Daniel Suddeath

Daniel Suddeath

The Democratic primary for president is shaping up to be chaotic, crowded and convoluted. 

It's also reminiscent of the Republican field ahead of the 2016 election. 

Though he's popular among most Republicans, especially in Kentucky, President Donald Trump had to overcome a sizable number of GOP opponents to win the 2016 Republican nomination and ultimately the November general election that year. 

Republicans were hungry to gain back the Oval Office after President Barack Obama's eight-year stay in the White House. Dozens of politicians either entered the race or mulled over the possibility of running in the GOP primary. 

Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, John Kasich — the list of 2016 GOP presidential candidates included extremely conservative lawmakers, borderline libertarians and moderate Republicans. 

Then there was the divisive back-and-forth between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, or as Trump labeled him, "Lyin' Ted." 

It was an ugly episode for the Republican Party, but despite the Cruz-Trump showdown, the GOP was ultimately successful in its bid to win the presidency. 

So we find ourselves in a similar situation as we build up to 2020. The parties are different, but the scenario is quite familiar. 

Republicans despised Obama. Democrats feel the same about Trump. While Republicans couldn't defeat Obama, they did use rhetoric against him and his policies to drum up support in the 2016 election. 

Democrats are attempting to do the same against Trump, though there's been some criticism that the field is too crowded, and that Democrats don't have a consistent message. 

Until Trump won the primary, Republicans didn't have a consistent message in 2016. While there's some logic to the mindset of getting everyone in your party on the same page, primaries allow for discussions about ideals. There's room in a party for disagreements as long as there's consensus when a candidate is chosen for the general election. 

The problem with Democrats in 2016 was that, while there were fewer serious contenders for the party nomination compared to the GOP, many Bernie Sanders supporters couldn't get behind Hillary Clinton. Also, many voters who helped Obama win two elections didn't cast a ballot in 2016. That's a recipe for defeat. 

Yes, it is hard to watch debates with 10 people standing on a stage talking over each other. I'm exaggerating, but it doesn't make for good television. It's also hard to glean much from debates when candidates are more interested in getting a quick shot in on their opponents than discussing realistic policies for improving our country. 

But the Democratic field isn't weak just because it's crowded. Trump proved in 2016 that winning a packed primary can provide a powerful boost for a candidate heading into the November rundown. 

And it will only get uglier. The spat between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden over the former vice president's views on busing is just a preview of what's to come as we get closer to the 2020 primaries. 

It's conceivable that Democratic strategists cringed when Harris and Biden squared off in last week's debate, much like Republican strategists shook their heads when Trump and Cruz exchanged barbs. 

But that's the nature of primaries. We had a similar situation in Kentucky in the Democratic gubernatorial primary race in May. Candidates will seek advantages and sometimes that requires rolling up their sleeves and slinging some dirt. 

And what goes around comes around. Whether it's Harris, Biden or any other candidate, everyone has made mistakes or questionable decisions, and we'll certainly hear all about those over the next 16 months. 

Primaries also bring out arguments over ideals. As voters, we have to realize that many of the proposals made by candidates while they're seeking office will never come to fruition. 

All that said, the 2020 race could be a game-changer for the Democratic Party. There are elements of the party that are moderate, and are more likely to work across the aisle with Republicans on some issues. 

There are others who are far left and want the party to move in a new direction. If a more liberal candidate wins the Democratic nomination, it will be interesting to see how they fare in the general election and how that shapes the future of the party. 

While legislation over climate change, slavery reparations and tax relief for lower income citizens is popular in more heavily populated cities and states, the presidential race has historically come down to winning in moderate areas. Basically, what's well received in California may not garner a candidate enough votes to carry a swing state like Ohio. 

Politics is ultimately a game. What it takes to win a game isn't always pretty. 

Suddeath is the editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. His column appears weekly. Reach him at 270-678-5171, or by email at dsuddeath@glasgowdailytimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @DsuddeathGDT.