Where Do ‘Centrist’ Democrats Turn in 2020?

Daily Intelligencer | 7/21/2018 | Ed Kilgore
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There’s no question that the story of the Democratic party right now is about the ascending left. There’s a bumper crop of self-consciously progressive candidates running for office this year, while many relatively nonideological “Establishment Democrats” are embracing policy positions and political messages long associated with party insurgents. The relative strength of various Democratic factions in Congress won’t be possible to reliably measure until after the midterms. But with the 2020 presidential election cycle soon to begin (the first candidate debates will probably be held about this time next year), it’s looking like progressives may have many more viable options for champions to send up against Donald Trump than do the centrists. That’s news in part because centrists have arguably controlled the presidential wing of the party since George McGovern’s nomination in 1972.

The obvious option for the leaderless elements of the Donkey Party is former Vice-President Joe Biden, who has near-universal name identification, a personality and biography that makes him attractive to some 2016 Trump voters, and an issues profile that won’t drive progressives off the ledge. Biden, however, is 75, with two losing presidential candidacies behind him, and doesn’t seem to have much fire in the belly at the moment. At a conference of the centrist Third Way organization in Ohio this week, there was a lot of interest in a Biden candidacy, but talk got more muted when alternatives were discussed.

Possibilities - Left - Senators - Bernie - Sanders

Two of the three most prominent 2020 possibilities have long identified with the Democratic left, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as have possible darkhorse candidates, Senators Sherrod Brown and Jeff Merkley. Several others, like Senators Kamala Harris, Chris Murphy and Amy Klobuchar, while not aggressively ideological, have no strong connection to the Clinton-Obama centrist tradition.

The most telling strain of Democratic presidential hopeful at present, though, involves pols...
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