This past weekend the annual convention of the Midwest Political Science Association was held in Chicago. The event hosts political science academics presenting their latest findings alongside some panels featuring journalists. Today, Poynter reports one of the sessions at the event featured a group of journalists looking back at the 2016 election and also looking forward to the elections to come. One thing the group seemed to agree upon is that Democrats are in real trouble going forward because they have no bench:
A session chaired by Jennifer Lawless of American University and Danny Hayes of George Washington University included a panel with journalists Molly Ball (The Atlantic), Steve Peoples (The Associated Press) and Nia-Malika Henderson (CNN).
“I think the Democrats are kind of screwed at this point,” said Henderson, underscoring what’s clearly the current consensus. “They thought Hillary Clinton would win and their bench is really, really thin.”
CNN’s Henderson wasn’t alone in this observation. The Atlantic’s Molly Ball agreed:
“It will be fun to cover the Democratic civil war for a change,” she said. “It’s hard to underestimate how screwed the Democrats are.”
There are the Republicans’ giant congressional majorities, holding the The White House, ruling most state legislatures and having a majority of governors. “There’s no pipeline” of obvious Democratic talent.
All of this has been noted before. Last November 9th, in the wake of Trump’s surprise win, the Atlantic’s David Graham made the argument about the Democrats’ weak bench in detail:
Obama, whose strong popularity ratings could not save Clinton, will remain a leader for the party for years to come, but he will never top a ballot again, and this cycle proved that he doesn’t have the capacity to single-handedly drag a Democratic nominee over the finish line, either.
Bernie Sanders electrified many voters, and there’s a raging battle among progressives today over whether he might have fared better in a general election, but given that he is 75 today, he is unlikely to be a repeat candidate for president. Who then? Elizabeth Warren is widely loved by the most progressive Democrats, but she, too is aging—she’ll be 71 on Election Day 2020—and somewhat unproven, having only won a single election in the bluest state in America. Tim Kaine’s profile has risen, but his low-key campaigning style didn’t exactly set Democrats afire.
The one caveat here is the one I offered last November. Democrats may not have many broadly appealing candidates but that’s only if you limit yourself to Senators, Governors and other office holders. If you expand the field to consider billionaires, pop stars, movie stars and other well-known faces who lean left (and let’s face it, the Democrats have lots of star power) then the bench might be looking a little better. That won’t help them take back seats in state houses but it could help them take back the White House.
Update: Here we go:
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) April 10, 2017