US: Messy Democratic race leading some to fret

Ex-Vice President Joe Biden is leading in polls as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg makes late entry into race

With a mammoth field of 18 hopefuls vying to take on U.S. President Donald Trump, the Democratic Party is being roiled by debate over the best candidate to win back the White House in November 2020.

The worry that none of the 18 will be able to beat Trump has raised the possibility of new candidates emerging, including billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who entered the race on Nov. 24, or even former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The live Democratic National Committee (DNC) debates play a big role in the process leading to the primaries starting next February. The committee has certain requirements the candidates must meet to be able to participate, such as having a certain number of donors or reaching certain levels of support in public polls.

Six candidates have so far met the requirements to qualify for the next debate, set for Dec. 19: former Vice President Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, California Senator Kamala Harris, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Biden is leading in most polls so far, with around 27% of the votes, with Elizabeth Warren close at his heels with 22%. Following her is Bernie Sanders with 18%. As the next candidate in line is Pete Buttigieg with 8%, it seems the top three candidates seem to have broken away from the rest of the pack.

The Democrats’ race for the presidential nomination has been eclipsed in recent weeks by the focus on the impeachment inquiry into Trump.

In the years leading up to the impeachment process, Trump has faced serious allegations of misconduct, such as him having an affair with a porn star and paying her off for a non-disclosure agreement. Old voice recordings of him bragging about how famous people like him can easily sexually assault women were leaked (Trump once confirmed the tapes’ authenticity, but later backtracked). Perhaps most troubling is the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections, and allegations that Trump and his team colluded with them.

The impeachment inquiry focuses on allegations Trump withheld aid from Ukraine to pressure Kiev to open an investigation into Biden, thereby thwarting the will of Congress and seeking foreign interference in a U.S. election.

Below the belt

If hitting your opponent below the belt has become the new normal in U.S. politics, this does not seem to trouble Trump. Instead, he seems pleased and unafraid to get into an election process full of low blows and scandals, hopeful that his many scandals will not dent his support.

Trump thinks that the impeachment inquiry will only help him solidify his base before the 2020 elections. If the Dems cannot prove that their accusations are valid and Trump is not convicted in an impeachment trial, Trump could gain power from the impeachment process, using his argument that “the Democrats can’t beat me democratically, so they are looking for illegitimate ways to block me.” With a deficit of excitement from the 18 current candidates, none have been able to establish trust that they will be able to compete against Trump, which raises the question of a new candidate from outside the field.

Some have raised the possibility of the entrance of Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in 2016, despite expectation, which only amplifies the current distrust toward the current candidates. Clinton seems to have left the door open and allegedly said that she would want to enter the race if she knew for sure that she would be selected out of the overcrowded field.

While her candidacy is only a distant rumor, she has managed to stay in the news by accusing Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, another Democratic candidate, of being connected to Russia and also by releasing barbs directed at Trump. “The president of the United States has betrayed our country. He is a clear and present danger to the things that keep us strong and free. I support impeachment,” Clinton said about a controversial phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

But many have raised objections to the prospect of a Clinton candidacy: that it would be only possible if Biden withdrew from the race; that all of the age-related questions burdening Biden also apply to her; that she ran an unsuccessful campaign last time; that she is too late to be a candidate; and that she would divide the Democrat Party even further.

Billionaire brouhaha

The newest name in the race is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The 77-year-old billionaire businessman said: “I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America… I believe my unique set of experiences in business, government, and philanthropy will enable me to win and lead… We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions. We must win this election.”

Saying he entered the race as he thought that the other candidates would not be able to beat Trump, Bloomberg is in conflict over certain issues with the second- and third-place runners, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. These two progressives believe that the current system protects the rich and people with good connections. They both see rich people as corrupt actors who exacerbate societal inequality and believe that billionaires should be taxed more. In fact, Sanders even said that billionaires shouldn’t exist. How these two Democrats will engage with one of the richest people in the world (with a net worth of over $54 million) has yet to be seen.

People have long discussed a presidential run by Bloomberg, who was mayor of New York from 2001 to 2013. Though him joining the race at such a late stage raises questions, people also know that he has the financial wherewithal to take such a risk. Some argue that even if he is not selected as candidate, he will prevent the Democratic Party from going too far left and help keep it closer to the business world.

In conclusion, the Democrat Party is struggling to find strong candidates with just three months left to the primaries. New names continue to come up, even at such late stages. On the other hand, despite serious allegations, sensational news, and an impeachment inquiry, Trump continues to solidify his spot. Many Democrats are losing sleep because the Democrat Party seems very disorganized.

  • Dr. Oguzhan Yanarisik received his Ph.D. in politics and international studies from Warwick University and is an assistant professor at the Turkish National Police Academy.

*Writing by Can Atalay

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