Today, we salute former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. On Thursday, he exited the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination with the same aplomb we have come to expect from Hick at his best.
Perception is a peculiar thing: How we see ourselves versus how others see us, and, in the present case, how Colorado relates to the nation, which is itself unsettled. We said Hick has aplomb, which a dictionary tells us is “self-confidence or assurance, especially when in a demanding situation.” Another word for that is poise.
People who know nothing about Hick or the Centennial State and who caught him in the first rounds of televised debates tended to make fun of his name, which really is no more cumbersome than Roosevelt or Eisenhower. Coupled with his aggressively moderate positions on issues – he perceptively warned that Medicare for All and the Green New Deal could be ruinous expansions of government – they concluded he was goofy.
It was his fate that moderation was goofy this year. He was at times adrift in a field racing leftward. When the debaters were asked to raise their hands “if your government (health care) plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants,” and a gaggle did (but not Hick or Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet), they were mocked as unelectable.
Hick was sincere in his bid, no doubt about it. He did a good job just holding things together and getting everyone moving forward over eight years in Denver as governor. Bringing people together became his campaign trail mantra. It just is not clear that Democrats even want to hear about unity now beyond party, and compromise is a tough sell to the Trump resistance.
In a video he released Thursday, Hick said, “In almost every regard, this journey has been more exciting and more rewarding than I ever imagined – although I did imagine a very different conclusion.”
He earned his shot and he took it. He added that he will give serious thought to running in the Democratic primary for the chance to face Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner on the ballot next November. We think he would be a welcome addition to a burgeoning field, not least because we assume, chastened a little, he will take nothing for granted.
That still leaves Bennet in the race, and with him our hopes that the other Coloradan will be heard.
If Democrats “are as serious as they say they are about defeating President Trump, Bennet should be their nominee,” wrote George Will, the conservative columnist, a month ago. Bennet is undoubtedly liberal and progressive, as well as smart, and aggressive after a fashion. If he can hold on longer, Democrats may give him yet another look. He’s won two Senate races in purple Colorado and he “can distinguish between what he calls ‘the Twitter base of the Democratic Party’ and the ‘actual’ version,” as Will noted.
The bet is that the actual version, the masses of potential voters who prudently cannot be bothered with Twitter, much less nihilistic Twitter wars, because they are too busy with work and children and wondering how they will ever pay for college, will see something in Bennet: a leader.
Like Hick, he is wise, polite and impassioned – and after the last three years of screeds and eruptions and mystification, it might be lovely if we somehow could get a president who wants nothing to do with Twitter.