2020 Foresight: Looking Beyond Our Dysfunctional Government


For now, at least, 35 days after it was foisted upon us, what’s been called “the Seinfeld shutdown—it’s about nothing”—is over. That would be amusing if it hadn’t wreaked such terrible damage on so many people. It will take a while to understand the larger impacts on our economy, national security, and more, but we may never know the devastation it caused some of the most vulnerable government workers and private contractors.

Both Republican Senator Rob Portman and Democratic Senator Mark Warner have introduced bills to ensure that there are no more government shutdowns. Warner’s bill is being called the “Stop Shutdowns Inflicting Damage in the Coming Years, otherwise known as the Stop Stupidity Act,“ reports The New York Times. I’m for that.

I want to reiterate what I’ve said previously: I would not be taking such a clearly partisan stance if I didn’t feel our democracy demands it now. We do not have a functioning two-party system. We have a chaotic President who has captured the GOP with little obvious opposition from its leaders and most of its elected officials, and has forced many of the more thoughtful people in that party either to leave it quietly or to denounce it and him—loudly and often. 

(If you disagree, please feel free to express your views. I would love to hear from Republicans–those who continue to support the President and those who don’t but have other thoughts about how the party can revitalize itself.)

February 15 is the next deadline. The Democrats appear united in viewing the wall (as I do), as an attempt to demonize immigrants of color, a huge waste of money, a clear disruption to the people and businesses on both sides of the border, and a woefully ineffective response to a problem that has actually lessened, and is remediable by other, less expensive methods. 

(Remember the Caravan? We were all supposedly threatened by that poor bedraggled group of people fleeing for their lives and hoping for a better future. And don’t get me started on the families torn apart—a national disgrace that is continuing, and may well rank with the internment of Japanese-Americans in our history books.) 

If the Democrats introduce a bill that is widely viewed as a rational method for strengthening border security, but doesn’t include any money for the wall (as they have previously), will the President withstand the drumbeat of the rightwing media? He’s hinted at another shutdown or other ways to get what he wants. Call a national emergency? Send the army to the border? 

The key will be Senate Majority Leader McConnell, and whether the public’s distaste for this shutdown has impressed enough Republican Senators to override a potential veto.

If you feel as I do, here’s where we must all do our jobs as citizens: to persuade our legislators to vote for immigration reform that, while providing some funds for realistic border security, also addresses the crisis the President has created and the need for orderly, humane treatment for those seeking asylum or simply a better life.

And that must set the stage for true, lasting immigration reform that upholds the values of our nation, which is—after all—a Nation of Immigrants.

OK. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I’d like to update an exploration of an issue I first raised in “Here’s Why I’ve No Intention of Discussing the Elephant in Our National Room”: What are we looking for in leadership in 2020? It’s going to be a wild ride as more than a score of Democrats seek the party’s nomination. 

I invite you to don your citizen-pundit hats and tell me what you think. Feel free to name names: those you either like or don’t like at this point, but please tell me why. (A couple of people offered Mitch Landrieu and John Hickenlooper in that earlier post—two thoughtful potential candidates who don’t get much publicity.) 

But I’m equally interested in the issues you think are paramount and the qualities you’re looking for in a President—and whether you think that type of person/persons would be viable in the general election.

In these hyper-partisan times, are you looking for someone who expresses commitment to reach across the aisle? How do you think such a person would fare in the primaries?

I’d also like to refer you back to my post “OK; The Dems Won the House, Now What?,” in which I quote the very astute Michael Tomasky, who emphasizes that the Democrats need “to construct a story about how the economy works and grows and spreads prosperity, a story that competes with—and defeats—the Republicans’ own narrative.” He stresses that this story must unite the various factions of the party. (That’s always a concern. Remember Will Rogers’ quotation? “I am not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”)

Will the Dems agree on workable programs to promote economic equality?

Another important question is which voters may decide this election. Many say we need a candidate who appeals to the “Rust Belt”—a term that Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown finds demeaning, as it connotes deterioration. (He is seriously considering a run, and he has some compelling qualities, including his longheld emphasis on “the dignity of work.”)

