The field of Democrats aspiring to be their party’s presidential nominee resembles what the Republican field of four years ago would have been, had Donald Trump not entered the race.
With more than 20 contenders, Democrats have had to break up their first two presidential debates into two sets of ten candidates, each airing on consecutive evenings in June and July. Likewise, the Republicans had too many candidates for one stage in the 2016 contest. But they had the benefit of having one candidate who was both leading in the polls and who stood for a stark new direction for the party.
Trump rendered irrelevant all of the ideological bickering and philosophical fine-tuning of his rivals. Was Ted Cruz libertarian enough to win votes from Rand Paul? Was Paul reassuring enough to religious voters to win them from Cruz? Was the most electable candidate—at least in the eyes of the party establishment—the fresh-faced Marco Rubio or the heir to the Bush dynasty, Jeb? Did Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker mix just the right amount of ideological purity and executive experience to break through? None of that mattered. Instead of having to refurbish a dilapidated political brand, Republicans were handed a new set of themes and a new approach to winning elections (particularly in the Rust Belt) by Trump, who demonstrated from the start that he had enough voters behind him to realize his transformation of the party.
Without a catalyst like...