midterm elections thegrio.com
College students on the NAACP's "Vote Hard" bus tour got out the Black vote for the midterm election. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Have you even had a chance to catch your breath after the mid-term election? Well, it’s time to grab an oxygen tank because the 2020 Presidential election race is already off and running. Democratic candidates are declaring themselves at every turn, trying to get onto what is bound to be a crowded field as early as possible.

Early entrants include Senator Elizabeth Warren and the former mayor of San Antonio and Obama’s housing secretary Julian Castro. Politicos expect the ball to continue to roll with high-profile announcements from party stars like Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker and possibly even former Vice President Joe Biden.

One of the major reasons for these early announcements is the race to get the money. As more and more Democratic candidates pledge to reject Super PAC money, it becomes increasingly important to line up big dollar donors as soon as possible that can provide early funding to their campaigns.

The media also seems to be waiting with baited breath for the next candidate to declare so they can pontificate endlessly on a cable news loop about why they will win or lose.

But what’s missing in all the frenzy is the acknowledgement that the 2020 nominee for the Democratic Party will not be based on media speculation, cable news analysis or social media hits. The nominee will be the one that knows how to tap into the new face of the party. The mid-term election showed us that voters want something very different today and the first candidate to figure that out will win the nomination.

A conversation specifically around African-American voters, especially Black women will be paramount to any candidate’s success. According to Pew Research, African-Americans voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates in the 2018 mid-term elections with African-American women posting a huge 92 percent turnoutHow many times do we as Black women have to say, we are the highest percentage of consistent voters in the party? How many times do we have to beg for attention? We will not beg any longer to have our issues addressed.

So how should we go about assessing the 199 candidates that will come forward seeking the nomination and our votes? According to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes we must “block out the noise” and he is absolutely correct.

I believe Black voters must assess each candidate based on the four P’s:

1) Policy: Candidates must be clear and unambiguous about what they stand for and what they will do when it comes to both foreign and domestic policy. America is at a very tenuous place in terms of our standing in the world. We have lost our status. How will the candidate rebuild our image, repair relationships with our allies and make sure we’re once again driving global foreign policy for the betterment of all? And when it comes to domestic policy, no longer can we allow candidates to use the “rising tide lifts all boats” argument. What will they do specifically to strengthen voters and communities. Today’s voters are diverse and have real concerns about race and equity issues that must be addressed.
2) Past: The record of each candidate must be evaluated and compared to their policy platforms of today. What have they done that they are proud of and more importantly, how can they acknowledge missteps and mistakes and learn from them? Can they be honest, open and clear to voters and not fall back on generic sound bites and talking points?
3) Partner: Candidates need to give indicators of who they would pick as a running mate much earlier than in previous cycles. Even if they don’t provide a name, they need to be crystal clear about what type of person they would select and why. This helps voters to see what the future of the party could look like beyond the current candidate. We have seen from past elections that the selection of a running mate can either doom a campaign or make no difference at all. We need a Vice Presidential candidate that bolsters the ticket.
4) Presence: In the era of social media, cable news hits and endless televised debates and townhalls, a candidate’s presence is increasingly important. However, presence is also about how candidates engage in retail politics—interacting with voters from the suburbs, rural districts and communities of color that are struggling for survival. The Democratic candidate needs to show that they are comfortable in a variety of circumstances. We don’t need candidates that are unable to stand on the world’s stage and command the respect of others. Been there, done that, and we don’t need to do it ever again.

Democratic voters of 2020, you will have a significant amount of work to do over the next year and a half.

Take it seriously.

This is no longer a game.

Do your homework, get clear about what matters to you, and find the candidate that speaks to your issues and values. And stop looking for the titular leader of the party and just look in the mirror.

It’s you.

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Che Watkins served most recently as the President and CEO of The Center for Working Families in Atlanta, Georgia and has focused her work on improving communities of color and systems change. She is a proud Spelman College grad, Democratic Super Voter and political strategist. Follow @chewatkins.