Our Pledge To You

Columnists

Take it from Chicago, too many presidential candidates could confuse everybody

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., greets supporters at a rally at Grand Park in Los Angeles, Saturday, March 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Beware of the 14.

Those 14 competitors in Chicago’s grueling, finally-over mayoral campaign.

A record number of mayoral hopefuls battled in a slugfest that was at times bizarre, often bewildering and always exhausting.

OPINION

Lori Lightfoot was the last one standing. Her landslide victory suggests Chicago voters are happy with the outcome.

But the 14 offer lessons and omens for the contestants for the Democratic presidential nomination, as they ramp up for 2020.

Like the mayor’s race, the primary lineup is a mob scene.

Seventeen Democrats already have declared or formed presidential exploratory committees, according to Ballotpedia.org. That doesn’t include Joe Biden, the former vice president and senator, who is expected to jump in soon.

There are differences, of course. Chicago’s campaign, most obviously, was a local affair, while the competitors for president will fight it out on the national stage.

Yet the similarities are fascinating. In November, Chicago’s mayoral campaign was radically transformed when a blockbuster federal investigation swooped down on City Hall. The feds poisoned the prospects for the biggest names in the race.

Democrats pray the same misfortune will fall on President Donald Trump, hoping the Mueller report and multiple congressional and law enforcement investigations will cripple his reelection bid.

Chicago’s mayoral options were dizzying, leaving voters confused, unable to choose. On Feb. 26, only 35 percent of the city’s registered voters showed up for the first electoral round.

Like in Chicago, the 17 Democratic presidential aspirants represent a wide spectrum of race, gender, ethnicity, geography, ideology and credibility. There are reliable household names, budding superstars and virtual unknowns.

On the far left, there is the avowed socialist and Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is taking a second shot at the White House. There is Marianne Williamson, a lecturer and author who is making a bid, calling for a “moral and spiritual awakening” in the nation.

Democrats are big-tenters. They believe that more is more. The more participation, the more debate, the more competition, the better. But in this case, is more too many?

In 2020, only one goal should matter to the Democrats: Nominating the right person to beat Trump.

Sometimes, less is more. Will the 17 leave voters more confused than decisive?

2020 will be a brutal, divisive contest. Every campaign will be digging up opposition research, eager to go on the attack to winnow the field.

As the 17 try to take each other down, they will offer Trump potent, irresistible ammunition. Traditionally, incumbent presidents stay above the fray as the opposing party fights it out in the primaries.

Trump is no traditional president.

In the 2016 Republican primaries, Trump ruthlessly and methodically eliminated every one of his 16 competitors.

Trump drubbed his GOP opponents with demeaning nicknames, ridiculed them with fabrications and insults about their intelligence, physical appearance and family heritage.

Just ask “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, “Little Marco” Rubio, “Low Energy” Jeb Bush and Carly “Look at that Face” Fiorina.

Trump will reprise that strategy and aim it at the Democrats.

The more Democrats in the race, the more cannon fodder for Trump’s ubiquitous Twitter feed.

By the time Trump’s general election opponent wins the Democratic nomination, the victor may be limping across the finish line, bloodied and battered.

Beware of the 17–and counting. The more Democrats in the race, the more juicy red meat for Trump.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.