Monday 18 March 2019

Jennifer Rubin: 'Democrats have a lot to gain from a clean, fair fight in the primaries'


Beto O'Rourke. Photo: Reuters
Beto O'Rourke. Photo: Reuters

Jennifer Rubin

The 'Dallas Morning News' reports that former Texas representative Beto O'Rourke "is close to making a decision on whether to run for president in 2020 or challenge Texas senator John Cornyn".

The newspaper adds: "Judging from recent comments and out-of-state trips, the El Paso Democrat would rather aim for the White House and leave Cornyn to someone else."

If O'Rourke entered the presidential race, he would need to find a message distinct from that of the slew of other Democratic candidates. With Cory Booker preaching love and unity, and Amy Klobuchar touting her ability to work across the aisle, O'Rourke's Senate campaign message of unity and tolerance might seem unoriginal. And emphasising his commitment to inclusion and tolerance could seem odd from a white man in a race populated by African Americans, Hispanics and women.

O'Rourke did make a salient point during the Senate contest: We cannot run mind-numbing, insult-driven campaigns and then expect to govern effectively. Voters have got dumber and governing has become impossible after two years of gotcha ads, opposition-research dumps and nasty debates.

Why then doesn't O'Rourke, if he does choose to get into the race, issue a challenge: None of the Democrats will employ opposition researchers to dig up dirt on one another and slip it to the press. If a candidate has some criticism of an opponent, he or she should be above board and take responsibility for going "negative".

For this campaign in particular, why should Democrats do Donald Trump's opposition research for him? Some critics of this approach might say it is critical for Democrats to vet their eventual nominee. Absolutely, but the media can do it, and candidates can raise issues about the other candidates - they just have to acknowledge they're doing it.

I'm not alone in suggesting a change in how candidates campaign, especially when the health of democracy turns on coming up with a credible challenger to an unfit president.

"I would stipulate that winning a campaign victory is best achieved by not making that the primary goal of politics - which leads me to advocate for the 2020 presidential candidates and their operatives engaging in 'conscious campaigns'," wrote Matthew Dowd for ABC.

Dowd recommended 10 pledges, including: "End the tactics of personal insult, name-calling and berating or demeaning others."

My suggestion is even more modest than that: If you have something to say, take ownership of it. Don't do Trump's work for him. Too much to ask? Perhaps O'Rourke could shame fellow Democrats into doing it if he enters the race.

If nothing else, it will sniff out the contenders who are so attached to this form of underhanded attack that they won't dare abandon it.

© The Washington Post

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss