What Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigeg, and Daniel Wagenberg have in common.
January 30th, 2019
My Physics class at times descends into Latrell’s-comment-section-like madness, where lessons about centripetal force or gravity quickly materialize themselves into debates - on abortion, the welfare state, and something so audaciously macro as the theory of socialism. Because Mr. Grillo is like many Americans who find themselves in a nauseatingly irrational political climate of 2019.
He has a new sense of responsibility; to truth, facts - self-appointed crusades against bigotry and close-mindedness - which he can’t help but bring into his day at work. He flirts with running for local office, because why not. This casual willingness to overlook a lack of qualification, experience, or gravitas would be hindering in past years, but nowadays it’s not as daunting, as necessary.
In his eyes, the country is in a dire all-time low, the getting out of which takes everything-but-the-kitchen-sink politics. Throw everything you’ve come to know about elections away, this Democratic Party has waited long enough.
W hen the new year began, we were in our third removed since Mrs. Clinton last moved from her couch, ate, or took a shower without weeping uncontrollably. New Presidential hopefuls like Kamala Harris, (a former CA attorney general with just two years as a Senator), and Julian Castro (former secretary of H.U.D) were salivating over scheduled “special announcements” like a cartoon basset hounds. They delivered them, consider their hats thrown in the ring.
Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), and congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (Hawai'i), add to a women-heavy field.
Joining them by way of tenacious, all-but-confirmed speculation is Bernie Sanders, who almost captured magic four years back, and former VP/America’s walking dad joke, Joe Biden; the counterparts to opponents more photogenic, way cooler, and ambitious as ever. The hype spurred borderline millennials Andrew Yang, and Beto O’Rourke, (Ted Cruz’s almost achilles heel) to poke their heads in. Senators Cory Booker, (New Jersey) Jeff Merkley, (Oregon), and Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay Mayor of South Bend, Indiana are the latest to take first steps towards the White House reality.
The cavalier cynicism of Grillo teasing a run for office is nothing out of the ordinary. Why wouldn’t he run? He knows his science, to his credit appreciates the flaws of our criminal justice system, and the urgent threat Climate Change could pose. He, in a lot of ways, is just as, (if not more) qualified to be President than say, Iraq Veteran Tulsi Gabbard, who had just become able to buy a JUUL while Mr. Grillo was leaving the Air Force. He has been in his job for over a decade now; Gabbard has been hers for half that.
Nationally, the run-for-something era has brought back the grassroots belief. Debuted in 2016 and affirmed in 2018, it throws the requisites when vetting a candidate away. Experience, (in addition to) voting record, legislative & committee presence, national defense prowess, status, religion, family values - the ability to appeal to midwestern backyard barbeque enthusiasts - is gone, in their eyes at least.
Mr. Wagenberg, the second floor face of Socrates-like wisdom fulfilled through devil’s advocate debating skills, has had enough. In my Government & Politics class, the 'mad-man' will throw up his hands in apathetic defeat, “maybe I should just run and do the damn thing myself!”.
While he vows not to run while teaching, Wagenberg, well into the ‘distinguished’ phase of life avidly follows his preferred centrist, heavy in-truth news to ensure he’s cementing his political philosophy in facts and objectivity. Through September 11th and the global fallout, this was the case. The country was more vulnerable in 2001 than ever to hysteria - paranoia based lies that would breed bigotry.
Simultaneously, Pete Buttigeg was 19; a wide-eyed freshman at Harvard, not yet able to buy Bud Light. Wagenberg graduated from Brown, the Ivy in a neighboring state in '76, with a degree in Political Science - catapulting him as a slightly more well informed ‘tree-hugger’ into the Lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds picture of the ’60s, we know from his tie-dye shirts you will catch on (presumably) laundry day.
He’s a better fit for the oval office than the most of the candidates that have come forward.
Wagenberg, 64, will have trouble flipping the bible belt. His path to 270 must also come through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin, which might not swing for a liberal democrat considering the state of Trump’s economy.
Sure, he may not have the straight-out-of-central-casting charisma and looks that bless Beto or Trudeau, but I seriously wouldn’t bet against him next fall.
A painfully blatant lack of substance will well characterize Trump, we know. It will be interesting when this holds, and next year’s rhetoric is more hollow than ever. As Roger Stone has brilliantly put it, entertainment and politics are harder and harder to differentiate, do not underestimate this or his people that look to manipulate it, ever. What M.A.G.A hat-wearers can lack in information and (at times) intelligence, they make up for in numbers - willpower at the polls. That will carry Trump to another term . He has no chance in the popular vote - but that doesn’t matter. It will be another electoral college win, mark my words.
If Democrats won’t nominate someone with more substance, they’ll lose the sole piece of leverage they had over Trump in 2016 - Hillary’s cerebrality - well-tempered preparation, thorough efforts to be informed. The crazy thing is, that just might have been what was holding them back.
If you feel like running, you can. It doesn’t matter if you are just a mayor of South Bend, Indiana, maybe with no more on your resume than a two-year stint in the Senate, or an independent, perhaps a 74 year old socialist from Burlington, Vermont - if you have retweet-ability, or can check off the right demographic boxes at the DMV - then by all means, be president.