Joseph Sabino Mistick: Potential 2020 Democrat nominees look like America |
Joseph Sabino Mistick, Columnist

Joseph Sabino Mistick: Potential 2020 Democrat nominees look like America

Joseph Sabino Mistick
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., greets the audience at George Washington University in Washington during an event kicking off her book tour Jan. 9.

Too many political journalists and talking heads compare presidential primary elections to horse races. Predictably, they are now using the old racing expression “And they’re off!” to describe the upcoming campaign season.

The truth is that the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, while wide open now, begins with a set of candidates who have developed their own beliefs and accomplishments long before they entered this race. And before they arrive at the homestretch, the most exciting part of every race, primary voters will get a good chance to learn everything they need to know.

Already there is hand-wringing among some Democrats over the size of the field. Knowing panels of “experts” on CNN, MSNBC and Fox have all opined that the large field will make the process clumsy and confusing for primary voters.

The New York Times recently listed eight candidates who are “running,” two who are “all but certain,” four who are “likely to run” and eight who “might run.” So far, there are five women, at least a half-dozen minority candidates, a handful of candidates just above the required age to be president, a few senior politicians and an openly gay Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan.

Together they look like America. Democratic primary voters are smart enough to figure this out, in spite of what the talking heads say.

Even more candidates could enter the race. And they should. This time the process counts for a lot, and it must be wide open and fair. If the Democrats hope to win, every voice must be heard in a process that unites instead of divides.

You can be sure that the Russians and Chinese will not respect this process, and you can count on them doing all they can to foment division among Americans. And the press will not be able to stop itself from handicapping the race, breathlessly touting those candidates more likely to build ratings and sell time.

But the Democrats must not weaken. If they begin to look for shortcuts to a more manageable field or tighter control, they only have to remember the last presidential race. The Democratic candidate was a foregone conclusion in 2016, leaving many average Democrats feeling that they had no role in picking their candidate. They were right.

Neither major party can be called a political machine anymore. Even the power of congressional leaders has been curbed, their political grip loosened by populist voter blocs and online campaign fund raising.

This time, every community and cause must be heard. Americans who care about health care, the environment, tax reform, immigration, income inequity, voting rights, criminal justice, transgender rights, the disabled or the revival of organized labor — those who have been ignored or trampled — must be part of this race.

As for those Democrats who worry that “you can’t beat somebody with nobody,” they should be celebrating and not wringing their hands. Whoever ends up on top after this process will surely be “somebody.” And that “somebody” is likely to be a candidate who reminds us of the things we love about America.

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer. Reach him at [email protected]