Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1327, (12 - 18 January 2017)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1327, (12 - 18 January 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Search for a president

The US Democratic Party already has its eye on 2020, and the next presidential campaign, writes Abdel-Moneim Said

President-elect Donald Trump has not been sworn into office yet. US newspapers are still covering the events of the “handover” period which, judging by the headlines, will probably be the first to be as heated as an electoral battle. Meanwhile, Americans, or at least the Democrats in the US, have already begun to turn their attention to the forthcoming battle, namely the 2020 presidential elections four years from now. There is no time to lose. In spite of Trump’s blunders, he still won the election.

Even if Hillary Clinton came out ahead in the polls by a few million votes, this will not count much in her favour as a prospective candidate for her party the next time around. In addition to the age factor, she has already had two goes: The first when she failed to win the Democratic candidacy over Obama in 2008; the second when, as her party’s candidate, she failed to win the majority of the Electoral College votes. The Democrats are therefore determined to keep failure from haunting them again, which is why they have already embarked on the campaign battle. So far they are pursuing a three-pronged strategy. The first is to call Trump’s electoral legitimacy into question. There already exist enough grounds for suspicion that came to light though the case of the hacking of the email accounts of the Democratic Party Committee and Hillary’s top campaign aides, the trail of which led to the threshold of the Kremlin and its agent, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The second is to fight the implementation of the Trump agenda. In this fight, they are collaborating with Republican Party members who harbour a grudge against Trump because he beat them in the primaries or insulted them. Trump has managed to make enemies of almost everyone in Washington.

The third is to find an appropriate candidate, someone capable of sweeping the next elections. At this early stage, the search field is still very broad.

It extends beyond the scope of conventional politicians, such as congressmen or state governors, to famous people in the world of the performance arts and business. Ronald Reagan, actor and former governor of California, beat incumbent president Jimmy Carter. The Trump victory has turned billionaire businessmen into hard political/electoral currency. Obama had served as a senator. But it was not his congressional record that brought him into the White House, but rather his charisma and the boldness with which he advanced a groundbreaking idea as an African American called Barack Hussein Obama.

The, a Washington-based news Website, drew up a list of 15 prospective Democratic nominees for the next presidential elections. Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) tops the list. Her supporters believe that if she had run instead of Clinton in November she would have beaten Trump. For one, she is unburdened by the types of heavy legacies that plague the Clintons. Also in her favour are her academic record (she was a Harvard graduate, like Obama), her oratorial flare and her skilful use of modern communications technologies to attack opponents. Such plusses together with her experience in the Senate make her more than qualified to head the list.

In second place comes Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who ran neck-to-neck with Clinton in the Democratic primaries, garnering 13 million votes and beating her in 23 states. According to many opinion polls, he would have stood a better chance of beating Trump had he been the Democratic candidate because of his firm and progressive stances in favour of the poor and working classes. His major drawback is age. By the time of the next presidential elections he will be approaching 80.

Other senatorial names on the list are Cory Booker (New Jersey), Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Chris Murphy (Connecticut) and Kamala Harris (California). From the gubernatorial ranks, “The Hill” cites Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. However, one is particularly struck by some of the other names selected from within the Democratic “establishment”. Perhaps the most exciting is First Lady Michelle Obama who achieved great popularity during the presidential elections both at the time Barack Obama was running and when she campaigned for Hillary. On both occasions she won a place in the hearts of US liberals unrivalled by anyone apart from her husband.

Next follows Hillary Clinton. There still is a chance that she might give it another go, especially if she proves correct in her prediction that Trump will fail because he does not have what it takes to be head-of-state. Moreover, her supporters argue that she can not really be regarded as a “loser”. After all, she did win the popular vote and, also, she might have won the Electoral College vote had it not been for the electoral tampering mentioned in the FBI report on the elections and for the Russian intelligence agencies’ hacking of the email accounts of the Democratic Party Committee and her senior campaign managers. In other words, according to this theory, Hillary did not lose because the American people did not vote for her but because she was the victim of a foreign conspiracy carried out by the US’s international rival, Russia.

Vice-President Joe Biden also appears on the list. Biden had previously run for the presidency but did not get very far. Still, his experience in Congress and more recent experience in the White House qualify him as a potential candidate. The same applies to Senator Tim Kaine (Virginia) whose strength has less to do with his congressional experience than the fact that he was Hillary’s vice presidential running mate, which enabled him to gain considerable campaigning experience.

In this list of “establishment” figures, one is struck to find a name from outside US political circles: The famous TV celebrity Oprah Winfrey who always is cited as one of the most trusted people in the US. Her film and TV celebrity status will certainly be no obstacle, especially given that a silver screen star has already been elected president. In all events, Oprah ranks at the top of the list of potentials from that world, coming only after rap singer Kanye West but ahead of a long line of stars from the cinema and music worlds such as Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Will Smith, Chris Rock, Katy Perry, Tim McGraw and billionaire Mark Cuban.

The selection and promotion of presidential hopefuls so early may seem strange to people from other countries and societies. But the phenomenon seems perfectly natural in the US, a society governed by the dynamics of constant competition and choice, a process that is not just a test of those in positions of power and responsibility but also of those who are putting current and prospective officials through their paces, namely the American people.

The writer is chairman of the board, CEO and director of the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies.

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