Who will it be?


Harrison Glaze, Blogs Editor, Cartoonist, Artist

With the 2020 presidential election coming rapidly into view, the year’s potential candidates to challenge President Donald Trump for the nation’s highest office have begun to intensify their efforts to distinguish themselves in the field–a field that grows more crowded by the day. Since John Delaney’s lonely declaration in 2017, the number of Democrats running for president has multiplied at a rate that would make a rabbit bashful. Fortunately for the politically minded Warrior, The Chant has devoted hours of painstaking study to determining these people’s backgrounds, their political prospects, and what on earth they actually believe. Unfortunately for the politically minded Warrior, another candidate will probably announce a run by the time this story reaches publication. We apologize in advance for our lack of clairvoyance.

The 800-Pound Gorillas:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most publicly recognized candidate also leads the pack. Joe Biden, a former two-time presidential candidate and Barack Obama’s Vice President from 2009 to 2017, announced his candidacy just last week, skyrocketing instantly to the top of the polls. Biden largely brands his campaign as Obama 2.0, and his spots thus far tend to emphasize opposition to Trump over any discernible policy agenda. His perceived “handsiness” with female associates has earned him some (less than glowing) Internet notoriety, and younger progressives tend to view him as slightly out of step with the party; nonetheless, Uncle Joe remains without a doubt the candidate to beat.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist and independent senator from Vermont who came in as runner-up last election, maintains a comfortable position just at Biden’s tails. Sanders has earned an enviable following among the party’s young, progressive base, and his populist economic ideals may well prove able to attract working-class voters who turned to Trump after Obama seemingly embraced neoliberal centrism. Earning the nomination may not prove easy, though: questions about his age (a spring chicken at 77), whiteness, maleness, and perceived lack of loyalty to the party may well keep him from securing the nomination.

The Reporters’ Pets:

Elizabeth Warren, a former Harvard Law professor turned Senator from Massachusetts, primarily attracts attention these days for her unflinching, almost Bryanite opposition to corporate power and fondness for rolling out controversial plans for various issues. Where Biden generally keeps a tight lip about policy, Warren simply lets it flow; although not precisely beloved by the media, she nonetheless tends to earn their notice by sparking vigorous debate on issues ranging from reparations to free college. Although Warren polls well below Biden and Sanders, she has proven this cycle’s single most consistent generator of major ideas on the Democratic side, and her thoughts on the issues may well end up becoming the substance of this year’s party platform.

Kamala Harris, a senator from California, earned considerable attention in the early days of Trump’s presidency as one of the President’s most stalwart Congressional opponents. (As the daughter of an Indian mother and an Afro-Jamaican father, she also represents the new, diverse face of the Democratic Party perhaps better than anyone else in the race.) Unfortunately, winning notoriety early has translated into a growing loss of interest on the part of the media, and her tough-on-crime record as a San Francisco prosecutor practically cries out for progressive scrutiny. It hardly helps that the most recent major outburst of attention surrounding her primarily focused on a bizarre podcast appearance in which, according to critics, she claimed to have listened to Tupac in college–years before Tupac ever so much as dropped a single.

Closely behind lies the current media darling, Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay, devoutly Episcopalian mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a city best known for playing home turf to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. (Buttigieg’s father taught at Notre Dame for years as a leading scholar of European literature.) The mayor, a Harvard grad and Rhodes Scholar, shows undoubted charisma and a gift for appealing to the instincts of his wealthy, white, liberal base. Unfortunately, he seems to struggle with expanding beyond that base, and his lack of large-scale government experience may frighten off Democrats who saw Donald Trump’s freshness to the game as a major downside. Moreover, his reticence on nearly every policy issue of major importance goes almost so far as to make Joe Biden look like a wonk. (Almost.) But hey, he speaks Norwegian.

Next in the polls comes Buttigieg’s predecessor as the chosen boy of the New York Times: a former punk rocker turned Texas Congressman by the name of Beto O’Rourke. O’Rourke earned his reputation by just barely losing a Senate election to Ted Cruz in the nation’s most iconically red state, and the former bassist of Foss soon found himself in a honeymoon that went on to prove every bit as brief as glorious. Like Buttigieg, he earned praise as an icon of coolness and a master in the art of working a crowd; also like Buttigieg, he drew criticism for failing to enunciate clear stances on major issues. His odds of winning look increasingly glum, though, now that the media have broken up with him for a whirlwind romance with the dashing Mayor Pete; O’Rourke, presumably, will find himself left to ponder the vast caprice of love. Ah, well. Maybe he can occupy his time by writing more poetry about cows.

