruz began his active presidential campaign 597 days before the 2016 November General Election. If you survey advanced industrial democracies, nobody comes close to taking as long as the United States. Here’s a random sample for the purpose of comparison: Mexico, 147 days; United Kingdom, 139 days; Canada, 11 weeks; Australia, 6 weeks; and Japan, only 12 days.
Why does it take so long in the United States? Is it that Americans can’t get enough of electoral politics? When I was a newly weaned political pup, I was discussing with brother my inability to understand the behavior of a political adversary. My younger brother’s sage advice was, “If it don’t make sense, it must be about the money.”
Election campaigns in America are primarily an industry. Relatively few people make an ungodly amount money, with the byproduct of producing a lot of unqualified people being put in charge of governing America.
In the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders collectively spent a hair under $500 million. For the 2016 federal election cycle, $6.5 billion (that’s billon) was spent in less than 600 days in campaigns for all federal offices.
So what should you do as you’re being inundated with too much information about too many candidates from too many sources?
First, remember it’s not about you or even who should be the Democratic nominee. The consultants gotta get paid, the pundits gotta get paid and the networks gotta get paid. You’re just the studio audience for a long, expensive reality TV show.
It’s like the NBA regular season. You can watch if you want, but it has nothing to do with who will ultimately win the title. Like NBA players in the regular season, presidential political consultants are exceptionally well paid. And like the NBA regular season, what they do in 2019 doesn’t really matter to the end game. The champion is a function of the playoffs, and in presidential politics the playoffs start in February 2020 in Iowa. If you live in most places in America, you could reasonably ignore 2019 presidential politics without doing damage to the republic.
But there is a contest that you should be watching closely if you want insight on who is most likely to prevail in the 2020 presidential election. It’s the political duel between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the winner of this political death match will likely determine the winner of the presidential election next November. If Pelosi masters McConnell, any reasonably competent Democrat will beat the moral degenerate currently occupying the White House. If McConnell somehow prevails, somebody is gonna have to have a serious conversation with Michelle Obama about suiting up for the big game.
Both Pelosi and McConnell are skilled and lethal political infighters devoid of conscience or mercy and masters of the mechanics of their respective domains. I like Pelosi’s hand, if she can teach her young wolves the importance of the pack and the value of patience to the successful predator. Despite his skill and treachery, time may have run out for McConnell. He’ll be tethered to an increasingly unpredictable and unreliable Trump and, with over 20 Republican senators running for reelection, it will be next to impossible to hold an “every man for himself” Republican Caucus together.
If you want to know what party is going to win in November 2020, all you really need to do is see if it’s Pelosi or McConnell who is still standing this time next year.
Mike Jones is a former senior staffer in St. Louis city and county government and current member of the Missouri State Board of Education and The St. Louis American editorial board. In 2016 and 2017, he was awarded Best Serious Columnist for all of the state’s large weeklies by the Missouri Press Association, and in 2018 he was awarded Best Serious Columnist in the nation by the National Newspapers Association.