2020 Democratic Debates Show Centrist Voice is Struggling to Emerge

Former Senator Bernie Kenny says that after the Democratic Presidential Debates, it's clear that Trump’s presidency has given palpable energy both to the left of the left and to the right of the right, but the centrist voice on both sides is struggling to emerge.


The Democratic debates were uplifting, a refreshing break from Donald Trump’s dystopian nightmare. The candidates were informed, passionate, and articulate. They performed admirably in an intense forum and all of them deserve our respect.

It is clear, however, that Trump’s Presidency has given palpable energy both to the  left of the left and to the right of the right. It is the centrist voice that is struggling to emerge.

The Republican Party, the GOP, has most tragically become the racist American Independent Party of George Wallace of 1968, which won five States in the South. A morphing process took place over the next fifty years, proving the point that, in America, you never know who the winners are in politics for a generation or two. And that no espousal of racism should ever be underestimated in this diverse country. The chickens of George Wallace have come home to roost. Trump has swallowed the Party of Lincoln.

Some Democrats are reacting to this providential gift of Trumpism by giving it away, prioritizing the finer points of their ideology; some advocating socialism, a revolution, which are, in American politics , fighting words with a losing record; or advocating positions which make people wince – such as health benefits and decriminalization pertaining to illegal immigration regardless of the context. Or for the US to adopt a no- strike- first policy on nuclear weapons regardless of the circumstances. Or questioning our commitment to Israel. Democrats must summon the appropriate humility to assess the politics of winning elections in the Electoral College, …… assuming it is every Democrat’s priority that the removal of a racist-provocateur from the White House is the one true national necessity of the 2020 Election.

Politics should not be played by Newton’s Third Law of Physics …..for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Politics is like football. There is a game plan … control ….. move the chains, play defense, don’t turn the ball over, big plays, and be on top when the clock runs out.

That night when the Democratic candidates couldn’t wait to raise their hands to all kinds of litmus tests was scary. There are some things that can’t and shouldn’t be answered yes or no. It is a mistake to take the media bait to how far to the left will-you-go type questions. There are a few sure ways for Trump to get re-elected and, like it or not, that’s one of them.

Then there’s the Joe Biden matter. Concede all the reasons why politicians need to take their opponents down. Concede Vice President Biden is vulnerable. And concede that a better candidate may emerge and prevail. But does trying to make Biden a one-size fits-all pinata for sins of the past evoke leadership in the fight against Trump or an opportunistic pettiness that brings unintended consequences? Karma looms heavy in politics.

Joe Biden was a most able Vice- President of the first African-American President, Barack Obama, who did steer a middle, not a left wing course and who has today an overwhelmingly positive sentiment among the Democratic base vote and a good standing among Independents. His legacy is important to Democrats. It is self- defeating to tarnish it. There is something about the conceit of self-righteousness that is, let’s say, a little hypocritical.

Obama would crush Trump today. He won Ohio twice. The Democrats need a candidate who can do the same.

Veteran attorney Bernie Kenny of Hoboken is the former Democratic senator from the 33rd District.

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