The 2020 presidential election is still a year and a half away. But 18 Democrats have already announced their campaigns and are beginning to monopolize the news. If you’re like me, all of this has given you 2020 fever but there’s so much 2020 news already that sometimes it can be overwhelming. This series aims to help with that. Each week, I will highlight one major piece of 2020 news. In weeks when there is no major news, the series will highlight one candidate and examine their history and platform. Join me as we descend back into the circus that is our nation’s presidential campaigns.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15) made an already large 2020 Democratic field even larger Monday night.
The 38-year-old Democratic congressman for California’s 15th district officially announced his presidential run on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” becoming the 18th Democrat to join the race.
“I see a country in quicksand, unable to solve problems and threats from abroad, unable to make life better for people here at home,” Swalwell said in an interview with Colbert.
In the on-air announcement, Swalwell touched on a number of issues, including foreign threats and student loans. However, one issue is already emerging as central in Swalwell’s campaign: gun violence.
Swalwell told Colbert that he had spoken to concerned citizens who are “afraid that they’ll be the next victim of gun violence” and who “see Washington doing nothing about it after the moments of silence.” The day after he made his announcement, Swalwell hosted a gun violence town hall in Sunrise, Fla., just 13 miles from Parkland, Fla.
Swalwell’s gun control advocacy made the news the week before he announced his candidacy. On April 3, Swalwell tweeted a recording of a death threat he received with the caption, “I’m not afraid of this guy. I’m not afraid of the NRA. I’m not afraid. No fear. #EndGunViolence.”
The recording features an unidentified man making gun noises and offering threats of death and war amidst profanity. Swalwell had recently been a vocal supporter of House legislation to expand background checks. In the video, Swalwell also advocates for banning and buying back assault weapons.
As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Swalwell received some news coverage before his campaign announcement by offering his opinions on the Mueller investigation. Though he’s still far from being a household name, that doesn’t appear to be stopping him. Swalwell seems to be relying on his progressivism, social media skills and relative youth to propel him into a national presence.
This is a similar strategy to that of recent progressive sweethearts Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke. Buttigieg, the current mayor of South Bend, Ind., has garnered a lot of attention lately for his progressive policies and calm, factual manner of speaking in direct contrast to Trump’s own unique manner of communicating. O’Rourke entered the national stage during the 2018 midterm elections with his failed but impressive challenge for Senator Ted Cruz’s seat in Texas. The months since the end of that campaign were filled with speculation over whether O’Rourke’s new national popularity would lead him to run. After his announcement earlier this year, supporters across the country quickly jumped on board, donating millions of dollars within a couple days of the announcement.
Swalwell joins this field of progressive Democrats with platforms and backgrounds similar to his. He is also another straight, white man running for the nomination of a party clamoring for diversity. Swalwell’s challenge will be to separate himself from the field by showcasing a platform and charisma that will connect with the party, particularly the party’s sizable percent of young voters who are eager for new faces and change in the political status quo. Naturally, Swalwell will have to demonstrate his ability to stand up to President Trump and his juggernaut of a voting base.