Happy New Year, possibly?

Happy 2019, but don’t count on it.

Don’t count on the new year being an especially happy one because it’s the year before a presidential election year. Nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished in an election year and next to nothing is accomplished in the year before. 

That doesn’t mean the year won’t be eventful. Donald Trump’s many problems may be resolved and there are signs the resolutions will not be happy ones for the president.

They could lead to his impeachment, his resignation or his reelection.

Then there’s the economy.

And let’s not forget the 20 or 30 Democrats running for president and making a mess of the process. We do not know who the next president will be but we are going to have to listen to dozens of men and women who expect to be inaugurated two years from the week after next.

As in most recent years before the actual election year, we will get things started by paying undue attention to the states of New Hampshire and Iowa. (Bet you can’t remember who won the “all important” Iowa primary: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tied in the Democratic race and the ever-popular Ted Cruz was the Republican winner.)

Those 20 to 30 plausible and implausible candidates will soon join the hearty few who are already giving Iowa and New Hampshire voters the misimpression that they are vital cogs in the democratic process. This time, we will have to pay attention to both the plausible and implausible varieties because of the success of the implausible Donald Trump candidacy in 2016.  

And speaking of Trump, he is expected — at this point in time — to be the nominee of his party. If that doesn’t happen or even if it does, he or his successor, temporary President Pence, will most assuredly be challenged by not only the 20 or 30 Democrats but by an unknown number of Republicans, depending on whether the incumbent is Trump or Pence. Then there’s the possibility of a third-party candidate emerging who could be the most exciting member of this species since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, or just another spoiler.  

And speaking of spoiling, the Democrats can do just that to their chances if they don’t reduce the number of wannabe presidents in their ranks quickly and drastically.  

The best way for a party to guarantee that its best man or woman won’t win is to bury her or him. It happened to the Republican Party when too many candidates for its 2016 nomination allowed the candidate with the loudest mouth to emerge from the ponderous, overcrowded and uninformative debates and win the nomination. These aren’t actual debates, of course, they’re more like variety shows, produced for the economic gain of cable news outlets.

So, let’s not have Democratic debates until and unless there are about 26 fewer candidates than there are now. This isn’t an original proposal. It was first made by the veteran journalist Jeff Greenfield.

Writing in Politico, under a photograph of 14 blue-suited men and one blue-dressed woman assembled for an early Republican debate in the summer of 2015, Greenfield noted how things have gone downhill since 1960 when John Kennedy and Richard Nixon made the cases for their candidacies with eight-minute opening statements.

“If in fact 25 or 30 Democrats decide to run,” wrote Greenfield, “the challenge of a rational debate becomes insurmountable.” If there is a response, I haven’t seen it.

Instead of debating sound-biters, Greenfield recommends alternatives like town meetings, half-hour speeches and Q and A’s on specific topics that would better expose the candidates and inform the voters.

In that photo of 2016 Republican candidates that accompanied Greenfield’s article, Ben Carson, the only black candidate, and Carly Fiorina, the only woman, stood out. You remember Fiorina, the candidate Trump called ugly — one of the many names he called opponents to get the nomination.

Those debates started in August of 2015 but not all the candidates could always debate each other. They had to make some of them debate at the equivalent of a Sunday dinner kiddie table. With almost twice as many candidates, the Democrats will have to have two or three kiddie tables — an insult to the candidates and the voters.


Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. Email him at rahles1@outlook.com.