By Robert Reich
The presidential primaries will soon be heating up, and the betting has already begun over which Democrat has the “money advantage,” who’s sufficiently “moderate,” and who can “beat Trump” (assuming he’ll be running again).
Pardon me, but if you want to know who will be the next president, these are exactly the wrong criteria.
raising money from big donors is far less important than it used to be.
In recent campaigns, Democratic challengers have drawn in millions from
small donors — just look at Bernie Sanders in 2016 and Beto O’Rourke
and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018.
Grassroots activism has also become critical to getting out the vote.
next president will be the candidate best able to inspire such
activism. After years of Trump, voters will be especially inspired by
someone with the character and temperament to lead the nation – a person
of modesty, honesty and integrity, who puts the country’s interests
above his or her own, and above the interests of Wall Street and big
corporations. Someone who will honor and protect our democracy, who will
restore America’s moral authority in the world.
Labels like “moderate” have become meaningless. Over the last several
decades the Republican Party has pushed the playing field of American
politics so far to the right that the new moderate “center” is now where
the old conservative goalposts used to be.
political divide doesn’t fit on the old playing field, anyway. In both
parties, it’s between the establishment and anti-establishment. And
almost all the political energy is anti-establishment.
want to know who will be the next president, look to who can best
harness that energy across the political spectrum. Someone capable of
reversing the forces that created Trump. I’m not referring just to
racism and xenophobia, but also the widening chasm between the few who
are succeeding and the many who have been left behind.
who will take on the profound imbalance of wealth and power that has
grown in recent decades not just under Republican administrations but
also under Democrats. Who will mobilize the poor, working class, and
middle class into a countervailing power to change that system.
will unite races and creeds and ethnic groups to attack concentrated
political and economic privilege. Who will get big money out of
politics. Who will demand that the wealthy pay their fair share to keep
American going. Who will empower ordinary workers to get a better deal,
and expand prosperity and political rights to the many instead of the
The third criterion of the early
presidential handicappers is who can beat Trump. Should the candidate go
low by imitating him, or go high by appealing to the best in America?
a meaningless and endless inquiry. In reality, the person who will beat
Trump will possess the two attributes mentioned above: the character,
integrity, vision to lead the nation, and the ability to mobilize the
many who have been left behind.
No more will be needed, but also no less.