We all have our models, prototypes, frameworks, and agendas for sorting the bus load of candidates for the Democratic nomination for president.  The categories include gender, race, generation, and experience.  Some will sort among the several women, some among the minorities, some will want young and others will want older, and then there will be the struggle over who is the most liberal/progressive, as defined by a whole basket of issues.

Let’s step back and assess the situation.  By November 2020, we will have had four years of White House and Cabinet chaos, an endless struggle over a Melvillian wall, and most of all the destruction of almost eight decades of relative solidarity among Western democracies and others over security, trade, environment, and economic stability.

This is the reality the next president will face.  He or she will have three choices: continue Trumpian isolationism; rebuild the post-World War II alliances; construct a new set of alliances addressing new realities in trade, security, environment, and economic and political stability.

The latter is the most necessary but the most difficult.  It will require the political leadership of a Roosevelt and Truman, the diplomacy of an Acheson, and the leadership of a George Marshall.  And it will be carried out against the backdrop of a daunting domestic agenda in health, education, environment, job creation, and creative regulation of markets at least as damaged during the Trumpian era as Americas stature in the world.

For a few wizened characters like me, this matrix becomes the one through which the next president must pass.  Not everyone of the many Democratic candidates is up to it.  When the presidency is seen as manager of the fiscal policy (the “economy”) of the nation, the diplomat in chief, and the commander in chief of the military forces, this narrows the field quickly.

The newest, the cutest, the funniest, the quickest wit is interesting but irrelevant.  That is not to say a new figure, a new voice, a new mind cannot be imaginative, creative, and attractive.  That was John Kennedy sixty years ago, and even he made some mistakes in the early going and in an environment much simpler that the one faced by a president today.

We will need a president who can restore America’s stature, dependability, leadership, and respectability.  We will need a president who understands the technological revolution soon to encompass driverless vehicles, artificial intelligence, and robots.  We will need a president who can negotiate arms control agreements, establish workable trade rules with China, force Russia to butt out of our politics, establish humane immigration systems, and restore some degree of fairness to our tax system.

America beyond Trump will be a study in massive damage repair but also one of enormous new opportunities not seen since the end of World War II.  Ordinary leadership skills, well beyond winning one or two Statewide elections, will be required.  The standards for selection of the Democratic candidate must be kept very high.  Not all of the many putative candidates qualify.

It will be up to caucus attendees and primary voters in all 50 States to take their task very seriously.  This is not a beauty contest or a game show quiz.  Donald Trump is creating a deep hole for our nation at home and abroad that we must climb out of.

And it must be said that the press and media should be held to account in this process.  The political press adores what has been called the “inside baseball” aspect of elections…constantly changing poll results, the race for money, who has hired the cleverest “strategist”, who has what endorsements, and on and on.  None of this really means anything in the end.

If the argument for extraordinary talent and skills made here is sound, it is all ultimately irrelevant.  Will we find the woman or man who can pull our country up by its boot straps and set us back on solid ground for a generation at least.

Beyond policy and program, our national self-definition has been seriously damaged by the incumbent’s casual relationship with the truth and his selection of cabinet members.  We are and always have been a nation of principles as set out by our Founders.  Virtually all of those principles have been abused or disregarded.  The next president must restore our first principles established in our founding documents and defining statements since then.

We face an uncommonly important national election.  It is not a game.  It is not a show.  It is about the future of America after a four year march of folly.  We must pray the best person wins for our nation and for what the Constitution calls our Progeny.

7 Responses to “Thinking About the Next Presidency”

  1. JD Kinnick Says:

    After watching “The Front Runner” I was reminded of why I proudly supported Sen. Hart in ’84 and ’88- I was one of his county chairs. Back then the DNC was a party of Strong defense, support of traditional values, patriotism, support of law enforcement, respect for the flag, etc. Since then party has tilted far left with its cries of “white privilege”, creation of “protected classes” and its attack on traditional values.

    I see Kamala Harris attacked someone over their Knights of Columbus membership. Its crazy!!!! Unless a centrist emerges I expect President Trump to be easily re-elected.


    This feels like the next important contribution in a sort of dialogue one or two of us here started, grateful for the interaction with a man I admire more than most,Gary Hart, more reliable than folk half his age, in communication online, the man who is not, wizened, rather, is wizard!!!

    I think the criteria alluded to narrows the field thus far to SenatorElizabeth Warren and…..

    I like the look of Senator Bennet and Congressman Joe Kennedy, I share the views of my fellow commentator JD here, in concern for the candidate needing centre or centre left credentials, the Labour party in the UK, is now dominated by factions and leaders unworthy of democratic mainstream, a party I could not support again unless it split completely and realigned.

