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Bernie Sanders, Rally at Pittsburgh University, Sunday April 14.

Why Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum and Sherrod Brown are the key to the Democrats’ 2020 success

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They are the forgotten trio of the Democratic Party. Stacey Abrams. Andrew Gillum. Sherrod Brown. Yet they represent the best model for Democrats if they should have any chance of defeating Donald Trump in 2020.

For the Democrats to make any headway in their quest to unseat Donald Trump, who, I believe is on the way to not just winning but earning a probable, landslide, the Democratic Party should turn to candidates such as Stacey Abrams, Sherrod Brown and Andrew Gillum. Stacey Abrams was the Democratic Party nominee for the Georgia gubernatorial elections in 2018. Andrew Gillum was the Democratic nominee for the position of Governor in Flordia. Sherrod Brown is the senior US Senator from Ohio representing the state’s 13th congressional district. I’ll give a few reasons.

Abrams, Brown and Gillum have something about them the Democrats need. Abrams has that business and entrepreneurial experience that made Trump such an attractive candidate in the 2016 election. In Abrams, the Democrats have a candidate that has business experience, is pro-growth and pro-business. As a legislator, she got an A rating from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Clearly, she’s that business-minded candidate the Democrats need to counter the frame of Trump as a business-like president.
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Brown has something similar. The entire foundations and motivational force for Brown’s political existence is predicated on his belief in living a dignified life through work. That’s it. He believes that politics should create a better life for people by giving them good jobs, decent salaries and favourable conditions. That’s why his political persona is framed around the working class and middle-class who just want to work hard to provide for their families. He’s a working class hero. The argument could be made that Sanders has working class appeal but Sherrod is not perceived as extremist or socialist in the way that Sanders is.

Democrats need to claim back the blue-collar workers in the heartland, industrial belt or Great Lakes where the Democratic Party faltered in the previous elections. They may not prove the magic wand but they will definitely bolster the party’s appeal in such areas. That would immediately take care of Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and other critical states. Sure, Bet’s got his army and his appeal but he cannot appeal to small business owners and working class folks the same way Brown or Abrams will. This is because he doesn’t necessarily have the same record or connections to the labour unions or working class or business community the same way Brown does. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Abrams also is a great campaigner. And one might argue so are the other three. The point here is that Democrats wouldn’t have to sacrifice this characteristic if they were to go for Ms Abrams; it’s an added benefit to all the preceding peculiarities raised about her candidature. She is charismatic and likeable enough to whip up excitement and enthusiasm among voters. She campaigns with gusto and infection. She gives brilliant answers to tough questions. She is meticulous, strategic, intentional and planned compared to the off the cuff nature, impromptu, unorganized nature of Beto O’Rourke.

We’ve also heard the complaints of Beto’s “highhandedness” and shortfalls in answering questions on the stump. Read most of the analysis and reportage and you’ll see concerns about his lack of depth to some of the answers. In Abrams there will be no such concerns. She’s got the rhetoric, the substance, the style and the inspiration all in effective measure. Why would the democrats want to risk having a candidate who is easy on the eye, with all the glitz and glamour but low on the substance when they are others who can readily give them what they want in terms of style and get the added benefit of substance? Totally baffling. It’s not all that there is to Beto but it’s a major part of the narrative gaining ground.

Next, Abrams embodies the kind of racial and generational change that has whipped up the base of the Democratic Party. These are the kind of factors them helped them accomplish the blue wave in the 2018 mid-term elections. She’s female, she’s black and she’s young. One could argue that AOC has similar qualities but she’s too extreme, too divisive and too controversial to attract any independent or middle-of-the-road voters. And the fact is Stacey Abrams does not have the same kind of extreme liberal positions that could turn out voters. Abrams is a liberal who is not a socialist; who does not engage in class warfare and who believes in pragmatism. That’s a platform that can appeal to both party ideologues, political centrists and moderate Republicans. In fact, if you look at Stacey’s position as a young female African American minority candidate and how difficult it is a for a candidate with such a demographic background to make any headway at all in politics, you’ll have to give her more plaudits than say a white male candidate or white female candidate or black male candidate. Her glass-ceiling is quite high. Her margin of error is so tight. She is triple-star minority. That is inspiring.

Everyone loves to talk about how close Beto O’Rourke came in the Texas Senate election. In the midst of the cacophony I wonder why it is easily or conveniently forgotten that Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams equally came close in their own state-wide races. Let’s look at the facts: O’Rourke scored 48.3% against Ted Cruz’s 50.9%. Gillum scored 49.2% compared to Ron DeSantis (in the Florida gubernatorial elections )who scored 49.6%. This was a much closer and nerve racking result than even O’Rourke. How, Gillum is often lost in the conversation, I can’t tell. And it happened in a swing state, let’s not forget. Stacey Abrams scored 48.8% while her opponent Brian Kemp scored 50.2 in the race for Governor of Atlanta. Sherrod Brown actually won in that swingiest of swing states, Ohio where Trump decimated Democrats in the last elections. He beat his Republican opponent (in the US Senate election for Ohio’s 13th Congressional district) Jim Renacci by 6.4 percentage points. It’s pretty clear which candidates have the road map.

I’ve not even begun to talk about Gillum’s political and organizational skills and his ability to wield the sword and prevail in street fights with Trump and the Republicans while coming off as endearing, charming and folksy. In a political climate where turn out and grassroots support is key, Gillum’s efficacious mobilization skills should be high currency for the Democrats. Then there’s this irrepressible point about his oratory which can be as soaring and as evoking as Barack Obama’s. It’s an open secret that Democrats and some Americans generally miss a candidate like Barack Obama. There are many who pine for a president of his nature. If there’s any chance to re-live those heady Obama days of rhetorical flair, ambition, hope and inspiration, Gillum can deliver that in a heartbeat.

Abrams has got similar organization skills—that ability to project into the future, calibrate campaign expectations and numbers into spreadsheets and the brilliance for strategy that remains elusive for some candidates. Even though campaigns always have staff, a hands on candidate with the meticulous attitude is always an additional plus which can penetrate the rest of the campaign structure.

My point: If the argument is that Beto O’Rourke’s showing in Texas represents hope for Democrats that could be replicated nationwide, then there are equally compelling examples if not better models that could actually deliver results beyond the feel good or emotive appeals of Mr O’Rourke. If the point is that Bernie Sanders has populist and working class appeal, then these candidates have similar dispositions except they espouse them in much less extremist or socialist terms.

If the argument is that AOC is a liberal firebrands, the Brown-Gillum-Abrams brands have similar progressive credentials except they are able to do so without turning off independents or moderates. These candidates have the grit and the insignia to take on Trump and the Republicans. The Democrats will be doing themselves a world of disservice if they ignore them.

Etse Sikanku is a media and political analyst. He is the Chief Analyst for the Center for Public Discourse Analysis. He has authored two books “The Afrocentric Obama and lessons on political campaigning” and “The Primary Contenders”. He is host of a radio program “World Affairs” on Class 91.3 cm and lectures full time as a faculty member at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. He previously worked at the University of Ghana School of Communication Studies.


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