Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat and a sharp critic of big banks and unregulated capitalism, entered the 2020 race for president on Monday. She’s the first major candidate in what is likely to be a long and crowded primary marked by ideological and generational divisions in a Democratic Party desperate to beat President Trump.
When Donald Trump first announced that he would seek the Republican nomination, many journalists dismissed his Presidential bid as a publicity stunt. The Huffington Post said that it planned to cover the candidate in its entertainment section. “Our reason is simple: Trump’s campaign is a sideshow,” readers were told. “We won’t take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you’ll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette.”
Journalists weren’t the only ones who failed to see what was happening; until a few years ago, many scholars of American politics held that the reforms of the nineteen-sixties and seventies did little to shift the balance of power away from political élites. Although the wider use of primaries radically changed the process by which candidates were selected, the Party’s establishment retained tremendous influence through its ability to grant or withhold endorsements and access to donors. The most influential book on the topic was “The Party Decides” (2008), and its title was its thesis: that a party’s “invisible primary” picks the front-runners before the voters start to pay attention.
As a result, political scientists were even less likely than journalists to take Trump seriously. Since he did not have visible support from Republican Party élites, they could not fathom the idea that he might have a chance. And yet Trump quickly took a commanding lead in the polls, and rode his fervent support all the way to the White House. In 2016, the Republican Party did not decide; it was conquered in a cruel blitzkrieg, then rapidly remade in the image of its captor.
I hope there's an alternative under the age of 50.