Cory Booker, a senator from New Jersey, once earned himself endless plaudits as the nation’s next Obama. As it happens, the Rhodes Scholar and former Newark mayor’s curse may well prove that he seems a bit too much like Obama for his own good: respectable center-left positions, vaguely inspiring rhetoric, unusually ovalish head shape. As such, he seems doomed to linger just at the edge of possible success for possibly all of his run; he has also run into trouble with the Bernie Sanders wing of the party for his close ties to Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Considering, though, that the most important recent headlines about him involve the fact that he is Spartacus and dating Rosario Dawson, life can’t be too bad for the fellow.

The Interesting and Doomed

Amy Klobuchar, a senator from Minnesota, currently sits at 2% in the polls. A firm economic progressive and Yale alumna who has managed to hold on comfortably to office in the increasingly Trumpified Midwest, Klobuchar seems perhaps the perfect standard bearer to unite the party’s wide-ranging factions. She also, sadly, seems to stand no chance of winning. Kirsten Gillibrand, a fiercely left-liberal senator from New York, has earned plaudits from all the right places for her firm opposition to the Trump administration’s agenda on key domestic issues; unfortunately, she has found herself forced to contend with the ghost of Kirsten Gillibrand, a conservative Democrat who served as a representative for a quiet district in upstate New York from 2007 to 2009 before vanishing in a poof of political smoke.

Jay Inslee, the current governor of Washington, has run a campaign focusing primarily–or, more accurately, exclusively–on the issue of climate change. As an alarm ringer on an important issue, he has done fairly well for himself; as a candidate for President, well…less so. Meanwhile, Tulsi Gabbard, a Congresswoman from Hawaii, has run as a stalwart opponent of the endless regime-change wars the country has prosecuted since at least the days of George W. Bush. Unfortunately for Gabbard, this line has proven less popular in a party for which Trump’s ties to Russia constitute a target too attractive to resist, and her connections to her anti-same-sex-marriage father and to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad make her a controversial candidate.

Perhaps most intriguingly, an Internet entrepreneur turned nonprofit leader by the name of Andrew Yang has managed to make a Democratic candidacy appeal to an unexpected demographic: the cohort of strange and (more than) slightly terrifying young men (it’s always men) who watch Joe Rogan religiously, make Pepe memes in their spare time, and post regularly on 4chan about the merits of “God-Emperor Trump.” Yang has built his run on his plan for a government-issued universal basic income, called the Freedom Dividend, which he says will help the country, especially its working class, contend with the incoming mass unemployment caused by the onslaught of automation. This plan, combined with Yang’s ironic embrace of nerdy East-Asian stereotypes, has become an unexpected hit with the 4chan crowd, who see in Yang their own irreverent sense of humor and concern for the “white working class.” As it turns out, then, it appears that one can make even hardened Twitter white nationalists vote for an Asian-American Democrat if one promises them free money every month. Who could have known?

The Name Boosters

Towards the bottom of the ballot lies a near-identical smattering of vaguely centrist U.S. Representatives, all probably running for the sole or near-sole purpose of making a bit of useful dough. The group includes John Delaney, a Marylander who earned himself brief infamy as the first Democrat to announce a run and who most likely owes his seat in Congress to the state’s incorrigible gerrymandering; Tim Ryan, an Ohio maverick with union ties who wrote a book about Buddhist meditation and led a failed campaign to unseat Nancy Pelosi as House Democratic leader; Eric Swalwell, an L.A. Congressman who launched his campaign on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and really, really doesn’t like guns; and Seth Moulton, a guy who apparently lives in Massachusetts.

Those who prefer their plate of Clintonian centrism and abject electoral hopelessness with a side of high-level experience may well prefer one of two Coloradans. John Hickenlooper, the former governor of the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, has earned minor media notice for standing as the only Democratic candidate to oppose legalizing recreational marijuana; Michael Bennet, a current senator from the state, mostly draws what little attention he can from his decidedly un-Democratic fondness for charter schools. Make of that what you will.

The Who-the-Heck-is-That Candidates

These candidates include Marianne Williamson, a New Age “spiritual healing” guru with ties to the Oprah Winfrey media machine; Mike Gravel, a 90-year-old who served as a Senator from Alaska in the 1970s and ran on the advice of a pair of teenaged Chapo Trap House superfans; and Wayne Messam, the mayor of the glittering, iconic, globally renowned metropolis of Miramar, Florida. To be frank, we don’t know why they’re running. They probably don’t either.