Based on the 2018 election results, there’s reason to pay careful attention to the views that former Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards expressed in a Washington Post Op-Ed: “The 2020 election will be decided in my hair salon. Here’s why.”

“For Democrats, the quest to win the 2020 primary and general election flows through the vibrant conversations of black women on a Saturday morning—a time and place of unvarnished truth among women of all classes and life experiences.”

“Since the 2016 defeat, it has been the strength of the black women’s vote that has driven victories in statewide and down-ballot races for Democrats—including the much-celebrated record number of diverse women in the new Congress.”

“Why are these facts so important for a crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field? Simple—the numbers clearly show the real juice for Democrats rests with women of color. No candidate can ignore black women in the primary season and still hope to engage them after winning the party nomination—that won’t fly. Black women are the most reliable base of the Democratic Party. To win this base in the primary, and then fully mobilize it in a general election, the candidates will need to listen to the women in the hair salons.”

Noting that “some may write off identity politics,” Edwards writes: “but for many women/women of color/black women, identity is politics.” She cites the wage gap, health care disparities, far greater college debt, etc. “Those are the politics of a black woman’s identity.”

Does Senator Kamala Harris have a formidable advantage? Harris wowed the Iowa Democrats attending CNN’s recent Town Hall. Here’s an interesting video of her conversation with a man who asked how he could “mansplain” to other men who tell him a man would be a better candidate than a woman in 2020. (There’s a brief ad first.) And conservative columnist David Brooks practically endorsed Harris in this New York Times Op-Ed.

Edwards is quick to state that it would be a mistake to think that Harris has already sewn up the votes of black women. “These voters are listening,” Edwards writes. And “Women/women of color/black women are not a monolith—they are individuals, and they want to be fought for. Every candidate must wage that battle.”

I think Edwards is right, but clearly the rest of us, as the saying goes, are not chopped liver. If we learned anything from 2016, it was that every vote, in every precinct, matters. Young people will also be a crucial factor in the outcome. We’ve seen their power in those remarkable, brave Parkland shooting survivors.

Speaking of the young, how important are fresh faces? If Joe Biden decided to run, would he have a chance? Or Bernie?

On the other extreme, does the charismatic but inexperienced and not yet obviously knowledgeable Beto O’Rourke have viability—assuming he softens his propensity to pepper his speech with sturdy Anglo-Saxon verbiage—which some voters might find a needless distraction?

Then there’s Amy Klobuchar, who speaks quietly but was known as a tough prosecutor. (And, according to some reports, is even funnier than her former Minnesota Senate colleague Al Franken;  a good sense of humor could be a valuable asset in today’s environment.) Conservative columnist and former Republican George Will believes Klobuchar “is perhaps the person best equipped to send the current President packing,” as he discusses here.

Can great ideas introduced by flawed candidates catch on? Did Elizabeth Warren (who has some creative and valuable ideas) ruin her chances when she took Trump’s bait and released her DNA test results, thereby feeding into the white supremacists’ touting of the false importance of blood lines? 

Actually, there probably isn’t a candidate without flaws, and I think we all have to get better at figuring out which ones matter and which ones don’t—and not let the media decide for us.

Now that Cory Booker has announced his candidacy, we’ll see how his emphasis on love plays out in today’s environment. And his performance as Mayor of Newark will justifiably receive scrutiny.

I can’t see Michael Bloomberg getting traction at this time, but I’m glad he’s in the race because he’s been emphatic that anyone running for President must have, and express, well-thought-out ideas. Let him give his (he’s especially strong on gun safety legislation and climate change), and let’s make sure that all the other candidates give theirs: solid, workable goals for what they’d bring to the office—not just platitudes or attacks on Trump. 

I’m not discussing Howard Schultz’s proposed independent run at this time, but I found Paul Krugman’s Op-Ed, “Attack of the Radical Centrists,” persuasive.

Foremost in my mind: we need someone who’s thinking and talking about how to unite a divided country, restore faith in our institutions, pursue economic equality, and try to heal the wounds after all the deliberate divisiveness that will be Donald Trump’s sorry legacy.

