Generic Democrat in 2020!

I really liked this Politico piece from Bill Scher back for Christmas arguing that what Democrats really need in 2020, is just a plain, boring, generic Democrat.  It really resonated with me as I argued in that for the Democrats to unseat unpopular governor Pat McCrory in North Carolina in 2016, they just needed to run a competent, generic Democrat who was “not McCrory.” I got into a good argument with a colleague over this at a pre-election forum when he argued that, no, Roy Cooper still needed to make a strong positive case.  Nope, he didn’t have to.  It was close, but in the end, “not Pat McCrory” was clearly the key to Cooper’s victory.

So, as to the Democrats and a “just not Trump” campaign in 2020:

The Senate’s newest member did not embrace single-payer health care, free college or a $15 minimum wage. He did not swerve right on abortion and guns. In fact, he didn’t have any signature policy proposals at all.

What Jones did was take off the shelf the most pallid Democratic talking points—“quality, affordable health care,” “college must be affordable,” “I believe in science,” “discrimination cannot be tolerated”—and campaigned with a pleasant, inoffensive demeanor.

He was boring. He was safe. He was Mr. Generic Democrat. And it worked.

That should make Democrats think twice about what they should be looking for in a 2020 presidential nominee…

The decidedly not-bold Jones campaign pulled off a better trick: firing up the Democratic base while putting the Republican base to sleep. By being a Generic Democrat, Jones didn’t call much attention to himself and instead, let the harsh spotlight remain on Roy Moore’s pile of controversies…

Like Moore, Trump has a rabid base but not much else. He won last year without a popular-vote majority and his support has eroded ever since, with a national job approval rating mired in the 30s for most of 2017…

One hundred years after Harding’s landslide, it’s a safe bet that the backdrop of the presidential race will again be unnerving upheaval, and again, a nation will be grasping for normalcy. There’s plenty of time for Democrats to fight among themselves over the ideological direction of the party. But let’s not pretend that debate needs to be resolved in order to beat Trump. A Generic Democrat will do just fine.

I’m certainly open to the counter-argument, but this does sound pretty good to me.  I honestly suspect that “not Donald Trump” will provide Democratic voters all the energy and enthusiasm they will need for 2020.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Generic Democrat in 2020!

  1. R, Jenrette says:

    Don’t underestimate the power and influence of American nativism.

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