No Fun in 2020

There’s a great old saying that goes, “Nothing is as much fun as you think it’s going to be.”

That aphorism is particularly fitting for Republicans who are eagerly looking forward to seeing this season’s crop of motley, uninspired Democratic presidential contenders turn on each other during the primary debates as they attempt to showcase their own dubious credentials at the expense of the others. One might think it would be remarkable cutthroat theater, an exhibition of desperate politicians unleashed, giving in to their basest survivalist instincts.

It’s not going to happen.

The last time there was a large number of Democratic contenders vying for a wide-open nomination was in 2004. Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, and Dick Gephardt were among the big names who took their swings. Back then, too, Republicans looked forward to the prospect of intra-mural Democratic fireworks, dirty linen being embarrassingly unearthed and personal criticisms being leveled that would stick in the public’s consciousness, regardless of who eventually won their party’s nomination.

However, the debates didn’t develop that way. Instead, the Democratic primary process turned on a political truism that has persisted since presidential politics entered the television age (which can be reasonably thought of as the 1960 JFK-Nixon campaign, featuring the first televised debate between presidential nominees). That political truism is this: All Republican presidents are evil, and their election puts the nation in grave danger. Every time a Republican gains the White House (Nixon in 1968, Reagan in 1980 and Trump in 2016) Democrats and the liberal mainstream media howl that the very foundations of our republic are at risk, civil liberties and hard-won minority and women’s rights will be reversed, that cold-hearted, racist “rich” conservatives will run roughshod over the defenseless middle and lower classes, the environment will be permanently ruined and the incidence of homelessness will explode. George HW Bush was somewhat of an exception to this, because his milquetoast globalist persona didn’t evoke the same degree of fear and loathing from liberal quarters as did the others’.

Trump Derangement Syndrome – TDS -- isn’t new. There was Bush Derangement Syndrome to a similar degree between 2000 and 2008 and President Reagan definitely elicited at least as much scorn and derision from political and media opponents as did the other two. Nixon? He is the very personification of Republican Evil and was hounded from office over a two-bit “crime” that affected nothing and harmed no one. This despite a presidency that paved the way for the ending of the Vietnam War, established a new level of productive relations with China, founded the EPA, and shepherded a generally strong economy. Other presidents, like Clinton, have committed far worse transgressions, but the liberal media made the conscious, predictable decision to train its unrelenting guns on Nixon and that was that.

Therefore, the 2004 Democratic primary season did not feature a series of self-destructive Democratic debates, with the contenders tearing each other apart, pinning permanent negative labels on each other and giving a hungry media a treasure trove of juicy, unsympathetic things to say about the candidates.

Instead, the 2004 Democratic debates became a contest over who could criticize President Bush in the most colorful terms, who could paint his policies in the worst light, who could recount the damage he’d done as president in the most vivid language. Debate after debate, contender after contender, it was all the same: a non-stop Bushbashing extravaganza, an opportunity to deride President Bush, disparage Republican leadership and mock conservative principles.

(2008 was the exception to the usual “hands off each other” Democratic debate pattern. Rather than a crowded stage filled with a large number of nondescript, forgettable candidates as it was in 2004 and will be again in 2020, most of the 2008 primary season was a focused contest between Clinton and Obama. Actually, it would be more accurate to say the Clintons and Obama. Have there ever been three more thin-skinned, self-absorbed, entitlement-minded egos vying for the same prize than Bill, Hillary, and Barack? That group was bound to provide a bounty of political entertainment. And they didn’t disappoint.)

By current count, there are some 22 or 23 announced Democratic presidential contenders. How many of them stay in the race and qualify for the upcoming debate stages is unknown at this point, but it will be an impressive number of candidates, regardless.

One thing is for certain: They will each frame their arguments and policy positions in terms of how much better they are compared to President Trump. Do Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders really differ from each other that much in terms of their anti-capitalist, higher taxes, more government handout programs and proposals? What distinguishes Warren’s free college from Sanders’ free college? What is radically different between Beto’s single-payer healthcare and Buttigieg’s single-payer healthcare?

Bernie, for all of his phony angry-old-man-I’m-fighting-for-you façade, showed the world how the Democrats are far more disciplined than the Republicans at keeping their aim squarely on defeating the opposing side when he totally let Hillary off the hook during an early 2016 debate by saying, “I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing about Hillary’s damn e-mails!” But he wasn’t so angry as to go after her Achilles Heel -- her patent dishonesty. Bernie’s “anger” (which is nothing more than a tiresome schtick) stopped well short of actually damaging his rival and giving the Republicans any useful fodder.

Republicans may be looking forward to an all-out gladiator-style free-for-all during the Democratic debates, where no one escapes unbloodied, but the Democrats are now and have always been far more cohesive as a party and more intensely focused on the big picture than the Republicans.

The Democrats don’t name each other Lyin’ Ted. They don’t break ranks during crucial votes, and they will not damage each other during their debates. Unsatisfying as it seems, Republicans will have to get their entertainment from the 2020 NBA playoffs or reruns of “Law and Order.” Doesn’t sound like much fun at all.

There’s a great old saying that goes, “Nothing is as much fun as you think it’s going to be.”

That aphorism is particularly fitting for Republicans who are eagerly looking forward to seeing this season’s crop of motley, uninspired Democratic presidential contenders turn on each other during the primary debates as they attempt to showcase their own dubious credentials at the expense of the others. One might think it would be remarkable cutthroat theater, an exhibition of desperate politicians unleashed, giving in to their basest survivalist instincts.

It’s not going to happen.

The last time there was a large number of Democratic contenders vying for a wide-open nomination was in 2004. Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, and Dick Gephardt were among the big names who took their swings. Back then, too, Republicans looked forward to the prospect of intra-mural Democratic fireworks, dirty linen being embarrassingly unearthed and personal criticisms being leveled that would stick in the public’s consciousness, regardless of who eventually won their party’s nomination.

However, the debates didn’t develop that way. Instead, the Democratic primary process turned on a political truism that has persisted since presidential politics entered the television age (which can be reasonably thought of as the 1960 JFK-Nixon campaign, featuring the first televised debate between presidential nominees). That political truism is this: All Republican presidents are evil, and their election puts the nation in grave danger. Every time a Republican gains the White House (Nixon in 1968, Reagan in 1980 and Trump in 2016) Democrats and the liberal mainstream media howl that the very foundations of our republic are at risk, civil liberties and hard-won minority and women’s rights will be reversed, that cold-hearted, racist “rich” conservatives will run roughshod over the defenseless middle and lower classes, the environment will be permanently ruined and the incidence of homelessness will explode. George HW Bush was somewhat of an exception to this, because his milquetoast globalist persona didn’t evoke the same degree of fear and loathing from liberal quarters as did the others’.

Trump Derangement Syndrome – TDS -- isn’t new. There was Bush Derangement Syndrome to a similar degree between 2000 and 2008 and President Reagan definitely elicited at least as much scorn and derision from political and media opponents as did the other two. Nixon? He is the very personification of Republican Evil and was hounded from office over a two-bit “crime” that affected nothing and harmed no one. This despite a presidency that paved the way for the ending of the Vietnam War, established a new level of productive relations with China, founded the EPA, and shepherded a generally strong economy. Other presidents, like Clinton, have committed far worse transgressions, but the liberal media made the conscious, predictable decision to train its unrelenting guns on Nixon and that was that.

Therefore, the 2004 Democratic primary season did not feature a series of self-destructive Democratic debates, with the contenders tearing each other apart, pinning permanent negative labels on each other and giving a hungry media a treasure trove of juicy, unsympathetic things to say about the candidates.

Instead, the 2004 Democratic debates became a contest over who could criticize President Bush in the most colorful terms, who could paint his policies in the worst light, who could recount the damage he’d done as president in the most vivid language. Debate after debate, contender after contender, it was all the same: a non-stop Bushbashing extravaganza, an opportunity to deride President Bush, disparage Republican leadership and mock conservative principles.

(2008 was the exception to the usual “hands off each other” Democratic debate pattern. Rather than a crowded stage filled with a large number of nondescript, forgettable candidates as it was in 2004 and will be again in 2020, most of the 2008 primary season was a focused contest between Clinton and Obama. Actually, it would be more accurate to say the Clintons and Obama. Have there ever been three more thin-skinned, self-absorbed, entitlement-minded egos vying for the same prize than Bill, Hillary, and Barack? That group was bound to provide a bounty of political entertainment. And they didn’t disappoint.)

By current count, there are some 22 or 23 announced Democratic presidential contenders. How many of them stay in the race and qualify for the upcoming debate stages is unknown at this point, but it will be an impressive number of candidates, regardless.

One thing is for certain: They will each frame their arguments and policy positions in terms of how much better they are compared to President Trump. Do Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders really differ from each other that much in terms of their anti-capitalist, higher taxes, more government handout programs and proposals? What distinguishes Warren’s free college from Sanders’ free college? What is radically different between Beto’s single-payer healthcare and Buttigieg’s single-payer healthcare?

Bernie, for all of his phony angry-old-man-I’m-fighting-for-you façade, showed the world how the Democrats are far more disciplined than the Republicans at keeping their aim squarely on defeating the opposing side when he totally let Hillary off the hook during an early 2016 debate by saying, “I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing about Hillary’s damn e-mails!” But he wasn’t so angry as to go after her Achilles Heel -- her patent dishonesty. Bernie’s “anger” (which is nothing more than a tiresome schtick) stopped well short of actually damaging his rival and giving the Republicans any useful fodder.

Republicans may be looking forward to an all-out gladiator-style free-for-all during the Democratic debates, where no one escapes unbloodied, but the Democrats are now and have always been far more cohesive as a party and more intensely focused on the big picture than the Republicans.

The Democrats don’t name each other Lyin’ Ted. They don’t break ranks during crucial votes, and they will not damage each other during their debates. Unsatisfying as it seems, Republicans will have to get their entertainment from the 2020 NBA playoffs or reruns of “Law and Order.” Doesn’t sound like much fun at all.