The 2020 presidential election is closer than we think, some say. But what do we sacrifice when we adopt that kind of mindset?
In an arguably unprecedented political climate, all eyes are on what will happen next — who could challenge President Donald Trump and who’s most likely to succeed? There’s value in predictions, political analysis and sizing up the competition, but it seems to be missing a focus on the present.
Neither the media, the politicians themselves or the general public are blameless for this sort of over-coverage and each will suffer accordingly.
Regarding the media, early polling results and lengthy analyses are published far too soon; we are still two years out from the general election. Keep in mind, this is before most candidates even throw their hats into the ring of contenders to vie for the seat in the Oval Office.
Without an official announcement from candidates, nearly everything is speculation, which holds little, if any, credibility, especially when it comes to reporting for the general public.
We have just now had the first high-profile Democrats — Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris — eagerly kickstart their presidential campaigns in recent weeks. The end result of this has been to take attention away from the very constituents they are currently representing. In the wake of a government shutdown that rocked Congress and the country, there are simply more important — and more urgent — issues begging for our legislators’ attention.
This is not to begrudge candidates their platform, as there’s a process and a precedent to be followed along the campaign trail, and announcing candidacy at an opportune time is part of that. But in order to prove fit for the presidency, candidates must ensure they can handle both an ongoing campaign and a successful tenure as a legislator on a smaller scale. Between press conferences, meet-and-greets and rowdy rallies, a campaigning politician’s busy schedule begs the question: when do they have time to do the job they already have?
As we’re coming off the heels of a midterm election cycle that made history in many ways, it seems its impact has already vanished, trampled by presidential hopefuls screaming promises for a better country. With the Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives earlier this month and key changes in the Senate, there’s certainly no lack of issues to occupy the attention of Congress ahead of the 2020 election.
That attention can be much better spent fulfilling campaign promises rather than making new ones. The House of Representatives just changed hands, and many of the new legislators came in with big visions. Now is the time to work toward those goals, or just to make a change from the last few weeks and actually govern, instead of focusing on the next election already.
Don’t think your everyday people aren’t to blame, either.
For Chicagoans, local aldermanic and mayoral elections are less than a month away, and we can’t afford to turn a blind eye to local politics. National events and issues obviously get most of the publicity and noise, but it’s the local elections that could hit us where it hurts. It’s local politicians who handle the concerns of the public in the most direct way, and they’re often the most accessible for residents.
Immediately following the 2016 presidential election, cries of a “blue wave” echoed among Democrats, calling for a focus on the 2018 midterm elections. And while the blue wave turned out to be more of a blue splash, maybe there was some effectiveness to the push to focus on the next chance to shift power. But again, that can’t be a trade-off for putting time, energy and resources into more immediate issues and focusing on building a country gradually rather than desperately putting out fires while looking too far ahead.