Please let me know your thoughts in the “Leave a reply” box below.  We’re all in this together, and it’s not too soon to be thinking about how we should approach this important decision.

And if you’re registered through WordPress, and you like this piece, please take a moment to click on “like.” I’ve learned that in the blogosphere, these things really matter. Thanks!


21 thoughts on “2020 Foresight: Looking Beyond Our Dysfunctional Government

  1. I found your blog through “the Little Mermaids Tea party”. I am Canadian/English but follow American politics. I am Conservative in my Canadian politics. I actually admire Trump for shaking the American and World system out of what was considered the normal scheme of things. I think the Democrats did American politics a disservice by pursuing this Trump/Russia thing, whatever it is. It put the President in a combative, defensive position from day one and perhaps the administration would have behaved a little differently if not put in this position. I think the Democrats were hypocritical in not holding Hilary Clinton to the same scrutiny. I like the detail and research you have put into this blog and am looking forward to learning a lot.


    1. Len–

      Welcome to annieasksyou! I am happy to have a polite dissenter. I could give you an enormous list of the reasons that I think President Trump is a terrible president and a danger to our democracy, but I’ll cite just a few. First, his apparent inability to recognize and speak the truth about anything, large or small. He began his political career by spreading the lie that President Obama was not a US citizen, and newspapers carry page after page of his daily falsehoods. Second, it was not initially the Democrats who pursued this “Trump/Russia thing”: it was the career FBI agents, many of them Republicans, who found strong indications that the Russians had deliberately interfered with our elections. (There also seems evidence that they were involved with Brexit, and that is clearly not turning out well for Great Britain.) We are awaiting the results of the Mueller report, which we hope will give us solid information, but in the meantime, many find it odd that so many of Trump’s inner circle have been convicted of crimes that either directly or indirectly involve Russians–and that while his foreign policy claims to be tough on the Russians, he is easing sanctions and now, ripping up a nuclear treaty signed by President Reagan. We are perplexed why our President is more comfortable with Putin (and other autocrats) than he is with our Nato allies. There is a strong sense among many of us that he does not find democracy to his liking and would relish the opportunity to dispose of it. He has demonized the free press in a way that is frightening, and his unwillingness to condemn Saudi’s prince after the blatant murder of a Washington Post journalist is unconscionable. The fact that his Secretary of State and Republican leaders did not forcefully condemn this murder appears to give license to dictators everywhere to dispose of people at will.

      Your belief that he became combative from Day One suggests that he was different before he became President, but most of those who have known him for years talk of his cheating people out of money, making terrible deals, and essentially operating like a Mafia don. If you can, listen to Tony Schwartz, his co-author–the real author–of The Art of the Deal, who has said he can never forgive himself because he created the myth of Trump as a wonderful deal-maker that has played a role in his fame, though the evidence points otherwise. The soybean farmers and auto workers who voted for him because of promises surrounding such deals (with the Chinese, for example) have been sadly disappointed.

      Finally, you claim that the Democrats were hypocrites for not holding Hillary to the same scrutiny. Hillary has been scrutinized for years: the Republicans dragged her before their committees often, the Clinton Foundation was examined, and nothing substantive was ever found. Her dopey mistake with her emails was blown out of proportion by the Republicans and the press, who gave short shrift to all the things that Trump had been engaged in. (And both Jared and Ivanka and others have since been found to have been similarly careless with their emails, but everyone is so exhausted that that has been overlooked.) And former FBI Director Comey broke a cardinal FBI rule by discussing Hillary’s case (saying there was no there there), which may well have played a role in Trump’s election. But he said nothing about the FBI’s investigation of Trump because of questionable meetings between his campaign and the Russians.

      Trump’s demonization of immigrants–actually lying about the numbers of people trying to enter the country and the type of people they are–is inexcusable. And while people can differ on immigration policy, I can’t imagine how anyone could justify tearing babies from their mothers’ arms. This is not who we are as a people. And then there’s Charlottesville, Virginia, where a young woman was killed by a neo-Nazi terrorist, and Trump talked about the “good people” on both sides. Hate crimes in the US have increased dramatically since Trump took office.

