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OPINION | If only all the candidates could drop out

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SURELY the one thing we can all agree on about the Democratic presidential primary is that it has gone on much too long.

I have no notion if the Founding Fathers intended so extended a contest, but I can guarantee that if they had to put up with one of such length, they would have been bored out of their wigs. The only relief has been comic, supplied by that always reliable gaffemeister Joe Biden, who at the end of a lengthy interview with Chris Wallace said, “Thank you, Chuck.” Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Mike Bloomberg and Elizabeth Warren have dropped out in recent weeks. All these candidates, forced to repeat themselves over and over, became, to put it gently, tremendous bores. The task of finding fresh things to say at every interview, town-hall meeting or national debate is impossible. So the candidates banged on with the same old braggadocious claims about their extraordinary fitness for the job of leader of the world’s most powerful nation. One listened, yawned and considered citizenship in Brazil.

Of the candidates who have dropped out, the one who made the least impression was Mr. Steyer. All I can recall about him was his advanced case of Trump Derangement Syndrome, his agitated concern about climate change, and his plaid neckties. He is said to have spent $100 million of his own money on his obviously futile campaign. His money would have been better spent on windmills and solar panels.

Then there was Mayor Pete, who specialized in articulate earnestness. (As Sinatra said to Hemingway, “Let’s be Frank and Ernest.”) He was the man with the perfect résumé, with entries ranging from Oxford to Afghanistan. He was never shy about mentioning his homosexuality, thereby claiming a share of victim status. He also featured himself, at 38, as the next generation made flesh. How long will it take the country to forget how to pronounce his last name?

“Once in love with Amy, always in love with Amy” is the refrain from an old song, but the nation was apparently able to resist falling in love with Ms. Klobuchar. How many times have I heard her claim to have written more than 100 pieces of legislation, or how she has a wondrous skill for both defeating Republicans and yet also for bringing people together? I shall not soon forget her frozen smile, the lift of her right eyebrow expressing dubiety over an opponent’s claims. She demonstrated throughout her campaign what in an earlier day was known as “personality plus.” I could have done without the plus.

Is one allowed to sympathize with a man who has accumulated more than $60 billion? If so, I feel a touch sorry for Mike Bloomberg, who threw away more than half of one of those billions. He got zilch for his money. (Well, he won American Samoa.) He was the walking victim of political correctness, a treatment administered in lethal dosage by Ms. Warren, who accused him of everything but strangling puppies. Of all the Democratic candidates, I was mildly partial to him, on the grounds that, unlike the others, he had at least established competency in governing.

I eagerly awaited Ms. Warren’s announcement that she, too, would drop out of the race. Her contrived energy, those uplifted arms, the too-exuberant hugs, that never slackening self-righteousness — none of this paid off in votes. Many years ago I coined the term “virtucrat” for people who derive their grand sense of themselves from the virtuousness of their opinions, especially their political opinions. Had I known about her then, I would have added, in parentheses, “See Warren, Elizabeth.”

And yet, as a gent named Robert Frost had it, I, like every other American, “have miles to go before I sleep.” Well, not exactly miles but days and days of listening to the unenlightening yakkings of Mr. Biden and Bernie Sanders. “It’s a complex fate, being an American,” said Henry James. The old boy didn’t know the half of it.

Mr. Epstein is the author, most recently, of “Charm: The Elusive Enchantment.”


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