I used to believe people ran for president because they actually wanted to become president. That seems rather naïve to me now. It occurs to me that the endgame is all too often candidacy for candidacy’s sake, with contestants showing little interest in, or hope of, coming close to winning the election.
And why not? At practically no cost, anyone at all can announce their candidacy, instantly elevating their stature and visibility as a “presidential contender,” and ride the ego trip for years. Being on the news every night gives them something else to do than what we are often paying them for in the case of current senators, House members, and governors. Sometimes it has even led to opportunities as a news commentator or something similar, merely because the “candidacy” has made them famous and a “rising star in the party,” all for just saying, “I’m running.” In the current flooded field of Democratic hopefuls, we see people who have barely started their first days in any elected position who, before accomplishing a thing, are already asking voters to presume they’re qualified to lead our country.
So now there are around 30 Democrats who have at least been seriously considering the race for 2020, giving them two years to campaign. They will be on the Sunday talk shows, posing for pictures, giving interviews, mixing with Hollywood celebrities, all the while doing next to none of the governing they were elected to do. It has become such a farce that you can even generate headlines for yourself by announcing that you are not running this time, as occurred last week when former pro wrestler Dwayne Johnson, “The Rock,” gave us the disappointing news.
For political junkies, the growing caravan of candidates will provide a tremendous source of entertainment. If nothing else, their clamoring to express profound opposition to anything Trump, while promising to outperform their political contemporaries, remains amusing.
The one wild card in the nascent field of Democratic candidates would be Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz, who is flirting with the idea of running as an independent. He is probably doing the most harm to the Democrats right now, ridiculing the ideas and comments of recent media favorites like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Kamala Harris. Schultz is considered anathema to both parties, but should he decide to run as neither a Republican nor a Democrat, he would most likely do for Donald Trump what Ross Perot did for Bill Clinton in 1992 -- all the while, again, never really having a chance of actually becoming president of the United States.
One thing, though, has become undeniable in American politics today: with the amount of money spent on campaigns higher than ever, and the jockeying for front-runner status beginning earlier than ever, there really is no longer any such thing as being “in between election seasons.” The 2020 race began in the minds of many observers the day after Trump was elected in 2016, and is clearly in full swing just minutes after the recent midterms, making running for president as much of a full-time career and goal as actually being president.