The Democratic Party has now spent more than two months reflecting on what went wrong and how a plucky unknown like Donald Trump could defeat a beloved American institution like Hillary Clinton. Some have attempted to place blame externally, pointing fingers at Russian interference in the election which caused a 100% turn out for Donald Trump in Brighton Beach, swinging the election in his favor. Others have looked within and used their trusty hindsight to see what they should’ve done differently, “We should have had more celebrities” “We didn’t use Rahm Emanuel enough” “We could have been more racist”.
The party is at a crossroads that it has never seen before; will Democrats, who have embraced civil rights since the Civil War, turn it’s back on black voters for the white working class? Or should the party run a Steve Harvey or Bill Cosby to guarantee black turn out? Should the party make Chuck Schumer dip Copenhagen on the Senate floor to appeal to rural Wisconsinites or should they have Cory Booker write a rap about charter schools to appeal to urban Milwaukeeans?
What party insiders do not realize is that all this Monday morning quarterbacking and infighting is doing is distracting from the party’s next opportunity to defeat the Trump agenda, beating him in 2020. Unfortunately for the Democrats, no one has risen to the occasion and become the standard bearer for the party. Clinton has forsaken politics entirely to look for arrow heads in the woods of southern New York, and Bernie Sanders has been hosting meandering town halls focused on things like universal health care and free college education that have nothing to do with Democratic Party politics.
The younger generation of leadership within the party is severely lacking any candidates that would have a chance of winning in 2020. Too many of the party’s vocal young leaders, Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, are all women. If 2016 taught the party anything, it’s that America is not yet ready for a female President, and until Chelsea Clinton decides she is experienced enough to run, the party would be wise to stick to male candidates. Another young Democrat getting a lot of buzz is Keith Ellison, however, America was barely able to handle a fake Muslim candidate, a real life actual Muslim would simply be unacceptable to American voters.
Sometimes, when you have a short bench, it is necessary to stop looking within and to look outside for solutions. In 2016, a technocratic organization relying on data to get results blew what seemed like an insurmountable lead to a grass roots movement led by a leader with bad hair and an erratic social media presence. This is, of course, a reference to the Cleveland Cavaliers coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors knew that the way to win the next election was not to elevate talent from within, but to search elsewhere, bringing in Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Democrats would be smart to do likewise and look outside the party for its 2020 solution, and like the Warriors, their answer may lie in a young man who made a name for himself in the state of Texas. This fresh face is of course, George W. Bush.
Though he left office under worse circumstances than any President in American history, Bush’s legacy has been rehabilitated in recent years and he emerged as a pragmatic centrist figure who would bring some much needed decency back to the White House. With Trump hijacking the Republican Party, Bush can help Democrats recapture their centrist base and use a bipartisan coalition to take back the White House.
Bush may have been public enemy number one for many Democrats in 2004, but the world in 2016 is a much different place than it was twelve years ago. In 2004, Bush was seen as the cheerleader of an illegal and unpopular war in Iraq. In 2016, with endless war in the Middle East now the foreign policy status quo, who is more qualified to help America keep its head above water indefinitely in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and potentially Iran.
Not only can Bush help the Democrats find their political center and triangulate between differing viewpoints like Cory Booker, Mark Zuckerberg, and Benjamin Netanyahu, but his personality is the perfect antidote to Trump’s crass brutishness which threatens to destroy the sanctity of the White House. Bush takes Trump’s tell it like it is personality and adds a measure of warmth and humility, something that is desperately needed in today’s divided political climate.
Democrats will fail if they underestimate the political sensibilities of the everyday, rural, hard-working, gritty, coach’s son type voter that they desperately need to win over to take back the White House. These voters know when they are being pandered to, you can’t just throw a cowboy hat on Dick Durbin and expect to fool rural voters. However, put forth a real life Texas Ranger(‘s owner) as a candidate, and rural counties that defected to Trump in 2016 are the Democrats for the taking in 2020.
Political infighting is threatening to destroy the Democratic Party when it is most important that the party stay unified. Too much time is spent tossing around labels like black, white, urban, rural, socialist, and neoliberal, when in reality, there is only one label that truly matters, American. If you’re a Democrat ask yourself, if Michelle Obama can put the past behind her and embrace a patriot like George W. Bush, why can’t you?