Democratic bed-wetting over the 2020 primary has reached a previously unseen level.
Fear that the party doesn’t have the candidate to win is an evergreen aspect of the modern presidential race. In just about every presidential contest in recent memory, there have been moments of existential fear among Democrats.
But the worry this time, when the party will nominate a candidate to take on President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE in an effort to end his time in office at one term, are like nothing seen before, say Democrats.
“This is like the Democratic bed-wetting of past cycles except everyone evidently drank a gallon of chardonnay before they went to bed,” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale.
He said Democrats are pulling out their hair like never before because they want to learn lessons from Trump’s 2016 victory, and a fair number of big party donors are not “the best gauges of how the public will see things versus the people in their own social circles.”
The New York Times crystalized the fears in a story earlier this week about “anxious” Democratic donors wondering if the party would be better served with a new candidate, such as 2016 nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE or former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergWithout drastic changes, Democrats are on track to lose big in 2022 Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary The tragedy of 9/11 — an inflection point in American history MORE.
“You can count on the sun rising, an ironic Trump tweet from 2012, and Democratic bed-wetting over our field of presidential candidates,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer. “But the fears this year are greater because the stakes have never seemed so high.”
Democrats are worried that former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE is a weak candidate whose age is showing. They fear Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam White House faces increased cries from allies on Haitian migrants MORE (D-Mass.) could be an easy target for Trump, and that her policies might be too progressive for many voters.
Oprah WinfreyOprah Gail WinfreyCourt rules Prince Philip's will to remain sealed for 90 years Piers Morgan joining News Corp., will host new show on Fox Nation Royal family supports BLM movement, senior representative says MORE — once mentioned as a potential candidate herself — begged Disney CEO Robert Iger to enter the race, according to The Washington Post.
“The problem is our party is polarized and there isn’t someone who appeals to everyone and there isn’t that one person who people know can beat Trump,” said one major Democratic donor. “There isn’t a Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDems punch back over GOP holdup of Biden SBA nominee Biden congratulates Trudeau for winning third term as Canadian prime minister Republicans have moral and financial reasons to oppose raising the debt ceiling MORE. There’s Joe Biden, who is far from perfect, and there’s Elizabeth Warren, and I just don’t think she’s electable.
The Democratic Party has a history of incessant worrying when it comes to presidential elections, some say for good reason.
Democrats won the popular vote in 2000 but saw nominee Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreTrump's election fraud claims pose risks for GOP in midterms Don't 'misunderestimate' George W. Bush Why the pro-choice movement must go on the offensive MORE fall to his Republican challenger, George W. Bush, in the electoral college by 537 votes in Florida — and a fight over hanging and pregnant chads.
In 2004, they thought then-Sen. John KerryJohn KerryA new UN climate architecture is emerging focused on need for speed Xi says China will no longer build coal plants abroad Biden's post-Afghanistan focus on China is mostly positive so far MORE (D-Mass.) would defeat Bush only to see him lose in another close election.
After eight years of a Democratic president in Obama, they suffered the biggest upset in modern presidential history with Clinton’s loss to Trump, even as their candidate again won the popular vote.
“There is a culture of feeling like victory is going to be snatched, and that colors a lot of the thinking of the chattering class,” said Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas, who worked on Clinton’s campaign in 2016.
Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said the current mood of the party is most reminiscent of 2004.
“Democrats were very eager to prevent a second Bush term so the stakes for the right candidate felt intense,” Zelizer said.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was an early front-runner, but Democrats ended up backing what was seen as a safer choice in Kerry.
Nothing makes Democrats more anxious than thoughts of a second Trump term.
“For as long as I have been a Democrat, I remember my fellow Democrats saying that every election was the most important in their lives,” said former Rep. Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelAnthrax was the COVID-19 of 2001 The lessons of Afghanistan are usually learned too late Do not underestimate Kathy Hochul MORE (N.Y.) who served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “But this year, with Donald Trump, Democrats know it’s not rhetoric but reality.
“There’s a sense that Trump’s reelection is not just an existential threat to Democrats but to democracy itself,” Israel said. “The high stakes have heightened Democrat’s anxiety about getting this right. It explains the polling that consistently show Democrats preferring a candidate who can beat Trump to one who shares their ideology.”
Petkanas said nervous Democrats should just “get over it.”
“Poll after poll shows that the top tier of the Democratic field are all beating Trump nationally and in battleground states,” he said.
Vale said that Democrats don’t need a new candidate, saying if voters don’t like Warren, Biden or Sanders, “we’ve got plenty of more options for you without naming corporate CEOs who actually have no chance of beating Trump.”
Zelizer said the party is currently suffering from “no sense of confidence and a great fear of the future.”
“As a party, Democrats are more divided than the GOP,” Zelizer said. “There is more variation, which generates more fears about voters potentially splitting away from the nominee.”
There’s also one more factor.
“We don’t know what’s coming given how far Trump will go to win,” he said.