Early Returns

Democrats' Pick in 2020 Won't Be Found on IMDb

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

The folks over at FiveThirtyEight held a mock draft of the Democratic presidential primary last week, and among the 30 "candidates" selected were Michelle Obama (9th overall, by Nate Silver), the Dwayne ("the Rock") Johnson, Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban. Meanwhile, National Journal's Josh Kraushaar is worried that "our political landscape is littered with rock stars, talk-show hosts, and football players rumored for higher office."


I certainly agree with Kraushaar that "the American cult of celebrity was a necessary precondition" for Donald Trump's successful run -- as it was for governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura, Senator Bill Bradley and Congressman Jack Kemp, Senators John Glenn and Harrison Schmitt, President Ronald Reagan, Congressman Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell and Senator George Murphy. There's nothing new about celebrities seeking office, and it's not at all clear that we have more of them now. In fact, of the current 150 governors and senators, I think Al Franken is currently the only celebrity, so it's not exactly an epidemic.

Nor is it at all clear that we're in for more of them. If Trump keeps to his current path and is widely regarded as an unsuccessful president, it seems at least plausible that party leaders will try hard to avoid a repeat. It's true that Trump proved that a reality-television star could win the highest office. But it's also true that celebrities who test the political waters get far more attention than they deserve -- at least in most cases. Those rumors about Zuckerberg or Oprah Winfrey travel a lot further than similar rumors about, say, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy. 

My best guess is that the next Democratic nominee is almost certainly a current or very recent governor or senator. The other big nomination-producing categories -- recent or current vice presidents or recent strong runners-up in previous contests -- only add candidates who I'd guess are quite unlikely to be nominated this time. And other off-the-wall candidates will probably stay on the sidelines. Trump certainly proved that it's not impossible, but that still does't mean we should expect more of the same in 2020, especially from the party that's been bashing Trump for being unqualified for office.  

1. Jeremy Konyndyk at the Monkey Cage on why helping Puerto Rico is unusually difficult -- and how the Trump administration, beginning with the president, has still fallen short. 

2. Also at the Monkey Cage, Kim Yi Dionne on a brawl in the Ugandan parliament over presidential age limits

3. David Wasserman on Virginia House of Delegates elections coming up next month. I think the idea that they are better indicators than specials is a bit oversold, other than there are just a whole lot more of them. Add New Jersey legislative elections, and you have quite a bit of information. 

4. Josh Busby argues carefully about what the administration got wrong in Puerto Rico

5. While my Bloomberg View colleague Tobin Harshaw interviews Jerry Hendrix, who makes the case for the administration's actions in disaster recovery.

6. Also in View, Timothy L. O'Brien on why Trump can't get it right in Puerto Rico

7. And Nate Silver doesn't call it the #cleverfallacy, but that's what he's describing in asking the media not to "rationalize" Trump's behavior. The clever fallacy, again, is that very clever pundits find it easy to find -- or, better, find it almost impossible not to find -- a clever reason for anything anyone in politics does, even when in fact the action may just be impulsive or reflexive or otherwise not clever at all. 

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