OPINION: Countdown to the 3rd: meet the candidates

Get a closer look at Republican, Democratic candidates for 2020



The candidates are official as Donald Trump squares off against Joe Biden.

JACOB HERSH, Evergreen columnist

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,”
– Dante, “Inferno” (canto 3, line 9)

Across the country, the ears of thousands of low-lives, human scum and villains out of a Dickens novel are perking up, as if responding to some hidden frequency. Lawyers, accountants, pundits and other people you wouldn’t let within 100 feet of your children are on the move. There’s a fresh scent in the air, and the rabid dogs are sniffing it out — baying for blood.

It’s election season in America, dear readers, and this one promises to be a trip through the nine levels of Hell, a la Dante. Murderers, adulterers and traitors will all make their presence known at some level, all the way up to the highest — the Oval Office. The Commander-in-Chief. El Presidente, whoever he proves to be this year.

And what a selection is offered to us! As of Aug. 19, the former senator from Delaware, Joe Biden, will be throwing his hat in the ring to run against the incumbent, hotel magnate and “Home Alone 2” scene-stealer, Donald Trump. Put away the good china and push the chairs back because the boys are at it again.

Trump offers the appeal of the incumbent — he’s snagged the top spot before, against tougher odds than Biden. The Democrats in 2016 fronted a woman who seemed born and bred to be president, who said the right things to the right people and had every major media outlet calling for her ascension — and Trump’s inevitable ditch-dive, public recovery and inevitably, his book deal. “Glory Stolen: How I Almost Made It,” or something like that.

But somehow, despite Nate Silver’s glib predictions, the Democrats, party of lasting figures like FDR and JFK, fumbled the ball. Or maybe it was fumbled from the start. You can only exhort people to “Pokemon GO to the polls” so many times before it starts to resemble grasping at straws. Clinton was doomed from the second she opened her mouth — very little youth appeal, an unwillingness to adopt more progressive ideologies in the vein of Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez and uncomfortable connections to the Clinton-Epstein trust, a story that was just starting to break.

So Nov. 8 brought an upset of Tsar Bomba-esque proportions. And Trump, a man running, it seemed, on pure sugar and that white powder from “American Psycho,” tiptoed into the White House, and immediately began wreaking havoc.

The Dems will not let it happen again. They’ve been backed into a corner for too long — ever see an alley cat pinned against a dumpster? They will come out swinging, rabid, vicious, intent on never letting the 2016 upset happen again.


The only problem is — they’ve come out swinging but forgotten their bat. The Democratic Party of today is one so fundamentally out of touch with what voters under 35 — a key voting bloc to secure — want out of a candidate, and it certainly isn’t Biden’s doddering, Reagan-esque, folksy malapropisms, or frankly frightening voting history, especially on 1994’s crime bill. Nor is it Kamala Harris’s brutal truancy policies, or marijuana hypocrisy, jailing almost 2,000 Californians for possession, despite publicly admitting to smoking it.

The Republicans, party of Lincoln, Nixon and dear old Reagan, are doing no better. Trump garners a scant 30% approval rating among millennials, and his handling of the coronavirus on a federal level has been widely critiqued by major media organizations. Pence has the beady eyes and sibilant purr of a python — a Midwestern Agnew to Trump’s Nixon.

But if all this grift, double-talk and excess of human greed is getting to you, be not afraid. There are about 70 days to go until that holiest of American holidays, Election Day, and I plan on writing, talking and generally riffing through each and every one.

This new series, “Countdown to the 3rd,” will highlight the candidates on both sides of the aisle, examining their foibles, campaign gaffes and debate missteps as we slowly run out the clock until November.

On either side of the political fence, there are ample opportunities for content. There is no such thing as a slow news day in politics, for better or for worse. At this point, everyone understands the stakes, which makes the relatively inane political antics of 2016 seem tame by comparison. This is no longer sandlot baseball — this is the Major League, and there are fastballs being thrown left and right.

How is this year going to turn out? If I had a wall of TVs like Ozymandias (the Watchmen character, not the figure from Shelley’s poem), I could look at them and ascertain some grim predictions of the future. But I can’t — yet. What we do know, is that four years ago, a Republican candidate staged an upset, and now here we are. At this point, it’s anyone’s ballgame.