Are the Democrats about to ‘low-key’ 2024 in preparation for 2028?
When speaking with my twentysomething nephew, I am often treated to the word “low-key.” It’s a phrase that he and his friends use regularly to describe subtle, restrained, or secretly hoped-for intentions or actions. Depending upon the dictionary, it also can be defined as “small scale, subdued, muted, low-intensity, not forceful.”
You know, similar to the energy level put forth by Democratic leadership as it veers into various “Biden is in/Biden is out … Harris is in/Harris is out … Newsom is in/Newsom is out” scenarios for the 2024 presidential election. Maybe someone from the 2020 Democratic primary is in, or everyone from the 2020 primary is out. Perhaps Michelle Obama is in, or is Hillary Clinton still viable?
In one very real way, the Democratic leadership, the party’s wealthy power brokers, and its seemingly endless list of special interests have been painted into a “suspended animation” corner by President Biden and his team. While recent reports have stated that Democrats are warming to the idea of Biden, now 80, being on the ticket for 2024, you would be hard-pressed to find many who would say privately they want or expect that to happen.
Much the same can be said on the Republican side. While Donald Trump has announced himself as a candidate for 2024, every Republican with whom I speak who enthusiastically voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, says that although they still strongly support his policies, they want him off the national stage and have no intention of voting for him in the next primary.
Two years is a lifetime in politics, and those floating the idea of a Trump-Biden rematch most likely will be way off the mark.
That said, Republicans and Democrats each will have someone as their presidential nominee for 2024. Knowing that, we can certainly argue that the Republicans are in a much stronger position with the possibility of candidates such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Ted Cruz of Texas, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and others.
More than that, we could also argue that despite the Republicans blowing their anticipated “red wave” in November’s midterms and losing the chance to regain control of the Senate, the mood of the country and the electoral map still looks favorable for the GOP to win the White House in 2024.
Additionally, a growing number of Republicans have come to believe that several of the flawed candidates Trump pushed this season cost them the Senate — just as they believe Trump’s non-stop whining about the fairness of the 2020 election in Georgia, and his incessant criticism of that state’s Republican leaders, severely depressed GOP turnout for the 2020 runoff and allowed the Democrats to win both Senate seats and, with them, control of the Senate.
All of that is to say that many Republican politicians and voters have mentally moved on from Trump and are increasingly comfortable with the idea of a DeSantis-led ticket, combined with what they believe to be a continuing ideological shift in their favor.
Democrats, on the other hand — at least the ones with whom I speak — are becoming more angst-ridden. They have no idea what Biden intends to do. They don’t know whether Vice President Kamala Harris would be an able substitute, if Biden drops out of the running, or who might fill the void, should it become clear that Harris is not up to the task. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the potential frontrunner for the Democrats in 2024 is “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
If it’s not Biden or Harris, some Democrats wonder — and perhaps worry — if the party will pick its ticket based on who can best address the increasing struggles of the American people, or will let the “social justice warriors” and “identity politics” wing of the party dictate who the candidates must be.
As the months pass, it seems likely that most of the Republican/conservative/faith-based universe will line up as one behind a non-Trump Republican ticket.
For the Democrats, even if Biden drops out, the party must contend with far-left activists and anarchists it helped to spawn — voices that increasingly are seen as unreasonable, or even troubling, by a number of Americans, including a number of Democrats, minorities and independents.
Amid growing uncertainty, confusion and the coming in-fighting, does the Democratic Party have the intestinal fortitude to go “all-in” for 2024 — no matter the cost — or will it be “low-key,” going through the motions, with the hope of building a dream ticket for 2028?
They’ll never admit it, but I’m guessing that “low-key” might already have the inside track.
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.