The third Democratic presidential primary debate, which is scheduled for September 12 in Houston, Texas, is almost upon us. Unlike the first two debates, far fewer candidates will be on the debate stage this time around because of the more restrictive threshold requirements set by the Democratic National Committee. As a result, a far greater amount of scrutiny is going to be directed at the 10 candidates who will be on the stage than there was during the first and second debates.
During the second debate, which was conducted at the end of July by CNN in Detroit, Michigan, Sen. Amy Klobuchar drove home the point that she is a winner by stating, “I have won every place, every race—every time I’ve won.” Her touting of her seemingly impressive electoral track record begs the question: How important is it for the Democratic Party to nominate a candidate who has won every single election they’ve ever run in? Most Democratic voters would probably answer that it’s very important because above all else, they want someone who they feel can beat the current incumbent.
But based on the current field of candidates and past election cycles, I have to disagree with Klobuchar’s logic that the party’s path to victory in November 2020 is dependent upon nominating a candidate who has yet to lose a race. Sure, it’s nice to know that candidates know how to mount winning campaigns, but the context surrounding the candidates’ past victories, or even failures, shouldn’t be ignored.
According to population estimates from 2017, Klobuchar’s home state of Minnesota is over 80% white. The state’s political diversity mirrors that of its racial diversity— everything in Minnesota, except for the state Senate which Republicans hold by a measly three-seat margin, is dominated by Democrats. When truly scrutinized, her seven electoral victories, which range from county attorney to the United States Senate, actually aren’t all that impressive.
Obviously Klobuchar is trying to differentiate herself in the crowded primary field by pointing out that she knows how to win much in the same way that Mayor Pete Buttegieg is trying to make the case that he can offer a new perspective by stating that in 2054 he will be the current age of the current occupant of the White House or how former Vice President Joe Biden is trying to make the case that he’s the most electable out of all of the other candidates because he’s the only one who has been within a heartbeat of the presidency before. But betting on a candidate because they have a good batting average is a bad reason to get behind them.
I like candidates who have been at rock bottom before and have had the grit and determination to pull themselves back up again and keep fighting. Much in the same way that a schoolyard bully who has never before been stood up to ends up retreating after being given a bloody nose by a kid who has finally had enough, candidates who have always won in races that it would have been difficult to have lost in the first place don’t know how to respond when things aren’t going their way.
Going forward, voters need to assess the candidates’ electoral histories and decide for themselves why they succeeded or failed. Did they do something wrong or were the political winds simply blowing against them? But most importantly, if they did end up losing, what did they learn from their failed campaigns?
As the race continues to winnow, expect candidates to put forth lines of logic like the one that Klobuchar did to make the case that they’re the only one who can take on and ultimately beat President Donald Trump. The candidates know that they need to gain traction anyway that they can, even if it means putting forth faulty logic, in order to survive. I’ll tell you the same thing that I tell my first-year English students when I ask them to gather sources for their essays: Be cautious and interrogate the rationale behind the candidates’ arguments because the things that come out of their mouths don’t always hold water.