Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Will the Democrats Wake Up?

This is great.

It reminds me of Theodore White, The Making of the President, 1960.

From Dan Balz, at WaPo, "Will the Democrats Wake Up Before 2020?":

The Iowa State Fair is an obligatory stop on the road to the White House, a cultural and culinary festival of heartland sensibilities, varied livestock and all manner of unhealthy food. The stands that populate the fairgrounds offer such treats as deep-fried mac and cheese, deep-fried pickles and ice cream nachos, along with the traditional favorites of pork-on-a-stick and foot-long corn dogs. In the summer of 2015, Donald Trump descended on the fair from his helicopter and was mobbed by press and public. On a recent muggy August morning, the arrival of Steve Bullock is far less dramatic.

Bullock, 52, the second-term governor of Montana, is dressed in blue jeans, a blue button-down shirt and boots. He ambles down the main street of the fairgrounds virtually undetected. Only a few heads turn as he stops to talk with his friend Tom Miller, Iowa’s long-serving attorney general. Bullock’s political calling card these days is that he is a Democrat who won reelection by four points on the day that Trump was winning his state by 20 points. That won’t get you elected president, but it’s enough to start a conversation. Which is why Bullock is here in Des Moines in the summer of 2018: to start a conversation.

Next summer, the Iowa State Fair will be overrun by presidential candidates. This year, the pickings are slimmer — dark horses and lesser-knowns who might or might not eventually compete for the 2020 nomination. Among the Democrats who have decided to skip the fair are the big three: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Among those who have decided to show up are Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, who has already visited all of Iowa’s 99 counties; Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and former HUD secretary; Tom Steyer, the billionaire Californian on a mission to force impeachment proceedings against the president; and Michael Avenatti, the combative lawyer for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. As a sign of the times, the swaggering Avenatti, who has never run for office, creates the biggest waves in Iowa with his message that Democrats will need a real fighter — hint! — to topple the president.

Each year, the Des Moines Register sponsors what it calls the Political Soapbox for state and national politicians. The venue consists of a small stage along the fairgrounds’ main drag, a sound system, a few bales of hay and folding chairs for spectators. Politicians take the stage for a few minutes, deliver a speech, answer questions and hope the buzz lasts long enough for them to make their way to see the famous butter cow. It does not always go well: In 2011, Mitt Romney, in a testy exchange with a fairgoer, uttered the famous line that “corporations are people, my friend,” which didn’t do much to create a regular-guy image. In 2015, Trump smartly gave helicopter rides to kids.

As Bullock takes the stage, he finds himself in competition with a children’s Big Wheel race nearby, which is another reason the Soapbox can be a humbling venue. Bullock makes a joke about the tiny three-wheelers screeching along the pavement, offers a few obligatory comments about his connections to Iowa — his mother happens to have been born in the state — and then begins to road-test a message. Trust in government has disappeared, he says. He blames it on lost faith in all institutions and the corrupting influence of money, particularly big money whose origins are hard to trace. He tells the audience, “If we want to address all of the other big issues in our electoral system, in our political system, if we really want to address income inequality, if we want to address health care, if we want to address rights, you’re not going to be able to do it until you’ve also addressed the way that money is corrupting our system.”

He talks about what he’s done in Montana, working with a Republican legislature. “If we can do this in Montana,” he says, “it underscores to me that, look, this isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue; this is an issue about the fundamental trust and faith in our government.” His short speech completed, he takes a few questions. The last person asks whether he plans to run for president. “The question is when will I decide if I’m going to do anything after I serve as governor,” he says playfully. Then more seriously he adds: “Look, I do think that I do have a story of how I’ve been able to bring people together, and I think that’s in part what our country desperately needs. … So right now, what I’m doing is listening, and that’s honestly as far as it goes.” Within 10 days, he will be in New Hampshire...
There's lots more, at the link.