Making the click-through worthwhile: While Tim Ryan’s presidential campaign proved to be not all that consequential, the reaction of Democrats to what he was saying is extremely consequential; why John Durham is now the most interesting man in the world; and a big name hopes to drop in for the fifth game of this year’s World Series.
Tim Ryan Mattered After All, Just Not the Way He Intended
I’m going to attempt the impossible: I’m going to try to make Tim Ryan’s departure from the presidential race interesting. You probably forgot about him; he certainly wasn’t a whirling dervish of raw political charisma, and his arguments rarely stood out in the teeming crowd of candidates. But even if Ryan’s candidacy fades to the insignificance of a footnote in the story of the 2020 presidential election, the fact that Ryan was so thoroughly ignored and dismissed by the rest of his party is indeed significant.
Here’s a guy who doesn’t just represent the demographic that Democrats lost to Trump in 2016, he embodies it: a 40-something white guy from the Youngstown area who hunts, hates China’s guts because he thinks it steals jobs, and supports natural gas plants because they create union jobs. He wanted a gradual approach to Medicare for All, thinks you can’t pay for health care for illegal immigrants while Americans pay for their own, and when people started complaining about tax breaks to lure Amazon’s headquarters, he declared, “I would love to have Amazon’s HQ2 in northeast Ohio. We need the jobs . . . We need the free enterprise system. If we’re going to try to compete with China, if we’re going to try to innovate our way to reduce carbon in the United States, we need the innovation and entrepreneurship of the free market, we can’t be hostile to business.”
Trumble County, Ohio, voted for Trump, 51 percent to 45 percent, over Hillary Clinton. When reporters want to talk to blue-collar union members who voted for Obama twice and then voted for Trump, they go to Trumble County. About 45,000 people in Ryan’s congressional district voted for both him and Trump in 2016.
Tim Ryan was probably the least wealthy Democrat running for president; according to financial disclosure forms required of members of Congress, his net worth ranged from just under $65,000 to $48,998. He’s a populist who’s done his research, noting in speeches that eighty percent of venture capital goes to three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. (The most recent figures I can find suggest 82 percent goes to four, which includes Texas.) He could echo Trump’s rhetoric sometimes — “We collectively should be helping the people who have gotten screwed for the last 30 years, and not apologize for it.”
To the extent Ryan got any attention in this race, it was as an ambassador from the rural Midwest, trying to explain his strange and alien culture to the rest of the party: “I think Donald Trump is a complete slimeball, but he doesn’t want to take my job, or take my health insurance. My friends work at GM, in the building and construction trade. These are the guys I drink beer with. I know ‘em. These positions [the rest of the Democrats] are taking are untenable with the vast majority of them.”
Around here, the usual suspects who read the headline but not the rest of the article will scoff that Ryan sounds like a Republican and should run in that primary. Never mind that Ryan is completely pro-choice, denounced the Trump administration’s treatment of children crossing the border, and changed his mind on universal background checks and lost his ‘A’ rating from the NRA. He wanted to ban states from enacting Right-to-Work laws and Janus v. AFSCME. (There goes any hope of a National Review endorsement.) His September 24 statement on impeachment consisted of two sentences: “President Trump is a mobster. We must impeach.” Heck, the guy wrote a book on yoga. He’s voted with the Trump administration position 18 percent of the time. If Tim Ryan isn’t considered a “real” Democrat, it means the criteria for being a Democrat is now set entirely by the Woke Twitter crowd.
Some of Ryan’s ideas don’t fit neatly into any ideological category. He wants a mental health counselor in every American school. He’s a big fan of the Department of Veterans Affairs Whole Health Program, which evaluates a veteran’s work environment, relationships, diet, sleep patterns, etc. and wants it made available to every veteran. He noted that 60 percent of federal agricultural subsidies go to farms growing corn and other grain, but less than half of one percent goes toward fruits and vegetables, a factor that helps shape American dietary habits.
Oddly enough, the more the race wore on, the more Ryan had to argue that where he was from and who he represented should matter to the Democratic party: “I don’t think there’s anybody running in this race who understands people in this region better than I do. They are going to be essential to compete against Donald Trump.”
