Presidential election politics typically follow a predictable arc. Candidates throw their hats into the ring, offering up a litany of lip service to the party’s hard-core. This means feeding whatever “edge” views are in vogue among the politically active, in order to appeal to the primary voters and rise above the pack. Once the nomination is secured, the emergent candidate then tacks his or her views back towards the political center, or moderation if you prefer, in order to broaden appeal beyond the nominating base for the general election.

This historical pattern has broken down somewhat in the past couple elections, with Obama riding an almost mythological “I’m the One you’ve been waiting for” wave, and with Trump running his general election on the same nativist and “eye-thumb the Establishment” messages that separated him from the other GOP nomination seekers. But, the pattern isn’t one to simply dissolve because of a couple outlier data points, and in the field of Democratic candidates, I see neither an outsize worship-idol like Obama nor a china-shop-bull like Trump. Instead, I see a spate of conventional politicians doing what conventional politicians do.

And, in this era of infinite woke-ness and the increased prominence of the “democratic socialist” snake-oil of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the candidates are by and large battling to out-woke each other in their early policy declarations. As I write this, the list of declared or sorta-declared candidates reads:

The Senators: Bernie Sanders; Amy Klobuchar; Elizabeth Warren; Cory Booker; Kirsten Gillibrand; Kamala Harris
The Representatives: Tulsi Gabbard; John Delaney
The Others: Pete Buttigieg; Julian Castro

This doesn’t include those who’ve formed committees but haven’t declared, or who stand as possibles, e.g Joe Biden, Beto O’Rourke, Deval Patrick, Terry McAuliffe, Eric Holder, Michael Bloomberg, Sherrod Brown, Mitch Landrieu, Andrew Cuomo, Bill De Blasio, et al.

The season, such as it is so far, has been dominated by the declareds extolling or signing onto the progressive fantasy list, which includes free everything, confiscatory taxation of the rich, the “Green New Deal,” an “I’m coming for you” threat against corporate America, and every bit of identity politics outrage they can muster (see: Jussie Smollett, Nick Sandmann). Can they go farther? Will they? Is the Democratic nomination to be achieved by being most-leftist?

The problem is, the farther leftward they go, the harder it will be for them to tack back to the center for the general election. How do you unring some of these bells, if you’re the winner of the Democratic nomination? How do you tell the voters that you don’t actually intend to wholly socialize medicine and ban private insurance, as “Medicare for All” calls for?

Maybe they feel they won’t have to. Many of them appear to be playing the game as if the general is a foregone victory, leaving the primary as the high hurdle. It’s understandable, if you’re so deeply steeped in the “Trump is the Antichrist” narrative of the progressive Trump-derangement crowd, to think that his victory in 2016 was a fluke and that there’s no way the nation would elect him again. This possibility is further validated by the tepidness shown towards the more traditional parts of the Democratic base: the working classes of the Rust Belt.

On the other hand, some of the candidates and prospectives, perhaps sensing how crowded the left-most train car is, or perhaps hearing some noises outside the echo chamber, have started staking out slightly more “moderate” turf (relative to the far-left bleatings of their brethren, that is). Perhaps they figure their competitors already own the far-left and can’t be overcome, or perhaps they actually believe that the far-left message won’t sell as well in the general election. This may be a short-term scattering, perhaps having to do with the twin embarrassments of the Covington and Jussie Smollett rushes-to-virtue-signal, or it may be a recognition that the body politic is growing weary of the slavering prog-hordes that have monopolized social commentary.

Is it possible that we’ve reached the apogee of “woke,” that the progressive taste-makers and deluded socialist wannabes have pushed the Left about as far from the Earth and sanity as possible, and that the people who aspire to lead the country are waking up to the absurdity of the heights they’ve reached?

Or will those Presidential hopefuls who let it be known they find Democratic Socialism and the current state of social justice a bit preposterous burn up during re-entry?

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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