Here's how uncertain the 2020 Democratic campaign has become: when a television interviewer invited centrist candidate John Hickenlooper to embrace capitalism, he didn't know what to say.
That Hickenlooper's life and career plainly embrace capitalism – as a small-business owner and Colorado's governor – isn't the point. By stammering at what was a no-brainer question in recent presidential history, he showed traditional guideposts for the Democratic race as outdated as paper maps.
Basic questions no longer have obvious answers. Start with the party's relationship to the broader electorate.
Former Vice President Joe Biden began seeking the presidency during the late 1980s when Democrats worried if they could ever pick the "Republican lock" on the White House. That elevated the importance of moderation and reassurance, hallmarks of the "Uncle Joe" persona his supporters tout today.
But candidates newer to the national stage have grown accustomed to Democrats as the presumptive majority, popular vote winners in six of the last seven presidential contests. That confidence encourages more combative candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to fight rather than soothe.