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The Democratic 20 Plus 3

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Last week, I suggested that convicted felons would be running for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. Well, now it looks like that will not be the case. Crazy Bernie suggested a few weeks back that sex offenders and the Boston Marathon bombers should be free to vote. And what is the difference between a felon's voting for president and a felon's actually running for the Democratic nomination? They all look the same to Crazy Bernie, and doubtless to dozens of other Democratic candidates. But now this reform seems a bit premature. On Friday, the Democratic National Committee settled on 20 of the candidates who are running to appear in debates on two separate nights this month, June 26 and June 27. Mark your calendars.


Three candidates did not meet the polling and fundraising criteria. They are Gov. Steve Bullock from Montana (who later qualified for the second debate); the Hon. Seth Moulton, allegedly from a congressional district in Massachusetts; and Mayor Wayne Messam from somewhere in Florida (I hope I spelled his name right). They will perhaps be carrying placards outside the debate venues at the end of the month. So do not count any of them out this early in the race, especially Gov. Bullock.

The lucky 20 include former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, who looks much younger than he did when he first ran back in 1988; Sen. Kamala Harris, who is very pretty, if you will allow me to say so; and a woman named Marianne Williamson, whom I do not know. Her picture was included in the 20 pictures that The New York Times ran in its Saturday edition, but I have no idea who she is. Frankly, I would appreciate it if one of my readers could identify her for me. She appeared just to the right of Mr. Andrew Yang, who is apparently an entrepreneur and wants to give everyone in America $12,000 a year.

The problem for the Democrats remains the problem I mentioned last week. No candidate wants to disagree with any of the other candidates, except perhaps Ms. Williamson, about whom we know nothing. Certainly, l know nothing. This means that there is virtually no way for any of the candidates to distinguish themselves from all of the rest.


Already their highly paid and skilled strategists are preparing catchy one-liners, which they hope will snag attention for their candidates. But each candidate will get no more than 10 minutes, and then it is oblivion for the rest of the evening. It's possible former Congressman Beto O'Rourke will drop an F-bomb on President Donald Trump or that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will engage in bathroom humor while denouncing Trump. Both have been inclined in this direction, but off-color language has little effect in a presidential race. Americans still have their standards.

My guess is that something more dramatic is necessary to attract the attention of the average Democratic voter. How about one of the candidates becoming sick onstage and continuing to orate until his/her 10 minutes are up? Really lay it on. What if Mayor Pete Buttigieg insists on appearing onstage with his wife or husband or whatever? No one has ever done that before. Congressman Eric Swalwell could bring along a used car, put it onstage and sell it within his allotted 10 minutes (plant a shill in the audience, Congressman). Pocahontas could arrive onstage in Native American garb, or good old Joe could appear onstage delivering his famed speech that he plagiarized from Neil Kinnock but with a more low-class English accent.


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was called upon by The Times and asked what advice he would give the 20 aspiring presidential candidates. He was helpful. He said, "Your biggest goal has to be to be likable and acceptable." Watch Joe Biden steal a page from Gingrich's playbook and hand out candy to the audience.

Do you get my drift? This is the most goofball collection of candidates for the presidency that has ever been gathered. Actually, it is inconceivable that any party in American history could have summoned such a collection of mediocrities and frauds. Plagiarists, charlatans, liars, nonentities — it is amazing that Yang, or maybe even Williamson, would want to be seen in such a crowd.

Many years ago, seasoned observers of politics were given to lamenting that the discipline instilled by the political party system was breaking down. I have not heard anyone repeat these warnings in years. They all vanished in a haze created by complaints about "the smoke-filled rooms," "party bosses" or political parties controlling conventions. Now the control political parties have over elections is almost nonexistent. If you want to run for the highest office in the land, go ahead and do what Williamson and Yang have done. Declare your candidacy, and see what happens. Jimmy Carter did that years ago, and he actually won. Thankfully, a few years later, there was a more seasoned candidate willing to step in, and President Ronald Reagan won the Cold War and enlivened the economy.


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