That “bland white guy” running for president (his words, not mine) is not just any candidate. He’s my neighbor, living a handful of blocks down the street.
That neighbor’s name is Michael Bennet. Most of us in Colorado know him as our senior senator. He would like the appellation of “Mr. President.” While that is the longest of longshots, at least this year, the nation could do far worse. And has.
Of course, it requires a certain audacity to think that out of 330 million Americans you’re the one with the aptitude, capabilities and character to occupy the highest office in the land.
One of the unfortunate byproducts of Donald Trump’s tenure has been to lower the presidential bar for all three of those traits — aptitude, capability and character. Bennet’s candidacy is predicated on restoring not just the civil tone of presidential leadership but the requisite honor, competence and wisdom.
That’s no small order. But, then, the country has no greater need.
With voting about to commence, the Democratic field seems to have narrowed to a big four of Biden, Buttigieg, Sanders and Warren. There's also Amy Klobuchar hoping for an unlikely Iowa upset and Michael Bloomberg thinking that next hundred-million dollar check can be his ticket.
This is a cast of reasonable talent and depth with a range of ideology extending from the reliably moderate-left to the more activist, enraged, progressive wing. However, it is a field seemingly lacking a sure-fire giant killer, that one candidate for whom the political asset side of the ledger is overwhelming and the liability or risk side is negligible.
In a party desperate to unseat the incumbent president and searching for the ultimate anti-Trump, and with a majority of all voters expressly open to an alternative, Bennet ought to be part of the conversation. That is the case whether the test is policy agenda, intellectual and moral capability, or basic electability.
For a candidate back in the pack who hasn’t seen the debate stage in a number of months, Bennet is attracting some noteworthy support. Some might write off Gary Hart’s endorsement as a home state favor. But the same cannot be said of the recent backing from James Carville, long ago Bill Clinton’s main strategist.
Carville can be a mixed bag, but he nailed it in saying, “Bennet has less in common with Donald Trump than any human being in the United States when it comes to worldview, priorities and demeanor.”
While I can’t verify it, word is that an informal survey of Obama administration senior staffers showed Bennet getting upward of one-third of the tallies to the question of which back-of-the-pack candidate ought to be president.
Bennet will never be anyone’s definition of a showhorse. His forte is not reality television. Whatever the outcome of this race, his Twitter feed will remain modest and substantive, not where you turn for entertainment or insult.
To those who contend that he lacks pizzazz and doesn’t light up the room, a reasonable person might ask: When did showmanship become the political gold standard?
Even if I don’t agree with Bennet on every issue (and I certainly don’t), he has been what a senator ought to be — serious-minded, engaged with the important issues and not the peripheral fluff, and eschewing needless partisanship. All very un-Trumpian as well.
Politics is so often a matter of reaction and counter-reaction. Wholesome Jimmy Carter never becomes president except as a reaction to scandalized Richard Nixon. Then muscular Ronald Reagan was the reaction to feckless Carter. Ditto for Barack Obama being the change reaction to George W. Bush; and Donald Trump then being the out-of-the-box counterpoint to Obama.
So what is the reaction to the perpetual, unceasing noise and tumult of Trump? Might characteristics such as stability top the list? Followed closely by integrity, humility and unquestioned smarts?
In a campaign with no shortage of bold promises (Medicare for All; free college tuition; blanket student-loan forgiveness; 2% wealth tax; declaration of climate emergency on day one; and so on), Bennet’s simpler and characteristically humble pledge could be the most compelling. To the effect that under his presidency Americans will be able to go two weeks at a time without thinking about him.
What blessed relief.
There is every likelihood that this is not Bennet’s time and that he will be but another campaign casualty not long after Iowa and New Hampshire. If that is the case, there are two predictions you can take to the bank.
First, Bennet’s stature and influence within his party will continue to grow. His voice may not get louder, but it will be heard more widely.
Second, if the party’s hopes are dashed this November in favor of another four years of Trump-style upset and unrest, there will be no shortage of retrospective, hand-wringing commentary that Democrats consigned Bennet, the president’s polar opposite, to the sidelines way too quickly.
In defeat, if that is what is in store, Bennet will remain my friend and neighbor. And our neighborhood will avoid the security headache of having a president occasionally in residence. There’s that small consolation even if many are left to wonder what might have been.
Eric Sondermann is a Colorado-based independent political commentator. His column appears every Wednesday in ColoradoPolitics. Reach him at EWS@EricSondermann.com; follow him at @EricSondermann