There’s a lot of excitement about the top goal of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign: getting a woman elected president.
There have been two. Neither former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton nor Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have held the job, but those numbers are even more remarkable when you consider the turnout problem: Trump’s 52 percent turnout is the lowest percentage for an incumbent since George W. Bush’s 45 percent in 2004.
Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by nearly 3 million, but a collective 2.5 million of those votes came from fewer than 11 percent of eligible voters — a skewed window of the electorate. The political class understands that 2016 was a landslide that took many by surprise, but somehow that doesn’t change the fact that an electorate that includes more of the future means bigger numbers in the future.
Hillary Clinton lost because of a bunch of things. Perhaps the most enduring was Trump’s ability to communicate with so many Americans, especially working-class whites, who had been neglected for decades. We should be doing all we can to make sure there are many more victories like the one he and Clinton both achieved.
At the end of Trump’s term there will be Democrats who will want to show we are on the same page as those who put Donald Trump in the White House. Can we not do better? We have four more years to find out. (Unless you’re a big oil guy. You don’t have to wait for a government that will get you what you want.)
The backdrop for the next presidential campaign is already setting up very differently than in 2016, both for the country and for candidates in both parties. The likely chief executive will not be an Establishment Democrat. The president will not be a far-right white man. As Democrats, we are going to have to work harder to demonstrate to the public that our ideas are so much better.
As the first woman to lead a major party, Hillary Clinton had to be an enigma. Can her heir be? Is Elizabeth Warren the ideal Democrat for a country shifting leftward? How can Democrats go after blue-collar Republicans who voted for Donald Trump?
To beat Trump, Hillary Clinton should have been a big story, but it was not that she won the primary; her voters looked like he. How will Trump’s unrivaled media coverage be covered next time? Can the candidates continue to match up with Trump on Twitter? Can they resist the enormous spotlight of mounting a permanent insurgency that will free them from national politics?
These will be questions for the 2020 campaigns, but it would be folly to underestimate the importance of what is happening in 2020 and 2021 with regard to looking ahead, and a long-term strategy for the country.
Here are suggestions for what could be, and could not be: