Opinion: Cut the 2020 talk. Now.

Brian DiPaolo

Only twenty days after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s upset loss of the presidency to President Donald Trump, the Chicago Tribune published an article speculating which Democrats would run for president in 2020. The Hill followed suit nearly a month later, listing its “Top 15 Democratic presidential candidates in 2020.”

In the days and months following the election, damaged and weary Democrats immediately began dreaming of who to run for president against Trump (presumably) in four years.

Some advocated for a rematch between Clinton and Trump, others considered running what would then be a 79-year-old Bernie Sanders.

Were Sanders not to run, a good deal of his supporters hoped to draft Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley began campaigning for grassroots candidates in Iowa in December, fueling speculation of a 2020 run.

Given his stellar speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker arose as a star on the horizon.

Likewise, the names of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken and even former first lady Michelle Obama have floated among Democratic circles as potential candidates to nominate for president in 2020.

This sort of talk has got to stop.

Trump is terrible — no doubt about it. Democrats knew he’d be terrible before he even set foot in the White House. It is understandable why they would long for a Trump-free future before it even began.

However, discussing who to run in the 2020 election before the inauguration of the 2016 victor was absolutely and utterly absurd. Discussing who to run during Trump’s first hundred days is equally counterproductive.

Imagine how stupid Republicans would have looked on the heels of their 2008 defeat if they were to already plan who their 2012 candidate would be while former President George W. Bush was still in office. That is exactly what Democrats have been doing and continue to do as they discuss who to run for president in 2020.

Between now and 2020, there are more pressing matters to attend to than who to run for president four years down the road. Instead of discussing who they want to run for president in 2020, Democrats need to be discussing who they want to run as their congressmen in 2018. Instead of taking aim at Trump from afar, Democrats need to focus their efforts on radical candidates like Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, who wants to take away his constituents’ health care, or Congressman Dave Joyce, who refuses to show up to town halls to address the needs of his district.

Instead of hoping for Trump to get impeached and beating Mike Pence in 2020, Democrats need to pay attention to take back their city councils and school boards through a true grassroots effort.

By talking about candidates for the 2020 presidential election this early on, Democrats are shooting themselves in the foot. As of recent, the Democrats have gotten into the bad habit of becoming voters who only turn out to the polls every presidential election. This mentality is self-harmful, and 2020 talk only reinforces such a conception among Democrats.

Democrats want change — not only for their party but also for their country. The change we ask of is not radical nor excessive: We want people to earn a fair wage. We want our children to go to good schools, and we want our environment to be respected.

If Democrats want to see these changes implemented, they need to do the work. Democrats must go out and vote not only in presidential elections, but also at midterm elections, as well as state, county and local elections.

When an entire political party only comes out to the polls every four years, they may be able to elect a president, but by not voting in midterm elections like in 2010 and 2014, they restrict the ability of the president and reduce a potential farm of competent grassroots candidates.

Had Barack Obama been supported by more Democratic voters in 2010 and 2014 — had he had a Democratic Congress to assist him in these years — our country would be in a far better state.

The 2020 election will be consequential and exciting. Democrats have every reason to be ready for this election. However, it will happen when it happens.

Discussion of 2020 candidates should be reserved for late 2019 and 2020 itself. When the Democrats are a four-year party, America loses — as we saw in November and will continue to see.

There are bigger battles to wage than the 2020 presidential election.

The next time someone talks about drafting Michelle Obama for president in 2020, ask them what they are doing to swing their congressional district towards Democrats.

The next time someone praises a future Sanders run, enquire who they think should run for senator or governor in their state.

The next time someone says that Booker would be a great president, tell them who you think would be a great state representative. And if they don’t seem to know how to answer your question, then kindly point them in the right direction.

The center-left of America is angry, energized and beginning to mobilize — it is imperative that we build upon that.

The 2020 Democratic primary will happen when it happens. The nominee of such a primary will need support from already existing grassroots and local, statewide and federal office holders.

Democrat John Kerry lost the presidency to Republican George W. Bush in 2004. Democrats did not start seriously considering people to run for 2008 until at least 2006. As Kerry conceded the presidency to Bush in November 2004, an Illinois state senator was in the process of resigning from his seat.

He just won his first election to the Senate, and his name was Barack Obama.

In 2004, nobody outside of Illinois knew who Barack Obama was. Four years later, he rose to take the presidency. A Democratic star will rise; Democrats just must be patient and build up a party network to support them as they find their way to the national stage.

The next time someone floats the name of Clinton, Gillibrand, O’Malley, Brown, Booker, Sanders or Warren, kindly tell them to stop because there are more crucial matters to attend to – tell them there is work to be done.

Brian DiPaolo is the historian of the College Democrats, contact him at [email protected].