For the last several months the columns I’ve written have had something to with the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary, and I’d now like to bring some closure to at least this part of that process. I referred to this part of process like preseason NFL football: it has nothing to do with who will ultimately play in and win the Super Bowl, but you have a plethora of ambitious politicians all hoping to be Kurt Warner and the 1999 St. Louis Rams.
So as we prepare for the season opener (the Iowa Caucuses) and you’re trying to be an informed African-American citizen, who should you support and/or be rooting for? (If you’re African-American and supporting Trump, you need to get back on your meds.)
Feel free to support anyone you want because it’s not going to matter who the Democratic nominee is to the outcome of the race. At this point, you’re thinking, “I know he didn’t say that!” I did say it, but I owe an explanation, particularly because the statement isn’t as cavalier as it sounds.
In a normal presidential political cycle, who is the nominee is the most relevant political question because American presidential politics is more like high school student council politics (with much more at stake) than we want to admit. It’s mostly about personality and popularity. In fact, you almost never hear the question of “who do you think would be best?” but instead the public is regularly inundated with the question of “who do you like?”
In the red corner representing the Republicans will be the vain, venal, ignorant and recklessly incompetent incumbent, with the emotional maturity of a small spoiled child: Donald Trump. In the blue corner representing the Democrats will be a Division II political athlete who is a better-than-even money bet not to be equal to the historical moment in which they find themselves. But personality and popularity won’t be the drivers that decide who becomes the next president of the United States.
The next president will be picked by which of the two Americas prevail in this election – or, with apologies to Samuel Huntington, this clash of civilizations. What are the two Americas? You saw them in the House of Representatives impeachment debate about Trump. And the winner will define the trajectory of America for at least the next two generations.
The Democratic members of the House of Representatives are comprised of and represent the diverse America that has emerged over last 50 years and is now the majority of the country. Led by a woman, they were young and old, black, brown, yellow and white; they were male and female; they were straight and gay; they were progressive, liberal and moderate; they came from diverse multicultural and multiethnic communities. They defended and made a case for all the principles the American creation myth says America stands for.
The Republicans were representing the America of their fantasized past: all white, all male, with a sprinkling of white women who love and fear them. They were not debating the merits of Trump’s behavior but complained for 12 hours about the unfairness of a process that denied mediocre middle-aged white men their political privilege. Their angry rants were primarily about restoration of a past that – in public life and government, as well as family life and social norms – looks roughly like 1950. Right-wing media have been arguing for a return to that hagiographic version of America for decades.
The media commentators spoke of their outrage and anger, but I saw something different. I saw their fear. When they looked across the aisle, they didn’t see political adversaries; they saw the future. And that’s what the November 2020 presidential election is all about – the future.
Because they are afraid, they are desperate. And, because they are desperate, they are dangerous. Which means they will lie, cheat and steal (they already have) to preserve the position and privilege that they believe is an inherent right of their whiteness.
The presidential election in November of 2020 will be analogous to another critically important date in United States history because there is a foreboding similarity to the circumstances and their consequences to November. I’m referring to the Battle of Gettysburg. The Battle of Gettysburg is not where the North won the Civil War, but it is where the South lost it.
The Battle of Gettysburg, fought from July 1 to July 3, 1863, is considered the most important engagement of the American Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War for one main reason: Robert E. Lee's plan to invade the North and force an immediate end to the war failed. Had it succeeded, the United States would have been forced to accept peace with the Confederate States of America. The existence of a slave-holding nation in North America would have been made permanent – at least for a while.
But Lee failed and was forced to retreat. After that point, no major Confederate invasions of the North would be mounted. The war would continue for nearly more two years after Gettysburg, but it would be fought on Southern ground.
These are stakes this November.
So what will it take for Democrats to prevail at Gettysburg 2020? There is an adage in sports that says to be a champion you have to have some dog in you. What that means is when the championship is on the line, you’re tough enough, mean enough and nasty enough to do whatever you have to do to whoever you have to do it to in order to win. The question for Democrats in 2020 is not who is the nominee, but rather do they have enough dog in them to win a political death match?