Monday, April 30, 2018


The New York Times has a story today about the top Democratic candidates in the Ohio governor's race. The first thing the story's author, Matt Flegenheimer, wants you to know about the candidate leading in the latest poll, Richard Cordray, is that he's dull:
Richard Cordray speaks softly and carries a big stack: lime-green index cards, pressed into his shirt pocket, near enough for any sudden onset of note-taking.

A former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, he has been endorsed in his bid for Ohio governor by Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has told him he needs to learn how to brag more. “I am pretty good at getting back people’s money,” Mr. Cordray managed before an outdoor crowd of dozens here recently. Polite applause followed. He is trying.
The first thing Flegenheimer wants you to know about Cordray's principal opponent, Dennis Kucinich, is that he's a weirdo:
Dennis Kucinich speaks until someone interrupts him — and even this is often insufficient — and carries a bag of vegan groceries heavy enough to sink his right arm like a weight-bearing scale of justice.
Did Flegenheimer say Cordray was dull? No, really, Flegenheimer says: Cordray is seriously dull:
“He’s unassuming,” Ms. Warren said in an interview, recalling Mr. Cordray’s habit of wandering his office without shoes when pressed for a humanizing detail. “But he’s a fighter.”

... In conversations with voters, many framed their preferences as a matter of temperament as much as vision. “He’s not a hell-raiser,” Matt Rado, 34, said of Mr. Cordray, for whom he plans to vote anyway. “It would be nice to see some more passion.”

Even playful flourishes from Mr. Cordray seem intended to evoke a certain hyper-diligence. His campaign literature cites his five “Jeopardy” championships in the 1980s. In a past race, he rewarded dedicated volunteers with DVD copies of his triumph.

He is said to enjoy a good parade — “I’ve always been a parade-ophile,” he allowed....
And Kucinich is seriously flaky:
Mr. Kucinich is, as ever, a less traditional case — Cleveland’s ubiquitous thrower of bombs, shaker of hands and enemy of animal products, now entering his second half-century in politics.

“Strange Political Amalgam in Ambitious Young Man,” read a 1972 headline about him in The Akron Beacon Journal.

“He defends Trump, sees UFOs,” read another from The Cincinnati Enquirer in March, alluding to Mr. Kucinich’s recent career as a Fox News pundit and his claim to have seen an unidentified flying object at the home of a friend, the actress Shirley MacLaine. “Can Kucinich win?”

... Discussing his campaign over a vegan veggie burger and coconut water — “I like it right out of the coconut. Have you ever had it?” he asked the waitress, who had not — Mr. Kucinich set off on a consumption strategy that confounded even his wife, seated beside him: He cut around the bun with a knife and fork to eat only the patty, waited several minutes, then returned to the bun on its own, again with a knife and fork.

“There’s no method,” he confirmed.

“Just madness,” Mrs. Kucinich said.
These may be accurate characterizations of the candidates' personalities, but there are serious problems in Ohio and the rest of America right now, and the story barely touches on them. The following passage appears in the story not to get across Cordray's positions, but to reinforce -- again -- Flegenheimer's sense that Cordray is dull:
There is talk of task forces and pension protections, of government “being a force for good” again. He can appear most animated condemning an “ongoing war on local communities” from budget-slashing state officials. And, like Mr. Kucinich, he has proposed making community college free for all Ohioans.
We're told that Cordray used to have an A rating from the NRA. (We aren't told his current position on guns.) We're informed that Kucinich used to be anti-abortion (and aren't told what his specific views on abortion are now).

We're never told how these candidates differ from the Republican front-runners. We're never told what Ohioans think are the most important issues, and where they stand on those issues. We're just told, in effect, that Cordray wears a pocket protector and Kucinich wears love beads, or maybe a tinfoil hat.

I point this out because this is how the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates will be covered. Candidate A is dull. Candidate B is a nutjob. Candidate C is a scold. Candidate D has an unpleasant resting bitch face.

The press dislikes the excesses of the modern GOP -- until it's time for a Democrat to run. This year is not 1992 or 2008, when the Dems found Kennedyesque superstars with that magic combination of sharp-wittedness and just enough youthful bro attitude.

It shouldn't matter. To the voters, maybe it won't matter -- they'll just want to get rid of Trump by any means necessary, and they won't care about the press's desperate longing for a Democratic Big Man on Campus. (I categorically rule out the possibility that the media will ever be enraptured by a Democratic woman.)

So be ready: The press won't like any Democrat who runs for president in 2020. We'll have to beat the GOP and the media.

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