A Look at the Talent in the Room

Image by René DeAnda.

The case can be made that there are five—and only five—reasons why anyone runs for U.S. president. In ascending order, going from most frivolous to least frivolous, here are those reasons:

1. Nothing more than a glorified, masturbatory “stunt” to get your name in the news and, later, when you’re dead, have it mentioned in your obituary. So instead of saying something like, “former Eagle Scout,” or “once bowled perfect 300 game,” your obit will include, “once ran for U.S. president.” (“Look, kids…grandpa was almost president.”)

2. Realizing you have no chance of winning, you nonetheless hang in there for as long as possible, milking it for everything you can, convinced that the exposure itself—even with zero viability as a candidate—could lead to future political office or lucrative job offers. (“Hey, aren’t you that guy who ran for president?”)

3. Because you take yourself seriously, it’s the one platform that allows your ideas or personal manifesto to see the light of day. Also, now that your opponents have you to contend with in the debates, you’re in a position to force your political party further toward or away from the center. (“I wish to remind my esteemed colleagues that we are the Party of FDR, the Party of JFK, and as Democrats we must…blah, blah, blah”)

4. Ever since you were labeled an early “front-runner,” the money has dried up, and media attention shifted. But that’s fine. You can’t admit it, but you were never in it to win. What you wanted all along was a spot on the ticket. As Nixon, Bush and Johnson showed, VP can be a stepping stone. (Reporter: “If so-and-so asked you to be his/her running mate, would you accept?” Candidate: “Absolutely not. I didn’t come here to be second best. I came here to win.”)

5. You genuinely believe you would make a good president, maybe even a great one. You want it so bad, you can taste it. Also, the media, the public, friends, associates, your coterie of advisors and speech writers all seem to think you have a reasonable chance of winning. So you begin visualizing yourself as president. (“Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”)

By last count, there were a whopping 21 Democratic candidates in the race. Two Republicans have also filed so far, bringing the total to 23. The Republicans are William Weld, ex-governor of Massachusetts, and Donald Trump himself, who, in classic Trump fashion, filed for re-election on January 20, 2017, his first day in office.

While some people think that 23 is already way too many—that a group that size is silly, that all it does is make a mockery of the primary process—we’re not even close to a final number. Candidates continue to pour in. Arguably, we can’t be certain we’ve reached the bottom until Stormy Davis throws her hat (or other garment) in the ring.

Actually, this deal is weirder than that. Infinitely weirder. Those 23 candidates we keep hearing about are, well…simply the ones we keep hearing about. Visit the FEC (Federal Election Commission) website, and you’ll find that 683 people have already filed. It’s true. Apparently, anyone with $5,000 can register as an official presidential candidate. (Man to wife: “Should we buy that used Chevy SUV, or should I run for president?”)

Not to be dismissive or mean, but for our purposes, we need to thin out the herd. Although we’re not going to try to psychoanalyze the Democratic candidates and place them in one of our five categories, we are going to boldly pass judgement on their chances of winning.

Which is to say, Seth Moulton, Marianne Williamson, Eric Swalwell, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Tim Ryan, Andrew Yang, John Hickenlooper, Wayne Massam, and Mike Gravel need to quit. Not only won’t they win, they won’t be chosen as running mates. (Note: It’s possible that Biden or Sanders will donate cash to keep Mike Gravel in the race for as long as possible. Let’s be honest. The 88-year old Gravel makes the two of them look young and energetic.)

People have scolded me for writing off these candidates so arbitrarily, arguing that they are all intelligent, thoughtful, engaging, and articulate people. My response: So what? How does any of that matter? Donald Trump, a truculent, narcissistic jackass and pathological liar, has none of those qualities, and yet he won the election. This ain’t about virtue. It’s about politics.

So with our list having been pared down, we are left with Sanders, Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigeg, Cory Booker, Amy Klobucher, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Other than Bernie and Joe, who would never accept the offer, any of the others could conceivably, if the stars were in alignment, be offered a VP spot.

My personal pick for VP? Kamala Harris. In addition to being all the above—intelligent, thoughtful, engaging, and articulate—she is ambitious enough to see the job as a stepping stone, and therefore will have no reservations about shamelessly presenting herself as the ideal running mate, once she sees she can’t win.

As for winning the nomination, if I had to bet $1,000 on who would win, even though I’m a Bernie Sanders supporter, I’d have to say Joe Biden. Not that my past predictions have been accurate. I predicted that a young LeBron James would struggle in the NBA because he wasn’t ready yet. From what I’ve heard, he’s made a smooth transition.

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com