We are 23 months from the next presidential election, and that seems like even more of a political eternity with Donald Trump in office. His divine calling appears to be the exploitation of various American faults and fault lines, pulling at the nation’s cultural tensions while enjoying what many believe is an exemption from criminal accountability while in office. Trump’s re-election campaign may be as much about keeping him out of prison as it is securing a second term.
Democrats, and indeed the rest of us, are smart to be obsessed with ending this presidency. For good reason, the 2020 news cycle seems to be on speed. All options are already on the table — from the possibility of impeachment to running an all-female ticket. We are whispering about people running for president who lost elections a month ago. The only normal thing about this presidential election thus far are the plethora of septuagenarian white men being floated as candidates. On Tuesday, a viral take suggested that two such men join forces.
Politico Magazine didn’t disclose until the end of corporate consultant Juleanna Glover’s Tuesday op-ed that she is a veteran adviser of Republican politicians, including one president and two former Oval Office candidates. She is also a current member of the Biden Institute Policy Advisory Board. Putting such information at the top also would have indicated why Glover might suggest such an awful idea: running a “unity ticket” with former Vice President Joe Biden at the top and someone like newly elected Utah Senator Mitt Romney as his running mate. She also puts forth two similarly strange alternatives: outgoing Ohio governor and abortion opponent John Kasich and Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who is happy to sell books decrying political polarization while he stands by the charlatan in the Oval Office, voting with Trump 87.5 percent of the time. These men, argues the former adviser to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, would be better options than a Democrat on the ticket.
Glover’s thesis fails to hold up on several levels, most notably plausibility. She would have us believe that Biden, now mentioned among the top contenders for the Democratic nomination, would benefit from skipping the primary process altogether with all its bothersome talk of Anita Hill and his initial support for the Iraq War, because such things would never come up otherwise. He should instead run third-party with Romney, the last Republican to top a presidential ticket before Trump. Such a move, she writes, “could be a ‘break-the-glass’ moment for many Americans, creating an opening for a radical departure from our malfunctioning two-party political system.”
Glover also pushes Biden and Romney to commit to one term, presumably so they may govern full-time through the 2024 election year, and also alleviate concerns about Biden’s age — he would turn 78 shortly after being elected. Rather optimistically, she feels this will allow them to have an unadulterated focus on issues like immigration, infrastructure investment and gerrymandering (though I wonder how any president fixes that, as it’s more of a state-level issue). Sixty-one percent of Americans polled by Gallup want a viable third party, but that doesn’t mean such a party will have a genuine shot in 2020. If Biden splits the vote with a Democratic nominee in the general election, Trump would be the primary beneficiary. Glover is selling liberal defeat under the auspices of re-establishing the peace. Surrender doesn’t feel terribly unifying.
I could spend the next several hundred words detailing how absurd this all is. There are more salient points to make about the possibility of a so-called unity ticket, though. Overcoming barriers to the ballot, American voters sent the biggest blue wave since Watergate to Congress. It was a definitive message to both parties: that the government should be more representative of American identity, both in person and in policy. Yet Glover argues that a “nonpartisan agenda” is what America needs. Imagine a Democrat feeling as though she or he needs a Republican on the ticket to beat Trump. It would inevitably tip the center further to the right. I would call Glover’s suggestion comically obtuse, but none of this is funny.
Long ago, power brokers in this nation — the predominantly white and well-heeled folks who both shape our policy and direct our national conversations about it — got themselves drunk on the idea that Republicans represent some sort of functional counterbalance to the Democrats. The latter is an ostensibly liberal party that regularly appears interested in doing actual public service. The GOP is to governance what Fox News is to journalism. Both are decaying avatars of the real thing, barely recognizable replacements doing little more than filling space that could be used for a more honorable purpose — and not, say, to advance white nationalism. The very last thing that a Democrat should be trying to do these days is to look like a Republican.
We do not have time for these shiftless, tired appeals for more of the leaders who helped get us where we are. The nation needs a viable alternative to Trump who is ready to implement radical ideas to address global crises. She or he needs to be ready not merely to fix Trump’s damage, but to fix ours.
To that point, we have new, alarming climate change reports that remind us of the revolutionary adjustments that the U.S. government and others around the world will need to make immediately to avoid irreversible damage. Global temperatures and water insecurity are already increasing instability in poorer nations, and will lead to mass migration. Imagine what four years of stagnation on the climate would do, after the damage Trump has done. Romney is only a fairly recent convert to the notion that humans contribute to climate change; can he, or most any Republican, be relied upon to do what is necessary — including, as my colleague Jeff Goodell wrote last week, “a remaking of our energy system” and “profound changes in agriculture, the design of cities and transportation systems”?
To add to the climate change catastrophe already in progress, we have had a president and controlling party working deliberately to create wider gulfs between the rich and the poor, to calcify the nation’s service economy and let Social Security atrophy. There will still be men and women in their seventies who aspire to the presidency — but in a few decades, even more of us will need to keep working at that age just to get by when we’re not trying to escape the record temperatures.
We live in a time of meaningful political disagreement, not merely cable-news bickering and mean tweets. The left should embrace that. Partisanship isn’t harmful if you’re intellectually honest about it. Rather than seeking some salve for political wounds salted by this president, Democrats need to focus on building a platform for what the country needs, not just what it wants. “Bringing the country together” is not the job of a presidential campaign. That is especially the case when running against a Republican Party whose platform and president work diligently to dehumanize the very people who make up the Democratic base. The 2020 race needs to be about a consciously defined choice between Trump and a candidate who understands the urgency of our domestic and global challenges. Democrats would be wise to offer one.