      I could go on and on: all the ill-informed, poorly prepared, often corrupt cabinet members he’s placed and judges he’s nominated, etc. And I haven’t even mentioned climate change. But the bottom line is that democracy is a delicate form of government requiring careful balance. When someone is determined to shake things up–and I’m not saying there aren’t changes that might be beneficial, though my list may differ from yours–they should have some idea of what will replace it. This man has no ideas except how to gain more money for himself and gratify his own ego.

      Thank you for your kind words about the detail and research in my blog. I hope you’ll stay with me and feel comfortable disagreeing with me whenever you wish.




    1. It was pretty bad during the Vietnam War too. Though Trump is only a startling manifestation of some bad trends that have been growing in the US for decades, on my more optimistic days, I focus on all the things that unite us, rather than divide us. When you have a chance, you may want to look at my post “Mister Rogers: Where Are You When We Need You?” I think the presidential candidate who best captures that desire for unity will win. Glad to have you here, Christopher!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You raise some interesting points. I will “come out” as a conservative too.
    The danger I see from the crowded Democratic field is this: this was the situation that got Donald Trump nominated in 2016. Most Republicans supported other candidates but Trump got a bigger minority share than any of the others. Will there be a candidate who is similarly “unique” and who gets traction among 15 candidates where (s)he wouldn’t among 3.
    I was not a Trump guy in 2016. I was certainly not a Hillary guy either, and talked with many ordinary people who considered the choice one of the lesser of two evils.
    That said, I have become fatigued by the non-stop freakout about Trump is the end of the world as we know it. He isn’t. He is not as good of a president as I had hoped and is not as bad as I had feared. The “resistance” has done what Trump could not do – made me a Trump supporter.
    Russia? I’ll believe it when I see it. The fact that we have yet to see (whether officially or leaked) actual evidence of collusion is telling. The Mueller probe will find what it finds and we will collectively deal with it.


    1. Fair enough, JP. I welcome differing views—though I find it hard to understand how “the resistance” could have made you a Trump supporter.
      I’m glad to hear that you are at least open to the findings of the Mueller investigation—and, I hope—to the findings of the Southern District of NY, which may be even more significant to trump’s personal decision-making about his future.

      I appreciate your taking the time to express your opinion.



      1. “though I find it hard to understand how “the resistance” could have made you a Trump supporter.”

        Here is how I would explain it. A large group of people who takes the position that they are going to oppose every thing he does because it is Donald Trump, that is not honest disagreement but the big kid version of playground bullying. Congressional Democrats, media, Hollywood – it is all Trump-Hate all the time. In football, “piling on” results in a penalty. This is the political version. It is hard to make a loudmouthed billionaire President look like an underdog, but they are managing to do it. Ferkryinoutloud, Melania (a former fashion model) has not yet made a single cover of a womens’ magazine. Why is this if not because of who her husband is?

        Like him or hate him, the fact is that a significant number of people (for varying reasons) voted him in. Anyone who wants to say it is because they are all rascist mysogenist gun-worshiping crazies risks not seeing why he had some appeal. The truth is that lots of people who would happily invite you in for coffee and a reasonably enjoyable conversation supported the guy. A wise opposition would try to address their issues instead of constantly vilifying them and the President they voted in.

        I used to write on some political topics but have largely sworn off because there seems to be no room left for people of good faith and goodwill to disagree civilly. Thank you for providing the opportunity to offer these thoughts.


      2. J.P.–

        Welcome to annieasksyou!

        I am really pleased that you’ve chosen to participate in this dialogue, and I think it’s important for people like me to hear what you’re saying–especially that a wise opposition would try to address the issues of many who continue to support Trump. I started this blog with the intention of seeking common ground–because I believe we all have more in common than is currently apparent. I will be the first to acknowledge that I found that goal pretty hard to stick to in view of grievous events (silence or rationalization vis-a-vis the babies taken from their mothers, Charlottesville, Khashoggi’s murder, etc.) I do think that Trump has brought most of this on himself, as he has been a) the bully-in-chief; and b) always eager to play the victim, even as he’s wreaking havoc on our institutions and individuals. And I worry that his refusal to either bone up on events himself or trust the advice he receives from those who know better leaves us very vulnerable. While he was using the shutdown to force Congress to grant him his wall, the TSA was seriously compromised. Who knows the impact on our airport security during his fixation with the wall-that-Mexico-will-pay-for?

