It ain’t over till it’s over.
I’ve used Hall of Fame baseball catcher Yogi Berra’s famous quip many times to demonstrate a greater point in politics, namely that just because something seems apparent one day or hour or minute doesn’t mean the condition is permanently etched in stone. Heck, when it comes to American politics, something true at one micro-second shouldn’t even be scribbled in non-erasable pen on a flimsy sheet of toilet paper and expected to last longer than a gnat’s lifespan.
As we near the end of January – yes, it’s not even Groundhog Day yet – some commentators are already starting to handicap the 2024 party presidential primary races, and in other cases, going straight to the general election late next year. It’s a fun way to peer into the future where no one takes it too seriously and the chances of getting it wrong are… let’s say, rather high.
I will note that we’re now less than one year away from the beginning of the voting extravaganza, with the Iowa caucuses set for January 22nd and the New Hampshire primary scheduled for a year from today. Gulp. Will we be ready? I’m starting to get the cold sweats!
Politics isn’t the only subject conjecturers get drastically wrong. Fantasy football aficionados remember how Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor was regarded by most “experts” as the number one most valuable player at the beginning of this season. After the first few games, however, it was clear that neither the Colts’ offense nor Taylor were going to be anywhere close to their previous season’s production. Those who picked him high were crushingly disappointed.
Likewise, folks who stake their reputations on getting weather forecasting correct down to the minute are very often embarrassed. And then there are the know-it-all fools who believe they can nail guessing what the global climate will be like at the end of the century – or even in ten or twelve years. Many of the clairvoyants are now serving in high office and making policy to match.
Doesn’t it make you feel good when someone-in-the-know portends to recognize what will happen months or years from now? Some seem to think the contest is over before it starts.
Can they get the 2024 presidential race correct? Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. In a piece titled “A Warning to the Media about the Next Presidential Race”, liberal political observer Jeff Greenfield wrote at Politico Magazine:
“The point here is not to argue for a vow of journalistic silence in the long slog leading up to the actual contests; it’s to put that part of the process into context, along with a serious dose of humility. Yes, Trump looks weakened, but are we really ready to anoint Ron DeSantis the nominee before he proves himself on the big stage? Yes, Biden is an octogenarian whose approval rating has been underwater since August 2021, but is anyone in his party really about to challenge his hold on the White House?
“To flip the wildly overused George Santayana warning: By remembering the past hyperventilated early coverage of presidential contests, perhaps we won’t be condemned to repeat it.
“As a first step, it might be a genuine service to readers and viewers to end any 2024 stories with one last line: ‘Of course, none of this is likely to matter when the votes are cast.’”
I won’t go so far as to say none of the speculation matters at this point, but Greenfield is right in his main assertion. Political winds shift faster than a weather vane on a barn next to a Kansas wheatfield. Or in golf’s Open Championship, the wind direction sometimes completely switches direction between the morning and afternoon rounds, leaving one half of the draw smiling broadly and the other cursing their ill fortune.
Why is politics so similarly unpredictable? Because assessing the mood of the electorate at any given moment at any given location is practically impossible. Political commentators drone on about how voters care about inflation or abortion or gas prices or senile Joe Biden’s inane Ukraine policy today, but who knows what anyone will be talking about twenty months from now, other than perhaps Joe’s age and whether Hunter is savoring the cuisine at the federal penitentiary. We can only hope.
In his piece, Greenfield detailed several campaigns where the longtime conventional wisdom turned out to be dead wrong. The 2008 presidential race, which began in earnest in about mid-2007 when the Republican candidates held their first debate at the Reagan Library in May (moderated by none other than MSNBC’s Chris Matthews), it was the first such contest that I covered in depth. From then on, I watched and reviewed practically every televised national debate for both the GOPers and Democrats. I found it fascinating going from assessing one party to the next, sometimes on consecutive nights.
I won’t claim I had a front row seat to the madness (unless it was our family room couch), but I vividly recall the ups and downs of the process, such as when John McCain was so low on money and so heavy on establishment campaign overhead that he started taking commercial flights – and sitting in coach with the rest of us ordinary working stiffs.
McCain was left for political dead because he wasn’t generating any buzz in addition to his campaign’s uncanny ability to burn through whatever cash he was able to raise. I also recall the video montage that played before his appearance at the Values Voter Summit in the fall of 2007, which detailed his heroic service in the Navy and his captivity in Vietnam, and I almost felt a little sympathy for the guy – since I thought he was toast.
The Democrats had Hillary Clinton going for them, and for most of the campaign, everybody who was anybody was running against her, which included her fellow Democrats John Edwards (the ’04 Democrat VP nominee) and the upstart newcomer, the golden tongued senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. There were others, like longtime windbag Joe Biden and his good pal Chris Dodd, but politicos figured no one would ever approach Madame Clinton’s lofty perch, since she was the anointed winner already, right?
Wrong. As time wore on, McCain began to be seen as the steady old soul and deserving of the nomination even though he lost in Iowa to Mike Huckabee, a good-natured populist who couldn’t attract enough money to compete everywhere he needed to afterwards. The establishment subsequently consolidated around McCain, Fred Thompson turned out to be a dud and the rest is history.
No need to rehash on Barack Obama’s ascension. We’re still ruing the ill-effects of that great American mistake, which continues today with the reign of shady loser senile Joe Biden.
I mostly agree with Greenfield’s main point – that we don’t know what we don’t know regarding 2024 – but I also think we can advance strong guesses as to who will be on the ballot when the next national election day arrives. I’m not an economist but it seems more than likely that the American economy will continue to be sluggish well into the next year due to high energy costs and higher-than-desired inflation and interest rates.
Therefore, the economy will remain as the number one issue in voters’ minds, and next time voters won’t be as quick to toss aside real-life concerns for kneejerk paranoia over abortion and “threats to democracy”. Numerous secrets will have come out about the Biden family’s sleazy dealings, enough so that independents won’t even consider reelecting that lying you-know-what.
But Democrats will renominate Biden anyway, simply because they only care about winning – and keeping the Republicans at bay – and there isn’t another pol in the universe who can rival ol’ broken down Joe in that realm. Last week the usually prescient Roger Simon tossed out Michelle Obama’s name as a possible stand-in for Biden, but where would she get the campaign apparatus quickly enough? And the Bidens hate the Obamas. It just doesn’t show up very often, but it’s difficult to imagine the current junta will just surrender power peacefully to Joe’s intraparty political frenemy.
On the Republican side, we have no way of knowing how Donald Trump’s legal issues will pan out, but we do know that once Trump is in – and he’s already in – he plays to win. If he’s living and breathing and standing, the 45th president will stop at nothing to secure the GOP nomination and then wage all-out rhetorical war on the Democrat nominee, be it senile Joe, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey or LeBron James. And he’ll have lots of accomplishments on his side, too.
Will any of the probable Republican challengers work out? Ron DeSantis will need to sustain his momentum and fundraising for a long time to be in position early next year to win enough delegates to get Trump to back off. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t see Trump purposely tanking the GOP’s chances to win, primarily because he can’t stand any of the Democrats who would be in position to beat the party ticket.
It's true that it ain’t over till it’s over, but it’s also true that it hasn’t started until it starts, and that’s where the 2024 presidential race is right now. Anyone who pretends to know otherwise is flat-out wrong and it’s best to take a dose of humility before hedging bets on what will happen when voters choose a new president in November, 2024. It will be a heck of a journey, for sure.
Joe Biden economy
Biden cognitive decline
January 6 Committee
Build Back Better
Marjorie Taylor Green
2024 presidential election