MIAMI—On one side of the street stood a group of Republicans waving a Donald Trump flag under a giant banner that declared SOMOS CAPITALISTA. On the other idled an ice-cream truck that had been commandeered by Joe Biden superfans offering free cones of “Biden-berry blue,” noting the flavor is “Obama’s favorite too!” When the moon is full and the tide is high, this street often floods, a sign of what climate change is doing to this city. Down the block sits the opera house, the scene of the Democratic presidential debates, with a set optimistically decorated to show the candidates standing in front of the White House.
Here, Democrats are trying to figure out not just who their 2020 nominee will be, but what their party is going to be. These debates may resemble a carnival, but they’re also an advertisement for what the party is trying to achieve: fresh policy ideas, some even tethered to plans for how to execute them, put forward by a group of accomplished people from a diverse array of life experiences, ideologies, and backgrounds. These debates are like the beginning of the pupa stage for the Democratic metamorphosis to come.
Yesterday was the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Germany. It also marked four years since the afternoon Barack Obama sang “Amazing Grace” at the memorial service for Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine people murdered by a white supremacist at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. That same morning, the Supreme Court had legalized gay marriage nationwide, and the morning before had upheld Obamacare as constitutional—two moments that made it feel, to many who worked for Obama then, as if his whole presidency was suddenly coming together. After the service, the president’s helicopter, Marine One, landed back at a White House lit up in rainbow colors. A party roared across the street in Lafayette Park all night.