Illustration by Andrea Nebhut
In light of the recent stampede of Democratic presidential candidates dropping out of the race, one would hope that the field has finally been whittled down to the crème de la crème. However, to think that would mean you were terribly mistaken and utterly out of the loop. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York was the latest of a slew of dropouts that began with former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, but still, 20 more candidates remain.
Each of the now-former candidates failed to stand out and be successful due to the sheer fact that the race was saturated with stronger and more recognizable personalities. And even for some of those who remain, they must know that their appeal has only waned as the campaign has gone forward.
In Hickenlooper’s case, he was defeated because of Joe Biden’s stronghold on the moderate’s lane in the primary, and ultimately, he succumbed to national pressure to instead challenge his home state’s sitting Republican senator. Similarly, for Seth Moulton, the moderate moniker proved to be not as popular for people who aren’t Joe Biden these days.
Gillibrand entered the race at a disadvantage amid distrust and skepticism following her part in the resignation of former Senator Al Franken, but what led to her downfall was, in fact, the same thing that proved fatal for Washington Governor Jay Inslee; they were both single-issue candidates who lacked broad-enough appeal or depth.
While the presidential ambitions of Hickenlooper, Inslee, Moulton and Gillibrand have indeed been forsaken, there still remains a crowded field of 20 other candidates in the running. Many of those, like their former fellow candidates, appear to me to have no real shot of winning and offer nothing new to the conversation.
Besides the most unlikely-to-succeed candidates like Marianne Williamson and Tim Ryan,there are four other candidates in particular that need to be the next to sashay off the runway and suspend their campaigns for the Democratic Party’s nomination. For Beto O’Rourke, Julian Castro, Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie Sanders it is clear that now is not their time. O’Rourke has proven himself to be in way over his head with no clear plans or policy opinions. His first debate performance showcased that as much with his inability to answer basic questions regarding tax reform and immigration. It has been downhill ever since.
Castro has remained on the margins of the race thus far with only a few high points along the way in the past two debates at best. Furthermore, it does not appear at this time that he will tap into any momentum. Castro has, however, distinguished himself well enough to be in the running for the non-existent vice-presidential primary.
In the case of Gabbard, the most commendable point in the race thus far has been when she went toe-to-toe with Kamala Harris on the latter’s prosecutorial record on criminal justice and won, which was something no other candidate had the courage to do. However, realistically, Gabbard’s chances are slim-to-none given that she failed to qualify for the next debate.
Although Sanders’ 2016 campaign reinvigorated the party with fresh new ideas and energy, his 2020 campaign has proven to be more of the same. His continued presence in the race only disadvantages the causes he wishes to see succeed, such as Medicare for All and economic justice, by siphoning away support from other campaigns like Elizabeth Warren’s. The hard truth that Bernie Sanders and his campaign must face is that he is no longer the only one preaching revolution, let alone doing so the most effectively. Warren has consistently risen in the polls and possesses the policy expertise and rhetorical skills to keep progressive causes in contention as the primary goes forth. A Sanders candidacy only complicates that fact.
In the end, for these four candidates, their electoral calculus is only becoming more complicated by the rise of stronger competitors and their own decreasing visibility. It is only a matter of time before the inevitable catches up to them, so they should step aside and make room for candidates like Andrew Yang, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar who all offer the race new energy and new ideas.