What Happens If Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams Lose?
One of the most common complaints about the modern Democratic party is that it doesn’t have a very deep bench. Whether or not you think Joe Biden should run for President again in 2024 — and I think he should run, and that he will win — it’s undeniable that if he doesn’t, there’s no obvious candidate to take over. Kamala Harris is the Vice President but is seen (somewhat fairly, somewhat not) as a feckless candidate. Pete Buttigieg has built up some bonafide but is held in considerable suspicion by Black voters and the progressive left, the party’s core constituencies. Gavin Newsom sure seems to want to be the next standard bearer, but it seems pretty clear he wants it more than anyone actually considers him a legitimate candidate.
There are many reasons for this short bench: A party with too many warring factions, too many older establishment politicians, Barack Obama being too looming of a figure to groom logical successors. But I’d argue there’s one basic, more obvious problem: Their brightest stars keep losing all the time.
Beto O’Rourke and Stacey Abrams, to me, look like the perfect forward-looking candidates for the Democratic party. They’re young(-ish), they’re ambitious, they’re inspirational, they’re intelligent and they each have something the party sorely lacks: Willingness to be combative without losing one’s soul (Beto) and intense organizational skills (Abrams). They also both come from states, Texas and Georgia, that Democrats believe someday will be reliably in their corner. It is not difficult to imagine either being a standard bearer. They both have clear national appeal.
But they just keep losing races. Beto came this close to beating Ted Cruz in 2018, which would be more impressive if he hadn’t lost to Ted Cruz. Abrams came even closer to beating Brian Kemp that same year. But since then, they’ve both gone backwards. Beto had a miserable run for President, and while Abrams was instrumental in delivering Georgia (and its two Senate seats) to the Democratic party, according to the polls, she’s doing worse in her rematch against Kemp than she did the first time. And while Beto has made some headlines in his governor’s race, he’s even less likely to win than she is. I’m hopeful for both of them — I’ve given…