The Democrats now have more than 20 candidates vying for a chance at the presidency — and more will probably follow suit. The 2020 Election for the Left will overarchingly be about President Trump — while policies, accomplishments, and visions come in a distant second. But the Democrats are chasing after something they may never catch.
American literature is replete with examples of such chases, whether it is Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab and the white whale in “Moby-Dick” or F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gatsby chasing his failed past in “The Great Gatsby” or William Eastlake’s art historian-turned-American soldier, Beckman, trying to save a castle’s priceless art amid the devastation of the Battle of the Bulge in “Castle Keep.”
In some sense, each of these characters searches for an end in a kind of truth — a truth which, ultimately realized or drawn close to, proves to be their undoing. Ahab could not overcome the whale no matter his efforts. Gatsby could not bring back the past despite seeking it out in Daisy Buchanan. Beckman’s attempts to protect art in a secret tunnel leads to the destruction of the art when German troops try to use the tunnel, and the tunnel must be demolished to stop the Germans. These metaphors for truth radiate beyond the written page.
Although they are not perfect, the economy, national security, and the American-led international order are in good shape. Amid such truths, those seeking to vote out President Trump are searching for two things: a candidate opposite Trump in all possible ways, and proof of Russian collusion.
In the midst of this search, many are stunned that former Vice President Joe Biden has emerged as the frontrunner.
But it really shouldn’t be surprising. Biden is a reminder of the Obama years, and is closer to the political center than essentially all of his fellow candidates. He’s appealing to some of the more moderate elements in the Democratic Party — the same kind of moderates who backed Trump, the moderates the liberals said they needed to win back, and the moderates the liberals are quickly leaving behind as they push positions further and further to the Left.
Rational critiques of those ideas, such as the Green New Deal, killing babies after birth, criminal voting, and more, leave those certain Democrats without much support in the center. Remember that many liberals have contended that “moderate” Biden is not their future, that he is too similar to what Trump supposedly represents.
So without popular policies that could otherwise bring back the center, they reiterate their basic, and first position: Resistance to Trump.
But even there, difficulties arise. Complaints about Trump’s past behaviors are also being undermined as Democrats struggle to account for the past behaviors of their own candidates, from Kamala Harris’s politicized reflections on her use of marijuana to Beto O’Rourke’s hypocrisy when it comes to giving to those in need.
And let’s be honest — no one is perfect. You apologize, you forgive, you make amends, you do your best to be better. If perfection was the sole determining factor for political candidacy, no one could run for office (or do anything, for that matter).
But yet perfection is what so many on the Left have focused on as a goal without actually naming it in their Resistance to the President. This near-unforgiving litmus of perfection is also being applied to their own. For example, Pete Buttigieg’s time as mayor of South Bend has called his candidacy into question, as economic development under his tenure saw the dismantling of minority neighborhoods. Buttigieg has also been challenged for once having proclaimed that “all lives matter.”
Ironically, it was Biden’s old boss, Barack Obama, who warned Democrats about turning on their own for the slightest of reasons. Against calls for the Green New Deal and criminal voting rights, Biden appears very mainstream. But that hasn’t stopped him or made him think twice about resorting to the first dogma in advocating impeachment: Resistance to Trump.
The focal point of that Resistance, as it evolved, became the Robert Mueller investigation. This, it was asserted, would find evidence of campaign collusion, unmask Trump and his associates, and topple a presidency. It would become the actual substance of the Resistance, and the report would vindicate everyone who had ever opposed Trump.
Then the report, like Melville’s white whale, appeared but could not be conquered. Mueller’s investigation yielded no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and autocratic Russia, but it did raise serious questions, paradoxically, about Russia and the Democrats.
But those certain Democrats are dismissing such concerns, instead choosing to reorient their Resistance with accusations of obstruction and contempt by Attorney General William Barr and others with Gatsby-like persistence to the quickly fading past of Russian collusion.
Those certain members of the Left continue to claim they are only acting in the interests of the American republic, all the while calling for the elimination of the electoral college and maintaining the unrelenting drive to find a way to delegitimize a presidential election and deny Trump a chance at a second term. One can imagine Beckman placing artwork in a tunnel.
You can’t seek an ending if you’re only ever chasing — whether it’s the impossible perfect candidate or a great whale.