Saturday, July 09, 2022


I'm seeing a lot of anger in response to a Politico piece by Republican operative Juleanna Glover arguing that Tucker Carlson might be the GOP presidential nominee in 2024 and that the best Democratic candidate if that happens would be Jon Stewart. The piece is based on a faulty premise -- Carlson won't run. He's at the peak of his popularity as a TV host right now and isn't likely to give up that level of adulation (and income) to take flak as a candidate and then, potentially, as a president. Media and entertainment personalities run for office in America, as a rule, only when their carees are over or on the decline: Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, Herschel Walker. Al Franken was writing bestselling political-humor books when he ran, but his Saturday Night Live days were behind him. Oh, and there was the guy who wrote that annoying "Still the One" song in the '70s who was briefly a congressman from upstate New York a couple of decades later. Carlson's not at the right point in his career arc. He'll remain on television.

Stewart actually is at the right point in his career, which he's allowed to languish since he left The Daily Show, as a recent Atlantic takedown notes,. His current AppleTV+ show has a tiny audience. That doesn't mean he should run for president, obviously. But unlike some of you, I don't dismiss this idea out of hand.

I hoppe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris pull out of their polling tailspin soon. If they don't, I hope they announce that they won't run in 2024. I'm old enough to remember 1980, when Jimmy Carter beat back a challenge from Ted Kennedy in the primaries and went on to suffer an entirely predictable beatdown in the general election. I remember 1984, when it was obvious that the uninspiring Walter Mondale would be shellacked in the general election; he went on to lose 49 states. It sucks to lose, but it sucks even more to know that you're going to lose and watch helplessly on election night as nearly the entire map turns red. Maybe we're not at that point with Biden and Harris, but if their numbers don't recover within the next year and there's still no Plan B, that's political malpractice.

But why does Plan B mean running a washed-up political comic who's widely perceived as a liberal but frequently plays the bothsides card like a New York Times op-ed columnist? It doesn't. Maybe it means running a governor, a senator, someone in the House, someone who left office not long ago like, say, Mitch Landrieu.

But we should at least be open to other possibilities. Having an above-it-all attitude toward the idea of stunt casting for public office was part of the reason we underestimated Trump's political appeal (and Reagan's before him). If Americans don't think it's crazy to vote for someone like Trump (or Matthew McConaughey or Oprah Winfrey or The Rock), and there's a reasonably sharp-witted Democrat who could be taken seriously by the voters, I don't want to rule that person out.

The most important goal in 2024 is keeping the GOP out of the White House. I'd rather win with an entertainer than lose with a politician.

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