    The drift off, in cities, to so called democratic socialists, sees issues such as abortion, enter the compulsory position order of preference, for the left wing as it is freverse position, for the right wing. No platform for centre right ideas, is not a liberal , nor should it be a Democrat stance, on the centre left. The universities are where liberalism or Liberalism, should prevail, as dialogue with and between democrats, which means Democrats as well as Republicans, and, especially independents.

  3. Neil McCarthy Says:

    So, what is a voter to do as he or she contemplates this most “serious” of upcoming elections?

    I think in this post Sen. Hart has written a bit of a handbook or self-help manual. It’s key is in the fourth paragraph. The solutions to our present calamity will “require the political leadership of a Roosevelt and Truman, the diplomacy of an Acheson, and the leadership of a George Marshall.”

    That’s the advice. The how to.

    In a word, the host is telling Americans to . . .



    And after we read, we should begin by testing every candidate’s knowledge of this relevant past. Do they understand how FDR rescued us from fear, or how Acheson and Marshall rescued us from a raise-the-draw-bridges isolationism, or how Truman actually invested common sense and the middle class from whence he came with real authenticity and honesty? And what would they advocate today?

    There are FDRs, Trumans, Achesons and Marshalls out there. Whether the “system” permits them to emerge is largely a matter of voters demanding they emerge.

    But first those voters have to know what they are looking for.

    So, maybe the best piece of advice for 2019, in advance of having half a chance at success in 2020, is to . . .

    Start a book club.

  4. Matthew Correia Says:

    Senator Hart,

    What do you envision as a “fair” tax system? When in America’s history(if ever) would you have considered it fair?

    I think that Bernie Sanders comes by far the closest to FDR in terms of his “new deal-esque” polices. I also see in him the same sorts of qualities you evoke from the likes of Roosevelt and Marshall.

    Bernie Sanders conviction as a great American has been misconstrued as “pushiness” even by members of his own party–along those who see some false shadow behind the vision in Bernie’s eyes, and seem to accuse him of acting somehow underhandedly.

    Elizabeth Warren would be a fine choice. But would it not be a shame for her to win after adopting many of Bernie’s policies, putting her own fresh stamp on them, and using them as the basis of her 2020 platform? These same policies which she glaringly failed to endorse during the 2016 primary race.


    Let us not forget Warren and Clinton’s 2014 meeting where Clinton initially prodded her for support. I have no doubt that SOMETHING was offered here, perhaps a supreme court seat for Warren?

    Whatever the case, I can not help but take it as a lack of conviction I take Warren’s platform(and the likes of Cortez’s success) to be the result of the work Bernie Sanders bringing a sense of true morality, a sense for the person crying “Why am I being hurt?” rather than the misguided pure care for the individual that we have seen in more “classically” liberal candidates. This sense of impersonality is what has lead Bernie Sanders to his positions and is what would make him a visionary-level president of the United States. He would transform our country in ways which we have not seen since FDR and the WW2 period.

    Warren’s lack of true realization of this, in one way or another, clouded her judgment and caused her to endorse Hillary Clinton. I am not sure how deep-seeded the issue is, but it worries me.

    PLEASE see this video of Warren floundering to explain her reasoning for endorsing Clinton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeeAoIZ8XfA

    Is this not a totally unsatisfactory answer?

    It’s obviously not a threat of DNC threat, as Tulsi Gabbard made her own stand for Bernie and she is still in office.

  5. Brian McCarthy Says:


    There is no question I will be supporting the eventual Democratic nominee and hopefully it will be someone who meets even a few of the criteria you mentioned.

    I am curious about your take on former Massachusetts Governor William Weld’s semi-declaration of a primary challenge to Trump today.

    He certainly cannot defeat Trump among rank and file Republicans with his pro-choice, pro gay rights, pro-environment record or his past endorsement of President Obama and half-endorsement of Hillary Clinton, and that’s not even mentioning his Libertarian Party flag-carrying in 2016. But many states have open primaries. If enough anti-Trump Republicans, combined with enough independents, were to vote Weld, Trump could lose a few, not many, but a few state primaries, weakening him for the general election … or am I being too hopeful about this?


  6. Martha Keys Says:

    This is one of the best pieces you’ve written. I will take it to a meeting of our progressive activists for all to read. This depth of scrutiny needs to be in the minds of all serious progressives as we begin to winnow through the long list of candidates ahead.

  7. Dave Kraus Says:

    Hello. I am a friend of Martha Keys here in Virginia. I am a member of the group she referred to in her comment. (And we have shared this blog post with our 90+ members.)

    I could not agree more with your analysis of the kind of President we need to elect in 2020. But I think that more important is that the Democrat must be able to win the election. I will not go as far as to say “Anything would be an improvement”, but we must ensure that we first elect someone who appears to stand for “right things”. Then we can encourage that person to strive for the kinds of goals you lay out. Arguably all of the announced candidates generally embrace the goals. But the eventual candidate must be able to win.

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