After months of uncertainty and speculation, we are entering the phase of the process that will produce the person who will run against US President Donald Trump in November’s election, as the mist clears in the Democratic camp. Dozens of candidates have now been narrowed down to four main likely contenders. They do not include former vice president Joe Biden, who had been considered the strongest front-runner but saw his popularity wane.
With his potential departure down the road, Greece and Cyprus will lose a friend, one of just a handful of influential American politicians who know the issues that matter to Greece, the people and the situation on the ground, who have visited Athens and Nicosia, and have worked with both countries and their diasporas in an honest and sincere manner. An enduring bond with the Greek-American community had created effective channels of communications, allowed numerous useful interventions and eased the path during tough times, both publicly and behind the scenes.
His apparent diminishing popularity among the Democratic ranks is not a welcome development for Greece and is something we will have to come to terms with. That’s the beauty – and the curse – of the primaries in the US: that everything can change from one day to the next, that the front-runner can be ejected from the lead by previously unknown candidates.
After nearly half a century in politics, 78-year-old Biden’s prospects look bleak. The hard truth is that even though he was an excellent vice president and served as senator for six consecutive terms, he has failed to grab the presidential nomination three times. He lost it to Mike Dukakis in 1988 and Barack Obama in 2008, and now it looks like he’ll lose it again. He’s still got South Carolina to look forward to in 10 days’ time, but after the results in Iowa and New Hampshire, there’s little to hope for.
The “day after” is starting to look clearer as the Democrats head toward November’s election. The 79-year-old independent Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist – something that doesn’t sit well with the American political establishment – represents the party’s left flank. Iowa’s winner, 38-year-old ex-mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Minnesota’s moderate senator Amy Klobuchar – who had a surprisingly good showing in New Hampshire – represent the center.
And then there is former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, the fourth of the main contenders. For decades a Democrat, Bloomberg took the mayorship as a Republican, then went independent and has now returned to the Dems. A tycoon worth more than 60 billion dollars and with a progressive agenda on a range of social issues, from multiculturalism to climate change, his candidacy has stirred reaction at the base of the Democrats, as they fight against inequality.
The big risk for the Democrats is a rift between the left and the moderates, though the profound desire to defeat Trump may serve as the glue needed to maintain unity.
As far as Greek interests are concerned, Athens and the diaspora need to focus on the four contenders, pick the key issues and spot the officials that they will be able to approach down the line. The sooner bridges are built, the stronger they will be when they're needed.