By EVAN WOLF
When you hear about candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, a list of names likely flashes into your head. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, and many more are all possible contenders for 2020. Some have already announced their candidacy, while for others an announcement is imminent.
However, a name that is almost always overlooked is that of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. Brown is an interesting and underrated character in Democratic politics, particularly at the national stage. Like Bernie Sanders, he is a progressive who focuses on economic issues like good jobs and fair wages. Like Joe Biden, he is folksy and appeals to moderate, blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt.
Not to mention that he has a proven record of winning elections in the Republican-leaning swing state of Ohio. In 2016, Trump won the state by 9 points. In 2018, Brown won his election for a third term by 7 points, even though a Republican won the gubernatorial race in the same election cycle.
Sherrod Brown’s authenticity and positive populist beliefs have the potential to appeal to progressives and moderates alike, making him one of the best Democratic candidates seeking the nomination in 2020.
Sherrod Brown holds many beliefs popular among the Left, but he delivers those ideas in an even-handed way, unlike more firebrand progressives such as Elizabeth Warren, who might not do as well with blue-collar workers in the Rust Belt. In a recent interview with NPR, Brown stated that Democrats are faced with a false choice “[to] speak to the progressive base, or speak to working class families regardless of race. I think you need to do both.”
He also places a significant emphasis on workers in the United States. He supports labor unions and some tariffs, while opposing NAFTA. “We need to put workers first in this conversation. Not tax cuts for the rich first, not deregulation first,” Brown said in the same interview.
It is because of this pragmatic yet ambitious approach that Brown could be a very successful candidate for the general election in 2020, as he might be able to sway both moderate Trump voters who prioritize economic issues, while generating high turnout in urban cities in swing states such as Detroit, Charlotte, Milwaukee, or Miami.
Brown also presents a balance between more establishment candidates and more left-wing candidates, as he holds Bernie-esque progressive beliefs, yet has a significant amount of experience in politics fighting for those beliefs. His political career began in 1975, and has served as an Ohio State Representative, Ohio Secretary of State, Congressman, and now Senator. It is because of this record that Brown can balance out the inexperienced Donald Trump but also provide a fresh alternative from a well-known, experienced politician like Joe Biden.
Despite all these upsides, there is always the argument that Brown- a bland, sixty-six-year old white guy- is too old and “boring” for a party that is growing increasingly young and racially diverse. Data suggests that Democratic voters want a “new face” and the question remains if Brown is the new face voters want. There is also the chance that he might be overshadowed by more well-known and charismatic candidates such as Biden, Sanders, O’Rourke, or Harris.
However, there is nothing that suggests that Brown could not change this state of affairs and increase his name recognition before the primary season heats up. In my opinion, he is not bland. His speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, for example, was well-delivered, well-received, and perfectly communicated Brown’s values of putting people first. Unlike Trump, Brown does not claim to fight for the economically disadvantaged in a stump speech, then go behind closed doors to give his wealthy donors tax breaks once he’s in office.
Brown hardly has any wealthy donors to give tax breaks to in the first place. According to Open Secrets, his top contributor from 1991-2018 is not a lobbying group or dirty energy industry. It’s the Ohio State University, who has given him about $370,000 in total. His second-place contributor? The League of Conservation Voters, which is an environmental advocacy group. Sherrod Brown is bought out by no one, and has made a career out of supporting the people of his state.
A progressive populist that communicates effectively to workers and has a proven record of practicing what he preaches would be the perfect Democratic nominee in 2020. Whether or not that nominee will turn out to be Sherrod Brown remains to be seen. However, if Democrats want to win, they should learn from his ability to communicate to liberals and Trump supporters alike.