BY MAX BROWN
As of this November, it has been two years since the election of President Trump. In January, his term will be halfway up. With the midterm elections in the rearview mirror and less than two years to go until the next presidential election, we can expect to see many candidates begin to declare their candidacies in the coming spring and summer to challenge Trump. While the brunt of the action will no doubt be focused on the Democratic primaries, other relatively large parties, like the Libertarian and Green party, will produce their own nominees. There is even the possibility, however unlikely, that an independent upstart in the tradition of Ross Perot or Jesse Ventura could emerge, shaking the establishment’s race. Here are some potential candidates and scenarios, ranging from the expected, the long-shots and the completely absurd.
Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Klobuchar, a Minnesotan Democratic senator coming off a commanding re-election victory, would be a pragmatic choice for the Democrats in 2020. Her re-election saw support coming from areas like the Minnesota iron ranges, among the “forgotten,” conservative working-class demographic that Trump claims propelled him into the White House in 2016. A moderate liberal, she has garnered support from traditionally Republican voters and has reached across the aisle, working with Republican neighbor Congressman Erik Paulsen on legislation to fight human trafficking. Her experience and moderation make her a seemingly go-to choice for 2020.
Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Often portrayed as either an experienced, politically-savvy contender or an amoral crook depending on your preferred news source, there is no denying that Hillary Clinton will be a strong contender should she decide for a third run in 2020. Clinton supporters flaunt her three decades of political experience –, including experience in two presidential administrations –, as factors making her a steady voice in a tumultuous political climate.
Clinton’s largest obstacle, should she decide to run, will be her historic inability to garner wide, grassroots support despite her vast connections. In 2008, she failed to take the primaries from Barack Obama, then a young, relatively unknown upstart senator. In 2016, she just barely squeezed by the grassroots, youth-favored Bernie Sanders, in what some argue was an unethical use of superdelegates, only to lose to Trump, a total outsider, in November. Only time will tell if Clinton’s experience can shake the specter of her failed campaigns.
Michelle Obama (D-IL)
Former first lady Michelle Obama would be an unorthodox but popular choice for president. A relatively popular first-lady, her increased prominence during her husband’s second term puts her on a comfortable position to run in her own right. With clear policy goals and the connections that come from being in the Wwhite Hhouse, Obama is in perhaps the best possible position, at least from a campaign perspective, of anyone discussed so far.
That being said, having the Wwhite Hhouse just outside the rearview mirror could prove to be both a blessing and a curse. George W. Bush’s unpopularity and Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 campaigns call into question the likelihood of establishing an Obama dynasty.
Bernie Sanders (D-VT)
This Democratic Socialist, riding an unprecedented wave of youth support, came within an inch of toppling the Clinton hegemony in 2016. Although his campaign ultimately failed, it saw a nearly unprecedented amount of interest and enthusiasm, and some speculate its failure created a wave of voter apathy that ultimately cost Clinton the Wwhite Hhouse. If he can re-establish this momentum in 2020, it could be enough to score him the nomination, at least.
Another thing to consider is Sander’s advanced age. Although he is, by all reports, in good health, he will be 79 years old in 2020. That’s nine years older than Trump was in 2016, and already a concern for Trump’s long-term health has surfaced from various sources. If Sanders serves a full two terms, he will be pushing 90 by the time he steps down.
John Kasich (R-OH)
The outgoing governor of Ohio has been on the #NeverTtrump train since 2016. He was the final competitor to bow out of the Republican primaries, although his perpetually weak showings in the polls, unable to compete with forces like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, meant that the primaries were effectively Trump’s when Cruz dipped first.
Now speculation exists that he might challenge Trump in primaries again in 2020. A long, long shot, to be sure, but threatening an incumbent’s security is not unheard of – Ronald Reagan nearly forced the faltering Gerald Ford off the ticket in 1976. While it would be hard to give Kasich’s challenge against Trump the same clout as a man who has come to symbolize the entire Republican party, stranger upsets have happened – just three years ago Trump was a laughable, washed-up celebrity not expected to make it past Iowa.
