Political Animal


February 21, 2013 4:58 PM Struggle For the Votes of the Democratic Party

By Ed Kilgore

At TAP today our friend Jonathan Bernstein has a provocative story on Democrats in 2016: not the candidate horse race speculation about who is running, but instead what issues they might be talking about.

He suggests five issues that may be “defining” during the presumed Democratic primaries: (1) climate change; (2) drones and terrorists; (3) work and families; (4) defense spending; and (5) agriculture/energy (e.g., the “Iowa Issue”). And this list is based on the assumption that some of today’s barnburners like Afghanistan, immigration reform, and economic/fiscal emergencies have been resolved by then, which might not be the case, and also the existence of a significantly competitive candidate field to make issues Democrats don’t agree on salient.

It’s an interesting thought experiment. We can all imagine other issues that might emerge—criminal justice reform (including marijuana legalization); long-term care; election reform; campaign finance reform; economic inequality—and the possibility that one or two issues such as climate change could dominate anything. But you are invited to offer thoughts on this subject in the comment thread.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ronald on February 21, 2013 5:14 PM:

    Keep taking over moderate right policies with a progressive twist.
    So long as the right keeps bending themselves backward in the wrong direction, there's plenty in the middle for the Democrats to keep picking up on.
    Of course, it is mortally offensive to my progressive sensibilities to even suggest such a thing, but you asked ;)

    In regards to policies? Immigration (note the House committee refusal to allow any bill that allows imigrants to become citizens), and not just hispanics, but push the edge on asian immigration as well.
    Marijuana/drug reform.
    Renewable energy policies to get off of oil

  • MBunge on February 21, 2013 5:15 PM:

    "(2) drones and terrorists"

    That will certainly be defining...in the sense that every major candidate will define how much they hate terrorists and how much the love drones.

    Man, it has been a looooooooong time since liberals were as far out of step with the public on an issue the way they are with drones.


  • Mimikatz on February 21, 2013 5:27 PM:

    I certainly hope climate change is a major topic--hard to see how it would not be. Here's hoping people coalesce around a carbon tax and rebate program, where carbon is taxed at the extraction point and costs are diffused as it is refined and used, plus a rebate that let's people with low usage actually make money and ends up taxing those who consume a lot. It is the fairest system.

    It seems inconceivable to me that health care won't still be an issue. Hopefully one candidate will advocate moving us to Medicare-for-all as price gouging and over treating continue to plague the system. This is the likeliest way that spending/deficit issues continue.

    I wonder if campaign finance will be all that salient if the Dems continue to outsmart, outorganize and outpromise the GOP in appealing to the new constituencies, that is, offer policies people actually want, despite the monetary edge the GOP has.

    It would be nice if criminal justice and the ruinous war on drugs came up as issues. As we need to pare down at least some aspects of government, over incarceration is one area along with defense that could be cut.

  • FlipYrWhig on February 21, 2013 5:30 PM:

    If instead of "drones and terrorists" you put "executive power," that's an important political issue -- but not one where presidential candidates are going to differentiate themselves very much from one another. People who want to head the executive branch will take a broad view of what powers the executive branch ought to have. Even if they don't start out that way, they get that way after getting elected. (If you were the president, would you want senators telling you how to fight a war? No. Even if you agreed with them on policy, you would also believe that it was your call, not theirs.)

    IMHO it is and should be an important issue for liberals everywhere _except_ the presidential race. We already know what presidents are going to want to do, and that's maintain or increase the power of the presidency.

  • S_noe on February 21, 2013 5:50 PM:

    Ed, if you're asking for comments, here's mine: get rid of the captcha system for WaMo comments!
    Once you do that, I will shower you with opinions! :) on this or many other issues! Seriously, I'm at attempt 5 to post this and rejected every time.

  • emjayay on February 21, 2013 6:46 PM:

    I heard about a new kind of Captcha on NPR that instead of torturing you with hard to decipher letters, sometimes not even on your keyboard, it asks some trick question that a computer would have a hard time answering. Haven't seen any examples though.

  • hornblower on February 21, 2013 8:32 PM:

    It is 2013. The election is 3+ years away. Please deal with the present. If there is nothing else to write about please take a break.

  • JPS on February 21, 2013 11:32 PM:

    Undoing Citizens United. As well as the legal myth that corporations are persons.

    The only way forward on that front is a Constitutional Amendment. A high hurdle to cross, but it's a task got to be started.

    Bernie Sanders has a petition up to show support for his proposed amendment. You can read about them, and sign the petition if you wish, here: http://www.sanders.senate.gov/petition/?uid=f1c2660f-54b9-4193-86a4-ec2c39342c6c

  • superdestroyer on February 22, 2013 8:36 AM:

    The major issue in 2016 will be the same as 2012 or 2008: Entitlements, who pays and who receives. The idea that voters will care about drones after the U.S. leaves Afghanistan or will be worried about the enviroment after passing an open borders bill is laughable.

    The only question is how will the U.S. pay for the entitlements that the voters have promised themselves while sticking others with the bill. Since the Republican Party is irrelevant now and will be more irrelevant in the future, the question for the Democratic Primary is who will be the winners and losers in the coming entitlement state.

  • Gameron2852 on February 22, 2013 2:12 PM:

    1) Legalization of marijuana and the best candidate on evolving on the issue. (By 2020 Ds will support it)
    2) Puerto Rico as the 51st state. Heck they voted for it and they participate in the primaries.
    3) The way immigration reform (the long it goes the less likely it passes.)
    4) To better Obamacare and protect it!