In order to move an agenda forward, a party needs a majority in the House and the Senate, and a president in the White House. The Democratic Party, it appears, has essentially already given up on one of these crucial steps for 2020.
The Houston Chronicle reported on Wednesday that Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, the party’s marquee pick to take on Republican Sen. John Cornyn, would actually not be running for Senate after all. Instead, Castro is going to stay in the House. “Right now, I’m going to focus on my work in the House of Representatives. I’ve been doing what I feel is important and meaningful work here,” he told Hearst Newspapers. “If and when I run for another office, it is likely to be something that takes me back home to Texas.”
Castro is just the latest recruiting loss for Senate Democrats, in what can only be described as a series of abject failures. Beto O’Rourke, who nearly beat Sen. Ted Cruz last year and whose campaign helped push several Democrats over the top in downballot races all over the state, is running a fledgling campaign for president. So is Castro’s twin brother Julián Castro, the former HUD secretary and mayor of San Antonio. Now, the most prominent Democrat in the Texas Senate race is MJ Hegar, a former House candidate who narrowly lost her bid for a seat in the suburbs of Austin last year. Hegar, an Air Force veteran, has never held elected office.
It’s not just Texas either. Two-term Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is reportedly set to announce a run for president that will not work, in a year where Republican Sen. Steve Daines is up for re-election. Stacey Abrams decided not to take on David Perdue in Georgia. John Hickenlooper passed on a chance to face the most vulnerable GOP senator, Cory Gardner, in favor of polling 1 percent in presidential polls and telling national audiences about the time he watched porn with his mom. And at this point, it looks like North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis’ biggest challenge next year might be in the Republican primary rather than the general election, where the DSCC still hasn’t found a Democrat willing to run. (Currently, the most high-profile candidate is three-term state Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram.)
Unless all of these people running for president rather than Senate seats they can actually win have a collective realization that their efforts might be better spent elsewhere—and soon—the Democrats are essentially set to cede control of the Senate to Mitch McConnell until 2022, no matter what happens at the top of the ticket. That is a fucking disaster.
Why is it proving so hard? There are multiple reasons. One, the Senate absolutely sucks. It’s an archaic institution in desperate need of radical reform if not outright abolition, and Mitch McConnell only makes it worse. Not to mention that most people in the chamber develop a mood disorder called Senate Brain, which appears to slowly eat away at the part of the mind that contains political instincts.
The second is that running for president appears to just have no downsides. There are already 20 people running for the Democratic nomination for president, and all but five or six of them have to know at this point that there’s absolutely no way they’re winning this shit. Still, they can collect money, get a national audience for debates, and then turn that into a career as a cable news pundit or motivational speaker or what the fuck ever. Call it the Mike Huckabee theory of presidential campaigns.
The third, ably summed up by ThinkProgress editor Jason Linkins, is this:
In any event, there’s really nowhere else to lay the blame for all of this other than at the feet of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has been desperately trying to convince all of these people to run for Senate and has failed over and over and over again. Apart from being an incredibly ineffective and uninspiring leader, Schumer spends his entire life watching other people eat his lunch. He gets rolled by Mitch McConnell, he routinely gets rolled by the right-wing of his caucus, and he even gets rolled by potential recruits.
If 2020 turns out to be as bad for Senate Democrats as it’s shaping up to be, Schumer has got to be the first to go. Anything less would be a renewed commitment to failure.