John Colson: Hickenlooper bowing out first step in trimming Democrat hopefuls
Hit & Run
At the end of last week, as I readied myself for a quick, rejuvenating trip to the northern edge of the Flat Tops wilderness area, I was happy to hear that our former governor, John Hickenlooper, had decided to end his hapless, rather uninspiring run for the U.S. presidency.
Don’t get me wrong — I voted for Hick twice, and I generally like him in a middle-of-the-road, low-brow kind of way.
But I never thought of him in presidential terms, and his performance over 164 days of running for the top job did nothing to change that.
In fact, I thought his waffling on key issues was rather typical, given his low-key way of running the state of Colorado and his disinclination to take stands on controversial topics. His hands-off attitude toward the worst excesses of the state’s oil and gas industry (he is a trained geologist, and a successful businessman, two attributes that make him a likely industry apologist in general) was one of the most distressing aspects of his governorship, at least for me.
So, he now joins the list of quitters on the Democrats’ side of the U.S. political ledger, which as of last week stood at four — Hick, former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel from Alaska, former West Virginia State Sen. Richard Ojeda, and former U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California.
My response to Hick’s decision is this — it’s about damned time. His has been a lackluster performance from the word “go,” and it appears to me that he let his ego get in the way of his judgment when he made the fateful decision to run for president.
Anyway, that leaves a field of nearly two dozen (OK, 23 at last count) hammering away at the dismal record of President Donald J. Trump, who so far has failed to do just about everything he promised to do on the campaign trail in 2016.
Among that group, of course, is our own U.S. Sen. Mike Bennet, who once served as Hick’s chief of staff back when Hick was mayor of Denver. Bennet, once superintendent of the Denver Public Schools system, was appointed to the U.S. Senate in 2009 to take the seat of Ken Salazar, when Salazar was elevated to head of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
So, Colorado still has a horse in this race (or a dog in this fight, depending on your preferred metaphor), though Bennet hasn’t been doing much better than Hick did in terms of standing out from the crowd. It is my hope that Bennet will be bowing out soon, as well, since the field of Democratic presidential hopefuls remains too large and unwieldy.
According to Rolling Stone magazine’s ongoing 2020 leaderboard, Bennet is down toward the bottom of the list of men and women hoping to unseat Trump and, while the top position continues to be held by that tired old warhorse, Joe Biden, following closely is the rising star of the party, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and the septuagenarian socialist, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Alongside a majority of Democratic voters, I have yet to make up my mind about whom I would prefer to be the party’s standard-bearer, if it came down to a choice between Warren and Sanders.
I view Warren as the smarter of the two, and I have been intrigued by the steady barrage of policy proposals she has been cranking out for months. She is level-headed, a pragmatist who has shown herself equal to the task of taking on corporate interests of all sorts, and she has shown that she can overcome even the most hidebound of critics by the force of her logic and powers of persuasion.
Sanders, of course, probably could have beaten Trump in a head-to-head match back in 2016, as far as I could see, had he not been robbed of the chance by a rigged party process and leadership that had previously decided Hillary Clinton “deserved” a shot at the golden ring.
And he still has the same fire in his belly that won him the hearts and minds of progressives all across the nation that year.
But he seems a lot more tired this time around, and it may well be that his chance at the Oval Office came and went four years ago.
Of course, I could be wrong, and if I am, I certainly would not be opposed to a Sanders-Warren ticket for 2020, or for a ticket that flipped to Warren-Sanders. They would get my vote either way.
Back to the winnowing of the field, however, which is why I started writing this in the first place.
My hope is that at least 10 others will be either forced from the field by the rules of the next Democratic debate (scheduled for September) or will decide on their own to bow out, for the good of our national sanity and to strengthen the party’s position as the new year arrives and things really get serious.
Is it too much to hope that Trump’s physical health, which seemingly is deteriorating with every day that he’s in office, will finally force him to quit and go back to his little beach palace in Florida and nurse his wounds? Such is the power of his ego that he would have to go into a coma and stay there before the machinery of government would require his removal from office.
And, of course, that would give us President Mike Pence, a truly horrifying prospect that might even be worse than another year of Trump.
But, again, I digress from my purpose.
At this point, there are only a few Democrats I really wish would just disappear, and soon.
Among the female candidates I could do without are Kirsten Gilibrand and Tulsi Gabbard, neither of whom seems likely to have what is needed to unseat Trump.
Equally, I think we could do without Julian Castro, Steve Bullock, Tom Steyer, Tim Ryan and Bill de Blasio, to name some of the least likely to take back the White House in 2020.
Some whose names I left out — such as Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang — are equally likely to lose to Trump, but have provided some great out-of-box political dialogue and ideas so far, and probably will continue to ensure that the race does not devolve simply into glittering generalities and worn-out cliches.
I’m sure you, dear readers, have ideas of your own, and I hope you make them known in your respective circles of influence in the coming months.
But above all, no matter what else you do, when the election finally arrives in less than 15 months be sure to get out there and vote. It is the only way out of our current madness, no matter whom you vote for.
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