Dear former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, Colorado senator Michael Bennet, Montana governor Steve Bullock, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, and congressmen Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, Eric Swallwell . . .
No one else will say this to you, so I will say it. There’s no need for you to “throw your hat into the ring” or “dip your toe into the water” or form an exploratory committee. Despite the polite nods of your staff and the vaguely positive mumbled responses from your family at the dinner table, there really isn’t a mass of Democrats clamoring for you to enter the race. There are no Democratic primary voters looking at the 17 announced candidates and lamenting, “I just feel like I don’t have enough options.”
It’s understandable that you would look at the current president and some of the already-announced Democratic field and say, “Why not me?” With Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, and Julian Castro, the Democratic field is two young guys short of looking like a late-90s boy band. Yes, I know how infuriating it must be to get elected statewide, actually get some legislation passed, sign some bills into law, and watch the rest of your party go “Ooh! Ahh!” over the mayor of South Bend, some garage-band guitarist who had $80 million and couldn’t beat Ted Cruz, and some tech-company guy who’s talking about circumcision. Yes, you’re younger than Bernie Sanders. Everybody’s younger than Bernie Sanders.
It isn’t really your fault. In a normal political environment, being a governor or senator of a purple state would automatically get people to take you seriously. But the barriers to entry in the presidential race got too low and the consequences of running and not succeeding became too easy to shrug off. There used to be a joke that every senator looked in the mirror and saw a president staring back at them. Now nearly 13 percent of the Senate Democrats are running for president. Bennet, if you jump in, it’s goes up to almost 15 percent.
Senator Bennet, you seem like a good guy; like you, I too slam my head on the desk when someone talks about expanding the size of the Supreme Court. But you wouldn’t even be the first Coloradan in the primary field. So far, it’s not clear that there’s going to be much of a “moderate lane” in this primary, and you and John Hickenlooper would be competing for the same pool of voters, probably splitting that limited fraction of the primary electorate and canceling each other out. Sorry, Governor Bullock, Congressman Ryan, that goes for you, too.
Governor McAuliffe, you should be proud that you’ve shocked us all by being the least embarrassing and controversial Virginia governor elected since 2009. But fairly or not, you’re seen as part of the Clinton crowd and nobody’s clamoring for that restoration.
Mayor De Blasio, if the country gets invaded by dangerous, feral groundhogs, you’ll be the first guy we call. Until then, stay out and stop taking meat way from schoolkids’ lunches.
There’s no getting around the fact that you’re all white guys in a party that’s increasingly consumed by identity politics. Much better-known figures than you, like Joe Biden and O’Rourke, are in the awkward position of apologizing for their skin color and sex and saying things like, “a white man’s culture. It’s got to change. It’s got to change” — which makes one wonder why the best way to change “a white man’s culture” would be to elect another white man.
Congressman Moulton, you’d be the second candidate from Massachusetts in this primary; Swalwell, you’d be the second candidate from California, the third if you count Marianne Williamson. We already have House members running, such as Tulsi Gabbard and Mike Delaney. Stop believing that you’ll build name ID once you’re running. Delaney’s been running for president since 2017 and he’s still getting less noticed than some people in the Witness Protection Program.
Look, gentlemen. I’m not a Democrat. I’m extraordinarily unlikely to vote for your party’s nominee in 2020. You have every right to dismiss this as “Jim just doesn’t want to have to write up a ’20 things’ article about me, despite the fact that I’m so inherently fascinating.” But this means I have no rooting interest in this primary and can call them as I see them. Even a clown car has a maximum safe capacity.