History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. I’ve been trying to figure out why our current political moment feels so familiar and the answer has been there the whole time. We never stopped fighting the 2016 campaign, the names of the characters have changed but the dynamics haven’t, nor have the issues. The Democratic candidates have their Republican parallels, I’ve done my best to figure out who they are. I’ve found that the description for each candidate fits fairly well whether you’re thinking about 2016 or 2020.
Cory Booker is George Pataki
He’s running a campaign on ideas that the party doesn’t really want. As an elected person representing a populous north eastern state you’d think he’d be more formidable because to be frank he knows where the money is. He is the happy warrior and he wants to talk about American renewal and love. But here’s the thing, voters are angry and have been this entire decade and if you didn’t know that then you were destined to lose. Overall he’s running a “goober” campaign that despite the resume, lacks gravitas.
Tulsi Gabbard is Chris Christie
They once had a promising future in the party, but made a political decision that upset the elites and torpedoed that future. Now they only exist to get bad press coverage and attack weak candidates who haven’t faced real scrutiny. They probably would’ve been better off not running but they don’t have a stellar track record for good decision making. They have theoretical bipartisan appeal, or so we hear from political analysts who seem to have never met a person without a Master’s or makes under $165,000 a year.
Beto O’Rourke is Jeb
We know he’s not running anymore but we can’t believe it all fell apart so quickly. He began his campaign with so much promise and institutional support. After losing the last election the party got together and tried to understand why the last nominee failed and thought they optimized the winning formula with him. But he never had a natural constituency or performed well in debates, so he started to fade. Originally he was loved by the media and then they turned on him. Now he’s universally disliked by the opposition and not especially loved by his own party so now he kind of just wanders aimlessly.
Amy Klobuchar is Carly Fiorina
The media keeps waiting for her to surge but it doesn’t seem to be happening. She’s had some decent moments during debates, but never has broken out of the single digits. She’s still running but it doesn’t seem like it’s for President anymore, yet she’s maintaining that she has a special electability argument. She also has a reputation for “complicated” relationships with staff.
Andrew Yang is Rand Paul
He’s libertarian who is running for the nomination of one of the major parties. He’s saying some things that make a lot of sense and there’s real enthusiasm there. It doesn’t seem like any of his competitors are taking him seriously which is rude considering he polls even or better than many of them.
Kamala Harris is Marco Rubio
They made sense on paper and was promoted as the future of the party. They performed great during debates by challenging the front runner, they had a natural case for electability in possessing several qualities the last nominee didn’t have, and they’re well known in the party. However, they haven’t lived up to expectations and have only seen their polling decline recently. They now seem unlikely to win any primaries, and almost certainly will lose their home state where they were just popularly elected to a different office. This campaign badly damaged their brand and they might be stuck in the Senate forever. To add insult to injury they don’t even poll well with the voters that they campaigned on being able to attract.
Pete Buttigieg is John Kasich
We didn’t really know him at first but now it seems like there’s two profiles about him a week in major magazines. He won’t stop talking about the Midwest and winning elections despite winning fewer votes in his re-election campaign than both his immediate predecessor and successor did in their first campaigns. He isn’t popular with a core constituency in the party which almost certainly makes his campaign a non-starter, but he’s going to unconvincingly pitch to them anyway because he has fundraised enough money from the worst people you don’t know to last until June. Right now, he’s hoping for a brokered convention to win on a fourth ballot or at the very least something to get him the hell out of Indiana.
Elizabeth Warren is Ben Carson
For a little while there it really seemed like they were running away with it! They become the leader in national polls and state polls and had the highest favorable ratings in the party! But increased scrutiny hasn’t been their friend and some voters are questioning their sincerity on some major issues, others don’t think they’re electable anymore. Yet they still represent a large chunk of the party and do reasonably well in polls. Not that long ago, it would have been hard to imagine someone like them leading a major party but there was a politician who looked like them before who shattered the glass ceiling. It’s hard not to find them endearing even if how they deliver speeches is often lacking in energy. People are also whispering about controversial things they did in their youth that would come up in a general election campaign but they built their mythology around it, so they pretty much brought it on themselves.
Bernie Sanders is Ted Cruz
He is supported by the activist base and not well liked by elected officials in his own party. His candidacy represents the natural evolution of the party, many of his positions have been adopted by the field, and he has led national discourse the last few years. He and the front runner clearly don’t like each other, but somehow they like everyone else running even less. He’s ideologically rigid which endears him to many voters, but it angers his colleagues. His plan for the nation is less about policy, although the policy is there, and more about a revolution of kinds to remake America. He makes the most sense as a nominee but it likely won’t happen because of institutional barriers but in spite of that, he’s more motivated in stopping the opposition than stewing over what might’ve been. People never doubt his authenticity because he’s been consistently for the same things forever and so he’s become the standard bearer for his wing of the party.
Joe Biden is Donald Trump
Ever since he announced he’s been the front runner. He’s objectively out of step with the direction the party has been attempting to go and he’s unpopular online. The media doesn’t get it and they desperately want him to fail if the coverage is to be believed. You might think there’d be stronger candidates considering his gaffes, old school ideas, and scandals but it seems like voters are kinda into it. They’ve known of him for the last 40 years, but they really got to know him the last 10 because of his relationship to Barack Obama. We keep waiting for him to falter but about one third of the party seems to be sticking with him. Sure, other candidates rise and fall but typically only ever to second place because nothing has been more consistent this campaign than his dominance in the polls. He’s the favorite to be the nominee and yet we’ll still be surprised when it happens because “I don’t know anyone who voted for him”. Also, what’s going on with his son? Is he alright?
Steve Bullock is Mike Huckabee
If it were 1988 he’d be President. But his political career didn’t line up with our current political moment and so he’s languishing at the bottom of the pack. He’s the Governor of a state that had ancestral roots in his party but has been long gone in this century. Why didn’t he run for Senate?
John Delaney is Bobby Jindal
Is he seriously running for President or is this a mix of mid-life crisis, boredom, and trying to find work as a talking head on CNN? Regardless he’s shockingly easy to meme and you’re not even sure if he’s still running.
Michael Bloomberg is Michael Bloomberg
He’s a Republican running in the wrong primary.
Deval Patrick is Jim Gilmore
Who? He’s running for What?
Julián Castro is Rick Santorum
He missed his chance to be President in the last cycle. It turns out that being out of Government for four years renders you essentially irrelevant to the voters unless you’re a Clinton.