Gary Johnson (L-NM)
The former small-government Republican governor of New Mexico turned perennial Libertarian candidate shows few signs of slowing down despite his struggles to establish a following. Johnson attempted to capitalize on the widespread dislike for both Clinton and Trump, and the cracks it was forming in the unshakable two-party system, but lost nearly all his momentum after the infamous “what is Aleppo?” gaffe. His fate was perhaps sealed by not qualifying for the duopoly-run presidential debates, leaving him with a measly 3 percent on Nov. 8.
His most recent activity was a Senate run in his home state of New Mexico, coming away with 15 percent of the vote, a relative anomaly for any third party. While he is unlikely to win in 2020, if he learns from 2016 and preserves the momentum generated from the Senate race, he could reasonably clear 5 percent of the popular vote. This would give the libertarian party a variety of perks, such as automatic consideration for the presidential debates, setting them up to be an influential actor in the future.
Oprah Winfrey (I-NY)
Yeah, this one’s out of left field, but stop me if the story sounds familiar – political outsider, who has popular support from their career as a TV host, appeals to disgruntled voters tired of “the establishment.” Along the way, a concoction of brash, unreserved attitude, “one of the people” charisma and business-empire credentials propels this long-shot ahead of their “reasonable” competition. Democrats could use Trump’s novel strategy against him in 2020, but this is a two-sided coin. Much of Trump’s baggage – such as the difficulties of divorcing his business interests from his executive duties – would no doubt follow Winfrey into the Wwhite House as well.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Doubling down on the precedent set by Trump, “The Rock,” America’s favorite celebrity, runs for president in 2020. Just for fun, let’s say he brings along someone like Jesse Ventura, another retired pro-wrestler, along as a running mate. What would his platform be, you ask? Free protein shakes for all Americans? Challenging Kim Jong-Un to a one-on-one wrestling match? Making Air Force One happen in real life? He’s “The Rock,” baby.
In all seriousness, Trump broke a major precedent in using his celebrity status to get into the white house. Already we are seeing major celebrities taking on a more direct role in politics, with many considering running for office. Maybe it won’t be Dwayne, but I suspect it won’t be too long before we see another celebrity win a major office. Of course, a poor re-election showing by Trump could stop this trend in its tracks.
This 46-year-old rapper has contemplated running in 2020 for years and has been extremely vocal about his politics in the past, most famously claiming that George W. Bush “doesn’t care about black people” after Hurricane Katrina. He’s upped the controversy in 2018, making incendiary comments that “slavery was a choice” in May and calling for the abolition of the 13th amendment, which bans slavery, in October.
If he makes good on his pledge to run, he will be competing with a man he seems to admire – Donald Trump. West publicly jumped on the Trump train in October, making social media posts praising Trump’s “America First” agenda and posting pictures of himself wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
Vermin Supreme (L-NH)
2020 could be the year that Vermin Supreme, who has been running in every political race he can find since the 90s, makes it into the Wwhite Hhouse. He clearly knows what the average American wants, with his promises of mandatory toothbrushing laws and promises of a free pony for all Americans. Virtually every problem in the world today could be solved if we simply heed Supreme’s call to divert all government funding to time travel research. A vote for Vermin is a vote for prosperity!
Vermin Love Supreme (real name unknown) is a performance artist who enters in political races and crashes various other rallies and events in an elaborate satire of the American political system. He lampoons concepts like state-enforced morality, identity politics and government “handouts” through deliberately absurd ideas like mandatory toothbrushing laws and providing a free pony for all Americans. He joined the libertarian party in 2016 after being associated with both Rrepublicans and Ddemocrats in the past and stated that he looks forward to being “ignored” by the party in the future. In 2017, he successfully sued the city of Concord, New Hampshire for his “right to pony,” bringing a miniature horse to a Hillary Clinton book signing to protest …… something. He also wears a boot on his head during all political activities.