A new USA Today national poll shockingly showed that Democratic voters and Democratic leaning independents overwhelmingly prefer “someone entirely new” to any of the current field of potential presidential candidates. This cannot be for lack of choices; there are potentially four times the number of candidates lining up at the starting gate as the most recent Democratic presidential primary.
Yes, this is one poll, but maybe we should refuse to dismiss voter feedback too easily.
I know a little something about offering voters something new. After 2016, I recruited, built the team, and launched Andrew Gillum for Florida Governor, before moving on to consult for ten winning Democratic campaign efforts, including two red-to-blue Congressional races and seven first time candidates. Andrew should be commended for his courage to run and offer Florida voters a real choice in the primary.
No one thought a mayor, who might as well have lived in another state in the eyes of South Florida Democrats, would have a shot in hell at winning a statewide primary until he did it. A state Democratic party electorate that became majority minority for the first time was met in the moment by a candidate who shared their background.
Read more commentary: Elizabeth Warren didn’t miss her presidential moment. Win or lose, 2020 is her time.
MoveOn: 2020 Democratic nominee must be unapologetically progressive
Democrats have advantages heading into 2020 presidential election, but it may be a trap
The general election is another story entirely. Failure to get over the hump in a wave year against “Little Trump” should cause real pause. Lengthy reports of failure to engage Hispanic voters remains troubling for many outside observers. Instead of DC press hits, voters deserve real answers on what happened and what will be corrected in the future.
No matter how close the margin, a Gillum loss should rightly give Democratic voters doubt. After all, defeating Trump ranks high on any Democratic activist’s list. This hesitation should extend to Beto O’Rourke. Roundly cheering a close loss against Ted Cruz as different than Stacey Abrams’ impressive loss in Georgia makes no sense.
The broader point is that no one believes something new is possible, unless you stop talking to those who traffic in conventional wisdom as all-powerful.
Let’s listen to the American people, not politics
Conventional wisdom is quite often wrong in politics. According to early predictions, Hillary Clinton was for sure the nominee in 2008. Jeb Bush was definitely the Republican nominee in 2016. Bernie wasn’t going to catch fire. Hillary Clinton was for sure on track to become president the second time around.
The list of bad takes could wrap around the Earth twice. In full disclosure, I have contributed my share to the hot take zone.
Perhaps, we should take a breath before silly season starts again and listen to the American people. Maybe they are right. A strong Democrat, without the baggage of lengthy time in Washington or a recent statewide election loss, is the best bet to defeat the most divisive president in recent memory.
In truth, the American people are smart. They have taken a look at the current field and decided that someone else entirely new would be the best nominee for a diverse Democratic Party. The Democratic Party would be better off to listen, before it’s too late.
Phillip Thompson is a veteran Democratic strategist with high-profile political campaign experience that spans local, state, and federal elections in 14 states. He has also served in leadership roles building progressive infrastructure, as Florida state director for For Our Future’s Florida arm, deputy executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, campaign manager at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and as a Los Angeles union organizer for the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, California’s largest state employees union.
Published 6:00 AM EST Jan 11, 2019