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Are you ready for 2020?

| Monday, February 4, 2019

We’re barely a month into 2019, but judging from the news cycle in recent days you’d think it was 2020. Indeed, with ambitious Democrats lining up to announce their bids for the White House, 2019 is starting to look a lot like the new 2020.

But if it feels way too early to be talking about another election, you’re absolutely right. It may be hard to believe, but the 2018 midterm elections took place just weeks ago, and the memories of negative attack ads and election night drama are still too fresh for many of us.

Nevertheless, the American political cycle waits for no one: President Trump has already amassed an impressive war chest topping 100 million dollars, and the crowded Democratic primary continues to heat up with each new contender. So the question remains to be asked: are you ready for another election?

If you’re not, I get it. Who isn’t feeling burnt out with our democratic process? The end of every election only marks the beginning of the next one. And regardless of who wins and who loses, the only constant in Washington D.C. appears to be the gridlock, not progress. It’s easy to just not care.

But even so, there’s reason to feel differently about 2020. Take a good look at what’s happening on the left: for the first time since 2008, the Democratic primary will be a real primary. Unlike the staged primary of 2016, where one candidate was clearly favored to win from the start, 2020 will have no clear favorites. This not only means that the party’s nomination is up for grabs, but it also means that the primary will feature real debate and discussion surrounding the issues that matter – something that was outright absent during the 2016 Democratic primary.

The reason why debate and discussion is a critical component of any primary is because those discussions often form the framework for what the party will stand for as it enters the general election. As primary voters begin to choose which candidate’s views align best with their own values, those views become the party’s views and those values become the party’s values. But if a primary is rigged in favor of one candidate, he or she has no incentive to have those essential discussions. It’s no surprise that leading up to the general, it was unclear what Hillary Clinton and her party stood for, other than to be anti-Trump.

The Democratic Party seems to be headed in a new direction for 2020, however. With diverse contenders whose beliefs range from Sen. Sherrod Brown’s populism to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ socialism, the upcoming Democratic primary will be host to a wide-ranging discussion on what the party wishes to stand for. It will be interesting to see how Democrats identify themselves: will they be the party of Medicare for All and income tax rates that eclipse 70 percent, or will they return to be the party of working class families and making improvements to our nation’s social infrastructure? Recent enthusiasm in the Democratic Party gives momentum to the former, but it’s still anyone’s guess.

Over on the right, the Grand Old Party is undergoing some interesting developments of its own. President Trump has made it clear that he intends to run for a second term, and the RNC along with its ancillaries have pledged their full support. But the broader Republican Party remains fractured over President Trump and his administrative style — they’re not only concerned with his rash decision-making on delicate issues like foreign diplomacy and trade economics, but they’re also worried about his laissez-faire approach to crafting legislation and pushing bills through Congress. Perhaps the latest sign of ambivalent support for the president came this past week, when some traditional Republican big donors signaled that they would withhold their monetary support for the president in the hopes of a primary challenge.

Indeed, a primary challenge to a sitting president seems ever more likely with each passing day. The so-called “Never Trump” Republicans like former Gov. John Kasich and former Sen. Jeff Flake have flirted with the idea of a primary challenge for months, as has lesser-known Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. And as the Trump administration continues to be embroiled in a series of scandals, the chorus of Republicans calling for a primary challenge to President Trump has only grown louder.

But nothing is for sure. President Trump may very well win the nomination again without a primary challenge. But if, in fact, he does face a primary contender, it will be interesting to see if the Republican Party has changed its view of President Trump over the last two years. Has the party fully embraced his values of nationalism and the populist policies he pushed? Or will they turn away from the president for a traditional conservative with the values that Reagan once espoused? Only time will tell.

There will be many surprises up ahead: the Mueller investigation is expected to wrap up very soon and reveal its (potentially) bombshell findings; an overheated economy continues to show signs of instability moving into 2020, hinting at a coming recession in the near future; and a devastated healthcare system and a broken immigration system continues to put a strain on the American dream.

Regardless of what happens, however, it is important that we all stay vigilant and alert to the happenings of our political process. Even if you feel burnt out and turned off by our election cycle, remember that it’s our election cycle. Elections most definitely have consequences, albeit slowly, and our decisions — informed or uninformed — will determine the course of the future of our great nation. So buckle up and get ready! The 637 day rollercoaster ride leading up to Nov. 3, 2020 begins today.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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