Democrats Search for Their Leaders of Tomorrow

The Democratic Party has reached a crossroads of legitimacy in this country. After losing the presidential election in November, they are at their weakest level of elected officials in the history of their existence.

Although the face of the party is now dominated by those who satisfy the anti-Trump media with their over-exposed tirades against the new president’s cabinet and White House nominees, it is basically a party trying to find their identity in a country that is changing rapidly. As the opposition to their core beliefs rises, the latest bench of wanna-be leaders is thin.

On the surface, to qualify as a possible leader of the party has meant leading the charge to sink President Trump’s Cabinet picks. That may play well with the minority of far left Democrats from Massachusetts to California, but is it what makes for a successful bid for the White House in 2020?

The party that rallied around the presidency of Barack Obama in 2008 is a very different type of influence on the American electorate in 2017. Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the Democrats have lost their majority in the House (2010), the Senate (2014) and the presidency (2016). Not since the inception of the Democratic Party have they wielded less power overall than they do in February, 2017.

To make things even more difficult for Democrats today is the stark fact that the Supreme Court will hold a conservative-minded majority for the next 25-years within the first term of Donald Trump. Put that together with the Republicans holding 31 of the country’s governorships and a majority of the state legislatures and they hold all the cards for redistricting in 2020.

Things will get worse for Democrats before they can possibly get better. The Midterm Elections are just 21-months away and the Democrats have 25 Senate seats on the line, ten of which are in states Trump won in 2016. The party itself has become little more than one of regional influence on the eastern and western shores of the U.S.

So who is waiting in the wings at the present time to take the leadership of the Democratic Party? At the present time, those protesting Trump’s every move after a month as president, lead the list. The one name that continues to pop up is that of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. The New York Democrat has voted against 12 of Trump’s Cabinet picks and was the only Democrat to vote against confirming now-Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

If opposition to the Trump presidency is the key to the leadership of the party, what does that say about the American electorate’s message last November? Wasn’t Trump the protest vote of millions of Americans tired of the same old establishment politics? Doesn’t the opposition to Trump represent exactly what the voters rejected?

There are harsher choices to consider that have their own far left following. But is that the majority of the Democratic Party, and if it is, are they looking at another George McGovern-like candidate for president in 2020?

Take for instance the three biggest media darlings; Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). All three have voted against 11 of Trump’s Cabinet picks. Is that the qualifier to be a leader in the Democratic Party at this stage in American history?

Nevertheless, all four senators are seen as possible contenders to run for the White House against Trump in 2020. Warren is the fire and brimstone voice of the liberal left. She represents the angriest side of the Democratic Party and can be held partly responsible for the regionalism of the party itself. Is a far left senator from liberal Massachusetts the type of leader to heal the factions that exist in the Democratic Party today?

Booker, 47, made headlines and history when he testified against then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general. He received extensive media attention for the first time a sitting senator testified against a colleague. Is that claim to fame what Democrats want as the face of their party going forward?

Then there is the man who holds many of the political cards for the Democratic Party’s future; the influential 75-year-old socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders. Democrats need to step lightly around the senator who barely lost the presidential nomination to Hillary Clinton. With one nod from him, a Tea Party-like rebellion could erupt, sending the party into various factions of itself destroying any chance of retaking the White House in 2020.

Bernie Sanders is a crusty character. To the astonishment of his followers, he pledged his support to Clinton even after it was widely known the various dirty tricks her campaign had used on him to win the primaries. He played a huge role in the contest to pick a new Democratic National Committee chairman, but his candidate, Keith Ellison, narrowly lost to the man the Clinton faction endorsed. Could that be the final straw for the independent from Vermont?

There are other lesser names that seek approval within the party. Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) have also voted against 11 of Trump’s nominees. Heinrich is up for reelection in 2018. But is this really the qualifier to lead the party?

The Democrats need to think long and hard about the type of candidate they want to lead the opposition. Merely flailing your arms and appearing on CNN and MSNBC will not change the mood of the country. The American people want change and that is why Trump is president, not Hillary Clinton.

For the time being, speaking out forcefully against Trump has been a must for anyone interested in taking advantage of the left’s anger over the president. Real substance will be necessary to gain any sort of national notoriety. It’s possible the opposition by Democrats to Trump’s nominees could paint them as too partisan.

senator joe manchin.
Senator Joe Manchin.

It could be that the few Democrats who have offered support for most of Trump’s nominees have the inside track to America’s ears. Take for instance Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). He has voted for all but three of Trump’s nominees: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Granted, Manchin needs to walk softly in a state that overwhelmingly voted for Trump, but could his credibility be deeper than mere bomb throwers?

Much of the Democrats’ future depends on the popularity, or lack thereof, for Trump in 2018. History indicates that the leaders of tomorrow are not necessarily the ones getting the most TV time. Many times it is the candidates who work the back rooms of politics to softly and purposely bide their time convincing their brethren they have the base to move forward decisively.

One more radical idea the Democrats should ponder. As they heap abuse on President Trump, they should be aware that this billionaire real estate mogul could decide his mission is complete after one term. They could be facing the “good cop” of his administration in 2020; Vice President Mike Pence.

Dwight L. Schwab Jr. is a moderate conservative who looks at all sides of a story, then speaks his mind. He has written more than 3500 national political and foreign affairs columns. His BS in journalism from the University of Oregon, with minors in political science and American history stands him in good stead for his writing.


Dwight has 30-years in the publishing industry, including ABC/Cap Cities and International Thomson. His first book, “Redistribution of Common Sense – Selective Commentaries on the Obama Administration 2009-2014,” was published in July, 2014. “The Game Changer – America’s Most Stunning Presidential Election in History,” was published in April 2017.


Dwight is a native of Portland, Oregon, and now a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area.