By Michael J. Cozzillio and Craig N. Moore
As each day dawns, it becomes apparent that President Donald Trump could rise from his self-created maelstrom, win a second term, and infect the polity with four more years of national malaise.
The source of our pessimism is that his base — we grow nauseated at the term — is solid. It has one candidate and, having made its unholy alliance with Trump, is plainly unconcerned about his gross inadequacy and willful denigration of his constitutional charge.
By contrast, Democrats are divided by ambition (however commendable) and a lack of esprit de corps. The party’s fractures could conceivably produce four different winners in the first four party- electoral contests theoretically designed to select a single, strong, electable candidate.
Let us candidly look the future in the eye.
Such a prospect is frightening. It evinces a formula for disaster. Now is not the time for in-fighting or more contentious debate.
To the contrary, now is precisely the time for party leaders—and, more importantly, the remaining candidates–to call a halt to the internal bloodletting.
End the meaningless inconclusive squabbles. Pull the plugs on the candidacies dependent on life-support. Hold a summit, a retreat, a political rapprochement, whatever label you wish to assign. The agenda should be a dramatic display of self-awareness asking whether the current progression can possibly lead to a success in November.
Is each participant willing to “stand down” in the name of defeating the pretender in the White House? Are they willing to take the unprecedented step of writing off the spent campaign funding and pool their assets (including contributions and influential supporters) to select a champion?
Defeating Trump — on the assumption that he survives his Senate trial on impeachment charges — remains the only thing that matters.
Admittedly, the thought of viable candidates withdrawing and throwing support to a compromise choice at this late stage is staggering. But the reality is that just one candidate will be left standing by November. And there’s some solace to be gained in knowing that those who drop out will leave a legacy of patriotic unselfishness that will pay dividends later on.
These are troubled times. The perils of further internecine struggle are too momentous to contemplate. Regrettably, despite some relatively sanguine polls, the bloodied survivor simply has little chance to win without the unrealistic and untrammeled backing of his or her prior opponents.
Currently, the initial remonstration inevitably will be that warring factions are generally experienced, capable, well-meaning. Each is an acceptable alternative to the real actor in our current amorality play.
We would have no misgivings about casting an enthusiastic vote and offering monetary support for former Vice President Joe Biden; U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., or former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
We are similarly disposed to several latecomers such as former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and others who have dismissed any interest in the 2020 “festivities.” Their ranks include U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and the vastly underrated and under-appreciated Martin O’Malley, who have decided to take a pass for the greater good.
So where’s the rub? The inevitable tension spawned by the huge field of suitors has jeopardized the possibility of a meaningful consensus and could even portend a brokered convention.
Of greater — and more regrettable — concern is that none of the possibilities seems to have stirred the passions and aroused the participation of the sprawling Democratic base.
Although we could live with any of the Democrats’ leading candidates, we believe that the party must rationally reassess its battle plan. The Democrats have to take a mulligan before it’s too late.
All of the candidates have shown their stripes, achieved substantial success, and etched for themselves a place in history. They have already stressed their belief in and commitment to public service. Now is the time for them to demonstrate by historic action the truth of those statements. They have to set aside pride, ambition, and immediate personal gratification in the interest of a far greater public good.
Assuming that our incredible reverie became reality, the persistent question is, who should emerge from the summit as the standard-bearer?
There’s only one acceptable alternative: the dynamic former mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu.
Landrieu’s record as Louisiana’s former lieutenant governor and as chief executive of its biggest city is replete with examples of courage, dedication, leadership and unparalleled vision. His ability to raise the city from the depths of despair and negativity in trying times is testament to his administrative acumen and his skill at coalescing various factions into a unified force in rehabilitating a strife-ridden metropolis.
He is an engaging, intelligent, urbane agent of change whose vigorous yet tempered zeal for progress is prudent in approach but uncompromising in principle.
But nothing speaks more eloquently than a comparison of his now legendary monuments speech, standing up to the bitter apologists of the Lost Cause and recognizing the Confederacy for what it was.
It is “must hearing and viewing” for all Americans, and a dagger to the heart of the nonsensical, self-indulgent drivel emanating from the White House. His unwillingness to indulge the NRA and its venal gun-manufacturing cronies is further evidence of his reluctance to roll over for over-monied special interests.
Without doubt, if Landrieu were to head the ticket, some legitimate concerns may surface. The absence of a person of color or woman at the helm could be viewed as a slap at diversity and a regrettable step backward in the wake of former President Barack Obama’s majestic victory and monumental leap forward and Hillary Clinton’s winning over a majority of the nation’s voters
Given the poor showings of U.S. Sens. Corey Booker, D-N.J.; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. and Patrick’s too-tardy entry, it’s time to set aside the allure of identity politics and focus on the principle objective of ridding ourselves of Trump. The ticket can be balanced, of course, by the nominee’s choice of running mate.
To be sure, we cannot ignore the message sent and received in 2018. Women and people of color have been ignored far too long.
Obama’s success and restoration of dignity to the presidency and Hillary Clinton’s near miss should have buried the pathetic cynicism about minority and female worthiness as deeply as the revolting and preposterous comments that blacks could not be quarterbacks or managers.
Yet, the battle has only begun. And the party must commit itself to exorcise the demons of a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic past. But, for the sake of the nation’s future, let us put forth a ticket that may or may not look exactly like we do, but without equivocation demonstrates the passion, raison d’etre and vision to advance the causes of our historically disenfranchised masses.
So take 15 minutes to listen to, and ponder, one of the five most courageous and eloquent speeches of our generation.
Landrieu delivered this stirring oratory to a potentially hostile audience in the middle of the former Confederacy. His ability to confront the evils of the southern rebellion and simultaneously recognize the many virtues of New Orleans and citizenry below the Mason-Dixon line, demonstrated an uncanny appreciation of the often conflicting characteristics of pride and self-effacement.
Most refreshing, and of greatest significance, he manifested the ability to “tell it like it is” with dignity, candor, sensitivity, and a notable absence of rancor, name-calling, narcissism, and pettiness.
It would not mark the first time that a magnificent speech helped to catapult the speaker to the White House, as was the case with Obama in 2008.
Perhaps, the Democrats can once again open their eyes and ears to reality.
Michael J. Cozzillio, is a former partner at Akin, Gump, Strauss Hauer & Feld and former member of the faculty at Catholic University School of Law as well as Widener Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg. Craig N. Moore is a criminal defense attorney. Their work appears occasionally on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.