        Will you indulge me in answering some of the questions I raise in this post? What are the qualities you seek in the next President? What type of person would appeal to you and others you know who share your views–assuming either they’ve had enough of Trump or he resigns? (There is chatter that the Southern District’s findings may take a toll on his family and finances that he’ll be unwilling to accept; of course, that may be wishful thinking.) What are the issues confronting our country that matter to you the most?

        I’m enclosing a link to Tom Friedman’s Op-Ed in today’s NY Times because I think it gives a good quick overview of the complexities we face worldwide–and how we may address some of them. You may have seen it, but I did want it to appear in this post.

        I promise you continued good faith and goodwill as we disagree civilly.




  3. Thank you, I appreciate the civility here. I think it’s important for both of us to actually listen to the other so that we can at least understand the other’s point of view. I cannot promise that I will engage this deeply on future topics, but the chance for a good exchange of ideas should not be passed up, so here we are.

    Qualities for the next President? I am fairly conservative (as you now know) in terms of economic issues, and deal with social issues in sort of a Catholic worldview (which doesn’t really fit within either party if we are doing it right). There is nobody that is really compelling to me on the Republican side at the moment. I am lukewarm on Pence – he was my governor for a bit and he was OK, but that was about it. His predecessor as Indiana Governor (Mitch Daniels) would have been great as President, but his family rebelled and he is now President of Purdue University and doing a pretty good job at it (based on my view from the outside). I had this problem in 2016 where I liked part of this one and part of that one but there was no one really compelling candidate.

    In my view one of the bigger threats to our country is the “identity politics” paradigm that has become fairly common on the left side of the spectrum. I think we have a binary choice: We either value everyone as a person and do our best to accept and accommodate differences or we become defined by our differences and enter into a never-ending series of conflicts over how my differences entitle me to more accommodation than your differences entitle you to.

    You particularly mentioned Charlottesville. I wrote something after that sad day and will just show the link (https://jpcavanaugh.com/2017/08/18/thoughts-on-charlottesville-nazis-and-a-modern-catholic-saint/) rather than try to pare it down to a comment (which has already gone on too long. And has it been over a year and a half ago? Hard to believe.

    Anyhow, thanks again for listening and the chance to discuss these things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am in total agreement with you in condemning violence from any source. There are statistics, though, that demonstrate that the preponderance of violent acts in the US have been committed by white males expressing far-right views.
      But I found your post on Charlottesville well worth reading.
      I thank you for providing your opinions. As I don’t write only about politics (my interests are small-c catholic), I hope you’ll be inclined to comment on other posts in time. I am now following you as well. And I love being snowed in!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved reading the comments. The Dems. Have some very good candidates. My first choice at this moment is Amy Klobuchar. She hasn’t announced yet but it looks like she will run. I hope she does.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Annie,

    I really enjoyed your entry and I commend your commitment to creating an environment where people with opposing views can express themselves in a non-judgemental environment.

    Having said that, I do find it hard to understand, after all the outrageous lies told and destructive acts taken, how anyone could think our President is doing a good job and would consider reelecting him. For
    goodness sake, it was recently reported that our President spends only a few hours a day doing any work and walks out of meetings with his advisors after a just a few minutes. The ridiculous “Wall” has consumed him because he mustn’t break the promise he made to his base if he wants to be reelected!

    So many of Trumps official actions should anger every American…like refusing to accept the reality of climate change and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. And what about the crisis he created at the border with thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents, many of whom will never see their parents again? Whatever your politics are…these actions should enrage every citizen.

    Now that I got that off my chest I will answer your questions.

    What qualities do I think a President should have? It would be
    refreshing to have a President who is honest, literate, empathetic and
    has some solid experience with governing. He/she should should be
    knowledgeable about important issues, domestic and global, and be
    surrounded by knowledgeable and experienced advisors. I would want a
    President to be proactive on climate change (enough to take positive
    actions to try to reverse it), universal health care, gun control, the
    environment, and basic human rights. He or she should be committed to
    preserving a woman’s right to have an abortion.

    Right now I am impressed with Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy
    Klobuchar but I feel I still need to know more about them.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Fran–

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughtful comments.

      I share your incredulity about people’s continued support for the President (and I note many of the issues you mention in my responses to the comments from his supporters). But I continue to believe that we must try to maintain civil discourse, hard though that sometimes is. I feel it’s helpful to hear how some of those who differ view things, especially when one of them (I think of him as a quasi-supporter) provided a link to a post he’d written about the horror of Charlottesville. People are complicated, and I want to try to avoid stereotyping by myself as well as others.

      As to your list of the qualities you’d like to see, I’m with you 100%. I have a few others, but I’m hoping more people will weigh in with their choices.

      I do disagree vis-a-vis Kirsten Gillibrand, though. I’m all for the me-too movement, but I felt she was instrumental in railroading Al Franken with no thought to due process, which must be a part of these career-ending matters. I also don’t get a sense of strong leadership from her.

      In general, though, we seem to be blessed with a number of very interesting candidates. It will certainly be a challenge for the Dems to structure debates so that all candidates get a fair opportunity for national coverage (without the kids’ table the Republicans had). Exciting times ahead!


      Liked by 1 person

      1. I meant to say I was on the fence about Kirsten Gillibrand for just that reason but I forgot. Thanks for bringing it up.


  6. Kamala Harris is my current choice, but I want to stress the need of all Democrats to unite behind whoever ultimately wins the nomination. The refusal of some Bernie Bros and other Dems to vote for Hillary Clinton (or the choice to vote for Jill Stein) helped pave the way for Trump’s disastrous electoral college win. We can’t let that happen again.


    1. Amen to that! Equally troubling are the reports that if Howard Shultz doesn’t run, someone else may try to find that middle lane.

      I don’t know if you got a chance to read David Brooks’ near-endorsement of Kamala Harris, but I found the fact that he did it fascinating. There’s a link in this post if you missed the original.

      Thanks for weighing in!



  7. Gosh, Annie. You’ve given this carnivore a lot to chew upon. I’m watching the race daily, which is probably not good for my mental health. My allegiances are evolving. Jury out. I’ll be really irritated if an independent splits the vote. For what it may be worth to you and your readers, here in Bernie-land, the thing I hear most often is the hope that he doesn’t run. I’m always relieved to hear the environment listed among concerns, but my issues list is long. I’m pleased that so far, anyway, the Dems aren’t criticizing each other, though Booker comes close. As to him, his behavior during the Kavanaugh hearings (ran over his time, presumptuously, and then walked out, childishly) was less than stellar, so he’s out of the running in my mind. I’m watching the women, of course. I wonder if any of them are consulting with Hillary behind the scenes, as she surely has analyzed what could have gone better. My deepest hope for a bipartisan ticket is foolish, I know. A double female ticket is interesting, but again, probably not happening. I’m mixed on the subject of gender anyway as I want the very best Dem possible, gender notwithstanding. Still, I’m so sick to death of how women have and continue to be treated, I’m rooting for any female with the courage and competence to come forward. As to our current president, “chaotic” is charitable. As for McConnell, he doesn’t get enough attention in my view as I feel he and his Federalist Society chums are holding the puppet strings at least on filing the judiciary. Scary. To be continued. Look forward to learning more as we make our way. Thanks, as always, for your insightful posts!


    1. Hi, Denise–

      Thanks for putting so much thought into this. It is exciting to see so many qualified women running, and I found the fact that both David Brooks and George Will touted the praises of Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, respectively, fascinating.

      I emphatically agree with you about McConnell. I’ve said for a long time that the press doesn’t focus sufficiently on the ill deeds he’s inflicted upon our society. How do you redress the flow of poorly qualified, clearly biased judges into our system? We’ll all be affected, but clearly the most vulnerable among us will bear the largest burden.
      I’d love to see some articles about that.

      We’ll revisit this topic from time to time as the election date nears.



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