In Biden and Sanders, America Risks a Repeat of 2016


Ada Carter

The upcoming 2020 election could end up repeating the events of four years ago

Julian Knight, Opinion Editor

Even before declaring his presidential campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden was the 2020 Democratic frontrunner. Sound familiar? In 2015, once Hillary Clinton announced her campaign, she quickly moved above the pack and joined a crowd of well-known establishment Democrats in the running for the nomination. One by one, the lesser candidates dropped out, leaving the real competition between Sanders and Clinton. Clinton won the nomination but went on to lose the election—a loss attributable to inter-party divisions and the fact that, to many on both sides, Clinton carried too much baggage to be the ideal candidate.

Were this a normal election cycle, it would be easier to allow for debate within the Democratic party throughout the primaries, and perhaps even into the general election itself. But 2020, like 2016, will not be a normal election—Donald Trump and his supporters have proven that much. To ensure Trump loses the 2020 election, Democrats must be careful not to make the same mistakes that enabled Trump’s ascension to power in the last election. Already, the pool of candidates is shaping up to resemble those of 2016. Bernie Sanders has returned, rallying a large crowd of voters in support of his once-radical policies. An establishment candidate with prior experience in the executive branch, Biden, has now entered the race, gaining the lead and a large number of supporters. Numerous other “lesser” candidates wait in the wings, to be removed one by one—Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina of 2016 are replaced this year by Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, and Julián Castro. There are more well-known Democratic candidates this time around, but this seems to be the case whenever a party is attempting to regain the White House. This year, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Beto O’Rourke replace 2016’s similar pool of Republican legislators hoping to run for President.

2020, like 2016, will not be a normal election.”

Despite this already vast pool of candidates, however, it’s easy to see how things will turn out: no matter how much novelty value more inexperienced candidates will have, they are but a flash in the pan when compared to the well-known, established candidates that are already favored for the nomination. According to a recent CNN poll, half of Democrats over 50 support Biden, and with his record with the Obama administration, Biden is able to tout his experience in the same way Clinton touted her time as Secretary of State, First Lady, and Senator. And, just like Clinton, Biden brings with him a collection of political baggage that, for now, has fallen by the wayside—Biden, for instance, fought proposed busing policies in the ’70s by seeking the support of segregationists—at least until the general election approaches. As Clinton found with her now-infamous emails, the smallest controversy can be exploited by the opposition to weaken the campaign just enough to lose.

Democrats have a difficult task ahead of them. This time, they must focus on more than personal values or beliefs, on something more than ambiguous “electability”—the chances that candidate has of winning. It’s too early to tell which candidate will truly rise above the pack in time for 2020, but the rat race of the primaries is far different from the arena that is the general election, for it is there that Democrats will face the true battle—the battle to win.


This piece also appears in our May 2019 print edition.