Despite the bevy of potential Democratic candidates for 2020, not one is a veteran. By putting forward a list of candidates in 2020 who all lack experience in the military would reflect Democrats’ failure to understand the political paradigm shift that has occurred. The Presidency is no longer passed down to Senators or Governors. The Democrats’ best hope to bounce back politically is to stop relying on the old, conventional, failed tactics, but rather, to think outside the box. Democrats need a strong man, someone who can expose Trump as a “chicken-hawk.” The Democrats need a soldier.
First, the Democrats definitely have a problem with their lack of patriotism. This problem is only exacerbated because many of the most prominent current war heroes in Congress, like John McCain, are Republican. That is not to say that Democrats don’t have their own veterans in Congress, but statistically military veterans tend to be Republican.
If Democrats run a general in 2020, they can make crucial steps to chinking away at the monopoly on military, hawkish patriotism that Republicans have developed. When Democrats run military veterans, they have great results. For exmaple, Jason Kander, a former Army Captain, was almost able to win the Missouri Senate race in a state that solidly went to Trump. Kander in his famous gun control ad was able to use his authority as a military officer to advocate for background checks without sounding like an elite who doesn’t know one end of a rifle from the other.
But, in a political climate that favors outsiders, perhaps Democrats should move past Democratic politicians that are veterans and embrace unconventionality by nominating a retired general. Despite not being politicians, generals do have plenty of experience in the highest ranks in government to give them credibility. They have experience running the world’s largest bureaucracy, the United States’ Armed Forces.
Generals also can also be very successful in winning over the opposite party. They are likely even better at doing this than moderate traditional politicians. For example, Dwight D. Eisenhower was able to win his election in 1952 by 11 points, despite the country being made up of 42% Democrats and only 33% Republicans at the time.
Given their need to make gains in swing states, the Democrats need someone like Eisenhower to . Generals draw people to vote for them in a way that no other potential candidate can do. Generals carry themselves in a manner that screams professionalism and grace under pressure. Politicians who have served in the military constantly remind voters of their military status, because people like voting for military leaders. They appear trustworthy, competent, and, most importantly, able to keep Americans safe. Democrats must learn the lessons of past generals’ success
Though there are many prominent Democrats who are military veterans, the Democrats do not have prominent generals in office. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, may be a veteran, but her time in the Senate and Congress likely makes her appear a politician first, and a war hero second. The Democratic Party must search for a Democratic general.
Before 2015, the Democrats’ perfect candidate would have been David Petraeus. Petraeus is by no means a solid Democrat. He was previously a Republican turned Independent and many Republicans think (or at least used to think until his affair) that he would one day run for office under the Republican ticket. Yet, regarding security policy, Petraeus has promoted many Democratic policies, such as repealing “don’t ask don’t tell,” opposition of torture, an end to the war on drugs, and Franklin Roosevelt-style social welfare plans to rebuild Iraq. Unfortunately for Petraeus (and the Democrats), any political ambitions he may have had were destroyed in 2015 when he had an affair with his autobiographer. However, Trump did have an affair with his wife, so maybe there is hope yet for the Democrats.
Recently, Petraeus has been very critical of Trump, so maybe he is still open political action. Though Petraeus may not agree with every typical Democratic position, if he is capable of beating Trump, the Democrats should recruit him.
Other potential generals could be Admirals Bill McRaven and Samuel Locklear III. Like all military leaders, their political positions are hard to define, as it would be unprofessional for them to be partisan in their actions as flag officers. McRaven was briefly rumored to be a VP pick for Clinton indicating that he may be at least slightly to the left. Locklear has also been a vocal advocate for combatting global warming, a big part of the Democratic platform. The Democratic Party should start conversations and investigations into these men to see where they stand and if they would be a viable candidate.
The Democrats’ best pick as of now is General Wesley Clark. Clack is an excellent choice because he is undoubtedly a Democrat, and he has proven politically successful. Clark ran for President in the 2004 Democratic primary. He won the Oklahoma state primary before dropping out and endorsing John Kerry, the eventual Democratic nominee. Clark is a classic Democrat: he believes in global warming, supports women’s reproductive rights, gun control, and even wants a single-payer healthcare system. What is more is that he is a decorated four-star general, a perfect candidate for the Democratic Party. At 72, Clark is on the old side, but he is still healthy enough to run a campaign.
A Clark candidacy in 2020 could wreak on the Trump campaign. How can Trump claim that his opponent is weak on terrorism and foreign policy, let alone “low energy” or lacking “stamina” when he is an esteemed general. Trump, who managed to find a way to avoid the Vietnam draft, will be revealed for what he truly is when placed next to Clark, a chicken hawk with no military authority to speak of.