The “Bull Moose Democrats” Will Allow For Trump’s 2020 Re-Election
Because it is very possible that nobody running for President of the United States in 2020 is remotely close to as effective as Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson were as politicians, America — a country likely to contest an election with three or four electable and popularly supported candidates — is in real trouble. Woodrow Wilson won a four-candidate race in 1912 with 41.8% of 16% of America’s total population hitting the polls. The idea that Donald Trump could do comparably the same numbers, percentage-wise, in 2020 and win in a country three and one-half times larger, population-wise? That’s truly concerning. Examining how we got here and what happens next is truly important.
Recent Gallup poll data notes that 39% of Americans polled see themselves as independents, while 34% view themselves as Democrats and 25% as Republicans. Thus, this can be extrapolated to mean that, for the first time in 108 years, it’s entirely likely that third-party candidate for President that will out-poll the party-nominated incumbent — one from the Democratic side of the two-party system — will emerge. Therefore, it’s probably wise to examine Teddy Roosevelt’s run with the “Bull Moose party” and gain a sense of the conditions that predate 2020’s likely collapse of American democracy.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has emerged as the first of what will be many third-party contenders. In a manner similar to 1912, 2020’s forthcoming fracture in the Democratic party will likely splinter three ways. As a reminder, The “Bull Moose party” emerged because of a three-way split in the Republican party between staunchly conservative Republican incumbent William Howard Taft, anti-corruption and anti-corporate Wisconsin progressive Robert LaFollette, and former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, the man who would become the “Bull Moose” candidate.
Similarly, 2020 will see the Democrats as a party led by Joe Biden, a man who, aside from serving as Barack Obama’s Vice President for two terms, twice failed to secure the Democratic Presidential nomination, but also had 35 years of service to the party as a Senator representing the state of Delaware. As well, there’s the impact of Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand, who as a quartet, represent a level of female candidacy for President that, in the century since women’s suffrage became law via the 19th Amendment to the United States Consitution, are seen as plausibly electable by a minimum of millions of American citizens. Then, there are billionaires like the businessman, politician, author, and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg and the aforementioned Howard Schultz, who, regardless of public opinion, have the financial acumen to shift the conversation by sheer force of expenditure.
This sets up the Democratic party as a three-tiered conundrum. Party loyalists can either side with Biden or “socialist” Bernie Sanders, who while experienced, are both noted for being firebrands who may not play well across the aisle, and also will be a combined 161 years of age by 2024. Or, there are the women who, while alluring because of their intellect, have a combined total of 32 years of Federal government experience. As for Bloomberg and Schultz, the former is the 11th richest man in the world, while the latter already knows that they are potentially sowing the seeds of “hate, anger, [and] disenfranchisement” being attached to their name. For both of these plutocrats, relatability to the party core, change-minded women and female candidate supporters, or largely, America’s ever-shrinking middle class, could be a stretch.
In 1912 (as is probable in 2020), centrism in the face of wildly polarized politics served the winner best. The politician best able to cut from the fringe to the core of America’s diversified political zeitgeist won. In 1912, Woodrow Wilson promised a government that would be limited in its influence but simultaneously impacting tax and loan reform. Ultimately, by cutting through “progressive” talk and just giving people more money, Wilson secured victory by plurality. In a race where intellectualism, wealth, and a flawed status quo are on the table, stooping down to the level of the lowest common denominator — whatever that may be — is best.
As compared to Woodrow Wilson, Donald Trump’s 2020 LCD is anger. Our collective national consternation on either side of the issue of funding the construction of a steel wall at America’s Mexican border recently shut down the government for nearly three pay periods. Anger, of course, has literally nothing to do with policy or politics. Thus, the fact that emotional aggression, and not fair discourse— more than Trump winning in 2016 — is fracturing the Democratic party, signals the death knell of America’s democratic tradition.
In 1912, the political discourse between Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft, and yes, Socialist Eugene V. Debs, was bitter. Heck, Roosevelt was shot while giving a speech. However, it was not accompanied by the fear of acts of absurdly astounding terrorism occurring on a daily basis. Rather, in many ways, it created the core of what became the defining and ever counter-balancing political conversation of the modern age. A staunchly entrenched Democratic and Republican party — as defined by its perpetual and eventual draw towards centrism — maintained a mad, yet certain order to our democratic nationalization. Trump, playing upon racism, sexism, and pure jingoism (which, intriguingly enough, were important socio-political issues in 1912, too), has reduced America back to its 1912 roots, or worse.
Akin to Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, the progressive arm of the Democratic Party is collectively feeling “as strong as a Bull Moose” heading into 2020. Insofar as what that means for American Democracy? Well, imagine a situation wherein there’s probably eventual winner Trump, earning a nasty victory over Democratic incumbent Joe Biden, a third-party propped Kamala Harris, and an independent Howard Schultz putting their money where their mouth is. Given where the American political zeitgeist currently is, that’s actually quite the frightening notion to consider.
In a manner thoroughly dissimilar to Woodrow Wilson running a campaign that debated progressive idealism into a digestible goal of American politics, Donald Trump is using conservative America’s antagonism towards gender, race, religion, globalism, and modernization as a divisive bludgeoning tool. The end game? A population that, in November 2020, struggles, battered, to the polls. Instead of engendering an active voting populace, instead, we risk damaging American electoral politics forever. A fervently two-party system overrun by a divided multitude of third-party actors causes parliamentary anarchy.
And to close, a note about anarchy and history that curiously correlates with America’s possible post-Democratic future. History.com notes that “in July of 64 A.D., a great fire ravaged Rome for six days, destroying 70 percent of the city and leaving half its population homeless. According to a well-known expression, Rome’s emperor at the time, the decadent and unpopular Nero, ‘fiddled while Rome burned.’ The expression has a double meaning: Not only did Nero play music while his people suffered, but he was an ineffectual leader in a time of crisis.”
Oftentimes, when people hear music, they start to dance. Aggrieved dancer, Socialist, and politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is eligible to run for President of the United States in 2024. Metaphorically dancing while Rome is burning right now. Wow. It’s amazing how it all plays out, right?