The Democratic presidential field is so crowded and cluttered that it’s hard to keep track, let alone find the favorites. There are so many actual and prospective candidates that it’s hard to remember them all, and there’s at least one so obscure that the pronunciation of his name is for many of us still a work in progress: South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Mayor Pete, as he likes to be called, joins the “B’s” section of the announced and possible candidates — Biden, Beto, Booker, Brown, Bloomberg, Bullock — on top of the “G’s”: Gabbard, Gillibrand, Garcetti.
I suggested in a previous post that to make sense of the Democratic presidential race we think of it not as a coherent whole, but as a series of mini-primaries that will winnow the field to a much more manageable number of favorites. These contests feature multiple candidates in multiple energy centers in the party vying to emerge from the pack: There are centrist populists, leftist populists, gender-focused candidates and the “new faces” crowd. But the sheer number of possible candidates has now overwhelmed even this simple attempt to impose some degree of order on the process. Some other method must be found.
Perhaps lifestyle guru Marie Kondo, who has built a brand around her KonMari Method helping people clean out clutter and simplify their lives, can help us. Her popularity, now boosted by a new Netflix series, speaks to many people’s deep ambivalence about materialism. We buy stuff we don’t need to feel validated; that stuff often doesn’t satisfy us and junks up our lives, reinforcing the original feelings of lack of control and ennui.
Kondo invites us to reset how we relate to our possessions, suggesting that we keep only those possessions that “spark joy.” She recommends holding the possession in both hands “as if communing with it,” to see if it transmits a thrilling physical sensation. If not, that’s the signal to get rid of it.
What happens if we apply Kondo’s approach to the Democratic primary field? What if our new standard is that a candidate has to give us a thrill, or we put them on the discard pile? While the “holding” part of Kondo’s process might seem a little far-fetched, remember the retail nature of the early primaries, where candidates shake and hold hands with prospective voters, hug, backslap and occasionally kiss them, at least the babies.
I have only met a few of the candidates in person and never actually held any of them. So I will have to rely primarily on press accounts, television interviews and debates to decide which ones to keep and which to throw away. But I plan to keep Kondo’s approach in mind when assessing the field. After all, I hope to keep the next Democratic president in my life for eight years; it would be good to feel joyful about that decision.