As befits my brand new unaffiliated voter status, I got two primary ballots in the mail last week. Six Republicans and 17 Democrats are listed on the “Official Ballot(s) for the Presidential Primary Election El Paso County Colorado March 3, 2020.” There’s a ballot for each party, but you can only fill out one. Send ’em both in, and neither will be counted.
Might as well forget the GOP ballot — no contest, no fun! But 17 Dems? I wish there were some reasonable metrics that could guide the process, some way to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Policies, debates, campaign ads, endorsements, past positions, age, height, hair color, gender, sexual orientation, verbal stumbles … my eyes glaze over.
First step: Eliminate candidates who have withdrawn or suspended their campaigns. Goodbye Andrew Yang, Michael Bennet, John Delaney, Cory Booker and Marianne Williamson. Second step: Purge the dreamer nobodies who’ve somehow got on the ballot. Adieu, Roque De La Fuente III, Robby Wells and Rita Krichevsky. Third step: Arbitrarily reduce the field to four semifinalists.
For me, that’ll be Mayor Pete, Mayor Mike, Senator Amy and Senator Liz.
“But,” as my ultraliberal friends might say (or yell), “What about Bernie?!”
He didn’t pass the song test. Ask yourself: What popular song does the candidate remind you of? For me, it’s “San Francisco,” that treacly tribute to empty-headed ’60s optimism. Remember the lyrics? “All across the nation/ Such a strange vibration/There’s a whole generation/With a new explanation.” It seems to me that Bernie’s ideas, ideals and policies are right out of some faded 1960s political tract. And just as the issues of 1920 were irrelevant 50 years later, the ideas of 1970 shouldn’t shape the politics of 2020.
So how do we rank our semifinalists? It should be a relatively simple process. As voters, we’re evaluating candidates for the most consequential, worst paid and most stressful CEO job in the world. So using metrics not unlike those of a corporate board seeking a new CEO, let’s designate the finalists.
Relevant experience: Bloomberg by a mile. He’s a brilliantly successful businessman/philanthropist and served three terms as New York City mayor. Warren’s next, with experience in both the Senate and the Obama administration, followed by Klobuchar and Mayor Pete.
Age: Warren and Bloomberg are both septuagenarians, too old to be considered by most corporate boards. At 38, Mayor Pete is three years older than Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg, while at 59, Klobuchar is within the 45-60 sweet spot for megacompany CEOs.
Skillsets: Not easily quantifiable. Mayor Pete may have the thinnest resumé, but he speaks multiple languages, served in Afghanistan, worked for McKinsey to understand business and has a deep understanding of local government. The other three are just as smart and impressive, and have decades more experience.
Net worth: Like it or not, most nationally successful politicians will have assets of $1 million or more. At over $50 billion, Bloomberg is rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Warren and her husband are worth about $12 million, Klobuchar and spouse are more than comfortable at $1.9 million and Mayor Pete, at $100,000, is comparatively broke. Should any of them become president, they’ll make $400,000 annually and be entitled to an annual pension of about $200,000.
Intangibles: Can they beat Trump? I don’t know, you don’t know and neither do the candidates. Do the voters want four more years of whirlwind and storm, or do they a return to normalcy, as Republican Warren G. Harding promised in the election of 1920? As Harding told a war-weary nation 100 years ago, “America’s present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration … not surgery but serenity.”
Harding trounced Democrat James Cox, but both vice-presidential candidates went on to greater things. Calvin Coolidge was elected president as an incumbent in 1924, having assumed the office when Harding died in 1923. The Democratic vice-presidential nominee was a charismatic 38-year-old who had served as assistant secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson — Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Does that mean we should vote for our own charismatic 38-year-old, or pair him up with the James M. Cox of today? Bernie, Joe, Liz, Mike, Amy — do you long for obscurity? Don’t choose Pete.
But since I’m foolish enough to believe in signs and portents, I guess I will.