A Busload of Presidents

Author: Gary Hart

What can be made of two dozen or so Democratic candidates for president.

Based on recent history, one analytical approach is to sort by mini-primaries.  There might be contests by gender whereby only one or two of the six women candidates or no more than three, possibly four, of the 16 men candidates survive past the early round of caucuses and primaries.  Of the three candidates who come from minority communities, possibly only one or two will make it into the middle rounds.  There could be regional geographic sort outs…one or two from New England, the same from the Midwest, and the same from the West.

The sorting might be in money terms: the golden rule–the ones with the most gold rule.

The most effective sort will be carried out by the voters themselves.  After the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, and certainly after the now early California primary, do not expect more than four finalists to remain.  If one or two others are closely bunched in the top pack, that number could go to six but that is highly unlikely.

Selection by “identity” should take a distant second place this time.  The stakes are too high.

In the olden days (of which I am one of the last surviving veterans), failure to emerge near the top in early voting meant money dried up and the caravan ground to a halt.  To a still unclear degree, Internet fund raising has called that reality into question.  At least for a short while, less successful candidates can make dramatic pleas on social media for a few dollars more.

Then, most important of all, there is the “message”.  Among the busload, Vice President Biden, Senator Warren, and Senator Sanders have, by experience and policies, more clearly defined themselves than most of the others.  Consequently, they are at or near the top in most polls.

Points will, and should, be extracted for intra-party attacks and conflicts.  It is fair to distinguish oneself from the others.  It is not fair, in the interest of Trump removal, to foster destruction of other Democrats in that process.  Points gained for statesmanship.

But clarity will be required from all as to how to repair the historic damage to policies and institutions at home and abroad during the Trump era.

While we all, to greater or lesser degrees, seek “new leadership”, the project of national restoration will certainly require these qualities: experience nationally and internationally, statesmanship, integrity, trustworthiness, respect, stature, and gravitas.

Oxford defines gravity as: weight, importance, seriousness, and solemnity.  These qualities are experienced more than defined.  We know men or women with gravitas when we meet them.  Donald Trump will never be accused of possessing gravitas.

As an early advocate of policy specificity, policy wonks (e.g., Warren) are attractive.  As one who believes a President should be a skilled diplomat (especially post-Trump), those with the most international experience (Biden, Bennet) are also attractive.  As a future commander-in-chief, a President should be comfortable with the professional military and have its respect (Molton, Buttigieg)

Attributes such as quickness of mind and compelling rhetoric (Harris) cannot be discounted in a leader.

We have miles to go before we will select a nominee for president.  Human nature suggests most if not all the busload of candidates will be guilty of faux pas or blunder.  To err is human; to persevere is divine.

The prize and the burden should go to the man or woman warrior prepared for calumny and persecution from the Trump campaign.  It will not be fun.  But, like Roosevelt, the struggle can be happy because the cause is just…and it is historically important.

Given the unprecedented times and administration, smacking down Trump debate bullying will be necessary.

Nominations are sought and accepted.

12 Responses to “A Busload of Presidents”

  1. John Dedie Says:

    We need someone who can beat Trump BUT also govern. Biden checks my boxes. Mayor Pete I just wish had more experience. I fear Warren, Harris, Sanders etc are too liberal and will scare voters in PA, OH, MI and WI.

  2. Michael Says:

    An important yet often overlooked fact from the 2018 midterms is that, for the very first time, Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Xers voted in greater numbers than the baby boomer and earlier generations. It seems that we’ve reached a generational inflection point similar to the one that began in 1984 when Senator Hart’s candidacy inspired then young people like me to become deeply involved in the machinery of politics. Back then the difference between the old guard and the “new generation of leadership” was only about a decade. Today, the difference between Buttigieg and Biden is forty years. It’s as if Gary Hart’s establishment opponent in 1984 had been born in 1896. If that had been the case, who would have been nominated that year? Hard to know. And in any event, it is an imperfect analogy for 2020. No one can say if the level of engagement among Young people will be sustained, though I think odds are that it will be. And they seem to be at least as excited by Elizabeth Warren who is near seventy years of age as Buttigieg. So maybe it is all about ideas – about a new “New Democracy.” Senator Hart effectively lays out various sensors in this piece. It’s a scramble right now, but the only thing that seems certain is that Biden’s edge in the polls will continue to erode, and he will have at least one serious challenger able to take the nomination from him by the time the convention rolls around.

  3. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    >>>>>>Attributes such as quickness of mind and compelling rhetoric (Harris) cannot be discounted in a leader.

