Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law

“I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat”*; 03/09/2020

The Democrat party started this electoral season with 17 announced candidates, the most diverse slate ever. The last debate was winnowed to six candidates, including one late entry – four white men and two white women (one white woman did not qualify for the debate). Now, after Super Tuesday, the field consists of two, septuagenarian white men. What Happened?

First of all, the large field made it impossible for the lesser known candidates to break out of the pack and create some momentum.The initial name recognition advantage of the “Insider” candidates – Sanders, Warren, Booker, Biden, Harris and Klobuchar – proved insurmountable to lesser candidates such as Bullock, Williamson, Castro, Hickenlooper, et al. Senators and former vice-presidents have no difficulty getting their names and faces into the national media. Huge advantage!

Secondly, position papers, regardless of how nuanced and detailed they are, matter not. A candidate has to have them but most generate no favorable publicity. They can be a negative if too far outside the mainstream a la Medicare for All; seldom, if ever, is a position on an important issue a spark that rallies the troops in large numbers.

Likewise, as a general rule endorsements are not significant. If the candidate does not connect with the potential electorate, no number of endorsements by the rich and famous will matter. However, the exception does make the rule. The endorsement by Congressman Jim Clyburn of SC of Joe Biden on the eve of the SC primary was monumental and started the tsunami in favor of Mr. Biden. Congressman Clyburn is so revered by the African-American community in SC that his endorsement clearly signaled to that community, which made up more than half of the primary voters, which candidate best understood and represented their issues and needs.

The debates were worthless. First of all, the archaic rules greatly tilted the playing field in favor of the well-known candidates. How can you create enthusiasm for your candidacy of you are denied an opportunity to appear with the other candidates? Substantively, they were worthless.  There was no real exposition of positions or comparison of announced positions. Finally, they just deteriorated into side shows. The debate before the Nevada caucus was nothing more than a circular firing squad. The pre-South Carolina debate was no better; reminded me of a fifth grade class trying to get attention from a substitute teacher who had lost control of the class, all shouting over each other and waiving their hands frantically to get recognized. It truly was embarrassing.

When the dust finally settled, left to meet at high noon in the middle of Main Street were two old gunslingers – a wild-eyed, white haired avowed “democratic socialist” who reminds me of the Doc character in the movie “Back to the Future”, and your favorite grandfather or uncle who constantly reminds you of how it was better “back when”. Can either one of these men beat Donald Trump in November?

I remind you, gentle readers, that my record as a pundit is not that good. Be that as it may, I predict that Joe Biden will come out on top as the Democrat nominee for President of the United States. He is the safe choice. Senator Sanders is the more passionate campaigner¬†with the more motivated following. However, these “democratic socialist” policies are more radical and less likely to attract a sufficient coalition to defeat the President. Senator Sanders likes to call his campaign a “movement”; unfortunately, it is based on a myth of unprecedented turn-out by the young voters and the Latino voters. I am from Texas and the Democrats in Texas have placed their hopes on a wave of young and Latino voters for at least 15 years. How has that worked – no Democrat has been elected state-wide in Texas since 1994. I rest my case.

One thing we can be sure of this electoral season – it will be entertaining.


  • Will Rogers
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