There is stark difference between how American society and the Democratic Party value past success when it comes to judging those who are campaigning for political office.
Most people would agree that leadership objectives are achieved by building upon a foundation of consistent success. You may stumble along the way, but to address the next obstacle, you must either overcome the obstacle that came before it, or work to improve personally or professionally in order to leap forward. This is true for leadership positions in politics, industry, the military, and sport.
Now instead, there are some in the Democratic Party who are attempting to encourage their voters to judge the quality of candidates based on their claim of moral superiority and electoral victimhood. By framing every political campaign as a battle for the nation’s morality, the Democrats have carefully manipulated the narrative such that the actual result is irrelevant. If the Democrat loses the battle, it doesn’t matter because they won the moral war.
This has been applied in the wake of several high-profile political failures in recent years. For prospective Democratic candidates for 2020, those who experienced political failure at a lower level have simply defined their defeat as a necessary stepping stone on their path to success. They faced the evil Republicans in a battle for morality, and fought gallantly for “what is right.” They are now ready to embark on the Democrat’s quest for the ultimate prize – The White House.
One person who has fully embraced this strategy is Stacey Abrams. After serving as Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017, Abrams obtained national prominence after she failed to win the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race. Since losing that election by 54,723 votes, she has repeatedly claimed that she was the true victor, and has hinted that she may run for president in 2020. CNN described her “rise to prominence” by framing her political failure as an immoral act:
Abrams rose to national prominence last year during a closely fought gubernatorial bid that would have seen her become the first African American woman ever elected governor. She conceded the race amid significant controversy over the way the election was conducted — a process overseen by her opponent, now-Gov. Brian Kemp, who was Georgia’s secretary of state at the time.
Another example is Beto O’Rourke, who is gaining significant traction after announcing his candidacy for 2020. Unlike Abrams, O’Rourke does have some moderately high-level political experience, having served in the United States House of Representatives for Texas’ 16th district between 2013 and 2019. However, like Abrams, O’Rourke gained nationwide notoriety after he was defeated by Republican incumbent Senator Ted Cruz in a close-fought 2018 U.S. Senate race.
When judging candidates, we should distinguish between those with limited experience, and those with limited experience and a recent history of failure at a lower level. Lack of experience alone is clearly not a barrier to the presidency, given that Barack Obama was on his first term as U.S. Senator and Donald Trump had no political experience whatsoever prior to their election victories.
Unlike Abrams and O’Rourke, however, Obama and Trump built their campaigns on a foundation of demonstrated and consistent professional success, rather than defending recent political failures with claims of having achieved a “moral victory.”
If applied carefully, Democrats who lose can retire from the field of battle, free of the need to actually deliver on any of their campaign promises. While the Republican victor is burdened with their newfound responsibilities, the Democrat can move on from their political failure, clutching onto some form of “moral victory” (or, in Abrams’ case, unsubstantiated claims of actual victory). They can quickly launch further campaigns for higher positions, where their assumption of moral superiority or election failures act as a valid proxy for demonstrated success.
There is no-one more ill-equipped for the highest office in the land, however, than someone whose value is determined by their electoral victimhood and recent failure to make the B team. America is not a country where you can lose a local pick-up game, and then show up in Boston expecting to replace Tom Brady.
Donald Trump famously said: “I don’t like losers.” Time will tell whether Americans agree.