Where Are They Now? Presidential Candidate Edition

By Bradley Bennett ’21

The then-front-runners for the Democratic nomination for presidential candidate in February (Photo Credit: The Verge)

Over a year ago, on consecutive June nights, a total of twenty democratic presidential candidates packed the stage of the Arsht Center in Miami. Each candidate recognized the rigorous competition he or she was facing to gain the Democratic Party’s support, but nonetheless, they had produced fully fleshed-out policies, agendas, reforms, slogans, and focal points for their campaigns. Now that the Democratic Party has selected Former Vice President Joe Biden as its nominee for the 2020 election, each of the other nineteen presidential hopefuls’ plans for restructuring America will not come to fruition in 2020.


Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) will not implement his universal healthcare system. Andrew Yang will not dispense monthly $1,000 checks to every American adult. But aside from the Americas-never-to-be, aside from the policies that could have changed lives but won’t, this group of nineteen has a new role to play.


After vehemently analyzing the ways in which American society can be reformed, the former candidates must now shift their focus from building a better America from the top down to sharing their visions with others to rebuild America from the bottom up.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was once ahead of every Democratic candidate except for Joe Biden in the polls. However, she dropped out of the race in early March because her agenda of sweeping economic change, medicare for all, and cancellation of student loans did not resonate with a large enough portion of the more moderate Democrats. Her exit from the presidential race was by no means the end of Sen. Warren’s political relevance.


First, Sen. Warren ran her entire presidential campaign while serving as senior Massachusetts Senator. She has held this position since 2013, and her bid for president only made her agenda more prominent in Congress. Although she has been pushing her own policies in Congress for years, the majority-Republican Senate has limited her ability to implement the widespread change she promoted during the presidential debates.


The recent surge of support for leftist politics in the wake of the murder of George Floyd has put Sen. Warren back in the national limelight. Amidst the call for progressive change around the country, she has led the charge in Congress with the Removing Confederate Names and Symbols from Our Military Act of 2020. If this act were pushed through both houses of Congress, within a year, every name, symbol, display, monument, and paraphernalia associated with the Confederacy would be removed and outlawed.


As a result of her persistence in advocating for social justice, many progressive leaders have called for Sen. Warren to be reconsidered as Biden’s vice president selection. If she is chosen, many of the policies that she had endorsed as a presidential candidate would likely have a chance of becoming reality.


Sen. Bernie Sanders was the final Democratic presidential candidate to drop out of the 2020 race, and he endorsed Vice President Joe Biden for president. In stark contrast to Sen. Warren’s rebound following her drop out of the race, Sen. Sanders has continued to fall in national opinion, and more importantly, in the eyes of the Democratic Party. Sen. Bernie Sanders had always been an advocate of progressive change, but he focused on the prominence of wealth inequality in America.


The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the last few months has changed the course of the Democratic Party. As one writer from The New York Times says, “Bernie Sanders predicted a revolution, just not this one.” Instead of progressive change for solving income inequality, Democrats have recently pivoted their focus to racial issues. So, politicians like Sen. Sanders, who tend to avoid discussions of race relations in favor of class relations, are being left in the dust by the younger members of the party like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Sen. Sanders attempted to rally the working classes of America on his campaign trail, but the Democratic Party has gained much more traction while addressing racial inequities in the country. Sanders has not only lost his chance at the presidency, but he has also lost some of his influence within the Democratic Party.


Although Former Mayor of South Bend, IN Pete Buttigieg gained a large following during his presidential campaign and had strong showings at the Democratic Party presidential debates, he was unable to win the presidential nomination. He dropped out of the race after losing at the South Carolina primary. Additionally, Buttigieg’s time as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, which had lasted eight years, ended on the first day of 2020.


Due to his hiatus from local and national politics, Mayor Buttigieg will now take a detour from politics by joining the University of Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS) as a part-time faculty fellow for the 2020-2021 academic year. According to Notre Dame News, “Buttigieg will join the NDIAS fellows and students in weekly work-in-progress seminars and other academic programming. He will also engage the broader campus community by teaching an interdisciplinary undergraduate course on the importance of trust as understood through different fields.”


Although it seems as if Mayor Buttigieg is taking a break from running for office, he has plenty of options open for the future. Current Indiana Senators Toddy Young (R-IN) and Mike Braun (R-IN) are due in 2022 and 2024, respectively, and Mayor Buttigieg would have a chance at winning one of those seats. Additionally, the chants of “2024” from the crowd at his dropping out speech were prescient; Mayor Buttigieg could run for president again, whether it’s in four years or eight years. He may go under the radar for a while, but Mayor Buttigieg will likely be a mainstay in the Democratic Party for years to come.


On February 11th, 2020, Andrew Yang tweeted, “We’ll be back.” After entering the race as an outsider to politics, the Taiwanese-American entrepreneur amassed a sizable group of supporters who called themselves “The Yang Gang.” During his campaign, Yang promised that if he became president, the government would send $1,000 checks to every American adult each month. Yang used his background in business and finance to explain how he could accomplish this plan.


Although many politicians saw Yang’s campaign as a slightly humorous shot in the dark (He was known as “the candidate who loves to crowd-surf, whose fans meme him into Obi-Wan Kenobi Robes, who wears his thick blue-and-red campaign scarf everywhere he goes.”) Yang’s ability to unite his supporters around the concept of economic mobility worked. But where does he go from here? Prior to his presidential campaign, Yang had never participated in politics at the local or national level.


Since he dropped out, Yang has appeared on CNN various times as a political commentator. The respect and admiration he gained during his 2020 presidential run may serve him well in the future, whether he chooses to pursue a state or local office or the presidency in 2024. For now, Yang is continuing to build and improve his non-profit organization Humanity Forward, but he appears to be remaining in the bubble of political relevance for the time being. Many expect a Yang ’24 presidential campaign.


Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) made a strong run for the presidency and has been tabbed as a potential running mate for Vice President Joe Biden for months. However, on June 17th, she publicly announced that she was withdrawing from consideration for the vice president position.


Amidst growing racial tension throughout the country emanating from Minneapolis, where George Floyd was fatally shot, Vice President Biden selecting a prosecutor from that very city would likely hurt his reputation and his polling numbers among Democrats. In light of these race-related issues, Sen. Klobuchar took herself out of the running for vice president. Acknowledging the need to address racism, she insisted in her statement that “this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket.” Until she decides whether or not to run again in 2024, Sen. Klobuchar will focus on her job in the Senate, working to make the changes she advocated for during her presidential campaign.


Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) devised a strong presidential campaign and made a name for herself at the Democratic debates, but chose to suspend her campaign in early December. Although she withdrew from the presidential campaign, Sen. Harris promised her supporters that she would “keep fighting every day for what this campaign has been about. Justice for the People. All the people.” She may have an opportunity to do just that.


When Sen. Klobuchar announced her withdrawal from the vice presidency position and suggested that Biden select a woman of color, many experts looked at Sen. Harris as a clear beneficiary. Although Sen. Harris is still focused on her current position as a California Senator, the potential of the vice presidency has picked up a lot of steam in the last few weeks. Sen. Harris has been extremely active on social media and in the national news, presenting herself as a strong advocate for racial equity and justice. Despite the intense vetting process required for any vice-presidential candidate, many expect that Sen. Harris will win the nomination and accompany Vice President Joe Biden on his campaign to defeat President Donald Trump and take the White House in the upcoming election.

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