The strategic value of nominating a candidate like this was clear: If a guy with this kind of background could win back a bunch of votes in Ohio, what are the odds he could do the same in Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin and Iowa? Maybe even move the numbers a bit in Florida and North Carolina? Ryan could win back the guys in the union halls without alienating the white-collar suburban soccer moms.
By the strict criteria of “to win back voters who we lost the last cycle,” Tim Ryan was one of the candidates who made the most sense for the Democrats, not the least. And this guy just barely qualified for the first debate with that threshold of one percent. In that debate, he argued, “we have got to change the center of gravity of the Democratic Party from being coastal and elitist and Ivy League, which is the perception, to somebody from the forgotten communities that have been left behind for the last 30 years, to get those workers back on our side.”
The Democratic party as a whole was just not interested in what Ryan had to say. And maybe the rest of the 2020 cycle will demonstrate that they didn’t need to listen. Trump has plenty of his own problems.
But if Trump is reelected with an electoral college map that looks similar to 2016, will the Democrats whack their foreheads and think, “we should have listened to Tim Ryan?”
Get John Durham a Dos Equis, Because He’s Becoming the Most Interesting Man in the World
This may be huge news, or it may not live up to the hype and expectations. For now, just see it as one more step on a long path: “Justice Department officials have shifted an administrative review of the Russia investigation closely overseen by Attorney General William P. Barr to a criminal inquiry, according to two people familiar with the matter. The move gives the prosecutor running it, John H. Durham, the power to subpoena for witness testimony and documents, to convene a grand jury and to file criminal charges.”
The idea from a lot of Trump fans is that the entire 2016 investigation into his campaign was driven by a bunch of partisans who wanted to smear Trump with false charges of being a Russian stooge. The notion of a vast left-wing conspiracy targeting a president is a huge accusation, and not to be made or taken lightly.
Shortly after leaving his positions, former CIA director John Brennan declared that Trump committed “treason.” Former National Director of Intelligence James Clapper declared that Putin “knows how to handle an asset, and that’s what he’s doing with the president.” Former FBI director James Comey declared, “I liken President Trump in the book to a forest fire. Going to do tremendous damage” and explained his decisions during the campaign by saying, “I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump.”
This year, many Democrats and Trump critics were surprised when Robert Mueller’s extensive, lengthy and thorough investigation couldn’t find the evidence to back up the accusations about collusion with Russia. It’s easy to believe that, at minimum, a dangerous partisan groupthink was at work at the highest levels of our government. Everybody in charge of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies figured Trump just had to be a foreign agent or a crook, that if they looked hard enough, they would find the evidence, that his nomination by the GOP was a historical accident and that he would never end up president.
Our justice system is not perfect. As the old saying goes, a prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich. Until a conviction, this is all just someone’s accusation of what happened. But the fact that Durham thinks crimes were committed does indeed matter.
You’re inevitably going to hear somebody arguing that John Durham has some sort of partisan axe to grind. Funny, no one made these accusations when Durham was uncovering and prosecuting cops who were on the take for Whitey Bulger, nailing a GOP Connecticut governor on corruption charges, or investigating the destruction of waterboarding tapes at the Central Intelligence Agency. Durham is extraordinarily respected among his peers, has a sterling record as a prosecutor, and almost never speaks to the press. He’s exactly the kind of guy you would want investigating something as delicate and consequential as this.
Meanwhile, on the Baseball Diamond . . .
The White House announced President Trump plans to attend Game Five of the World Series at Nationals Park in the nation’s capital. Today, every Democrat started rooting for a sweep so the series ends in Game Four. Then again, they’re always rooting for Washington to prevail over a bunch of opposing Texans.
For some of us, this series is a win-win. Washington has a great and inspiring comeback story this season, but if the Astros win, viewers at home will at least get lots of happy reaction shots of Kate Upton.
ADDENDUM: This week’s The Editors podcast is not a rerun — even though we are discussing three topics that never seem to change — an effort to impeach President Trump, Joe Biden hanging onto a lead in the Democratic primary despite stumbles, and a British Parliament that can’t seem to decide on Brexit.