    Senator Hart,

    With quickness of mind, I think you are referring to her personal attack on Senator Biden during round two of the first Democratic debate.

    I believe that attack was completely pre-planned and substantively incorrect. I not sure if she even realizes that Senator Biden fully supported the bussing of that little girl from California.

    Debates with 10 candidates are no longer debates of any worth but rather opportunities for those who don’t think about the impact on the party or the country when they falsely accuse with personal attacks in an effort to boost their poll numbers.

    I find that behavior unacceptable for any leader.

  4. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    I think the Democratic nomination should go to the candidate who won’t alienate half of the country.

  5. Gary Hart Says:

    My reference to Harris had nothing to do with JB. I promise we will not have another round of for/against JB, Elizabeth. Too much else at stake in coming days. GH

  6. JD Kinnick Says:

    Sen. Hart – given the current age of President Trump(73), Sen. Bernie Sanders(77), VP Joe Biden(76), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren(70) – would you recommend one of the younger presidential candidates adopting the “new generation” theme that you and Pat Caddell successfully implemented in 1984???

    Thanks & Happy 4th!

  7. Neil McCarthy Says:

    I my lifetime, I cannot think of an odder presidential election cycle, and that includes 1968.

    It is, politically, the year of paradox. The economy at a macro level is in good shape and would create a wave of support for any normal incumbent. But Trump is not remotely normal and every day he underscores the risks of his dishonesty, narcissism, laziness and erratic approaches to policy. At another level, incumbents generally (and specifically in the case of those who are elected with less than 50% of the popular vote or similarly razor thin margins, e.g., JFK, Nixon, Bush II) try to expand or grow their support; Trump is intent merely on satisfying the minority who voted for him on the assumption that their location can reelect him. At still another level, character use to matter; in Trump’s case it seems irrelevant (and, at an historical level, makes a mockery of past purges, including of our host, for sins that were not nearly comparable).

    My view is that the Democratic nomination will be decided in the prism of these paradoxes and that, as a consequence, the process will be even more unpredictable than usual. No one can check off all the boxes — the experience to remedy the erratic, the judgment and character to expunge the stain, the fortitude to endure the assanined attacks that will be magnified by cable tv and the internet. And then there are/will be the actually important issues — inequality, climate change, and the Supreme Court.

    Here’s the optimistic note on which I end. In November 1860 no one knew the Lincoln of Spingfield would turn out to be the Lincoln of Gettysburg, and in November 1932 no one knew that a Hudson Valley aristocrat would change the country and the world with his four freedoms and United Nations and in the process save us from the twin evils of fascism and communism.

  8. Ray Mizumura Says:

    I respect Joe Biden. The eight years he served with Barack Obama were an honorable and positive time for this country and world. If he is the Democratic nominee, he has my vote. But it would be similar to the vote I cast for Walter Mondale in the 1984 election—a vote cast for someone who does not inspire and motivate. At this point, I believe as I have for a while, that Julian Castro is a superb candidate with a solid record who has earned a serious consideration to those who want to defeat Donald Trump. I also believe Kamala Harris has this potential and the impressions they made last week must be taken seriously. Thank you for this blog.

  9. Brian C. McCarthy Says:


    “It is not fair, in the interest of Trump removal, to foster destruction of other Democrats in that process.“

    That is the most important takeaway. It is noteworthy that the Republicans have only won the popular vote once since 1988 but have placed a majority of current Supreme Court justices; the reason for that is Democratic disunity. Those who voted for Nader in 2000 and who failed to turn out for Hillary in 2016 delivered at least 12 years of Republican presidencies and 3 Supreme Court justices that would have been Democratic appointments if Democrats had voted for their party’s nominee. Not every Democrat will love the eventual nominee—but they’re all better than Trump.

  10. Brian C. McCarthy Says:

    Correction: 4 justices

  11. Ken Dean Says:

    There is a gifted Congresswoman in the 2020 Democratic Presidential race who has served two tours of duty in the Middle East, including a very extended one in Afghanistan, a long time career serving, and continues to serve to this day, in The National Guard. Tulsi Gabbard. It may be ‘more respectful’ and ‘thoughtfully inclusive’ to all our Veterans, men and women alike, to include her name—in the above paragraph, with a small helpful and noble correction– as follows:— [“As a future commander-in-chief, a President should be comfortable with the professional military and have its respect (Molton, Gabbard, Buttigieg) “]

  12. Ray Mizumura Says:

    I agree with Ken Dean that Rep. Gabbard deserves more serious consideration, although I have reservations about some of her previous positions on various issues.

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