Most Democrats realize that beating President Trump is the consideration that dwarfs all others. Beyond that, they’d be wise to emphasize capacity and experience, both because they will help entice independents and disaffected Republicans yearning for normalcy, and because the person is going to have a heck of a mess to clean up. Inspiration and vision should not be confused with shallow rhetoric; they require a level of specificity and creativity many in the pack have yet to show. (Whatever you think of their ideology, both Warren and Inslee have an organizing principle for their campaign and clear proposals to achieve their vision.)
Holder’s announcement coincides with that of former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper’s announcement he will enter the race. Hickenlooper certainly passes part of the Holder test. In two terms as governor, he has shown the capacity and honesty needed for executive leadership and acquired the experience needed to deal with complex problems. In terms of diversity, Hickenlooper governed a state that isn’t deep-blue, isn’t on the coasts and isn’t easily characterized as a bastion of liberal elites. Colorado has a small African American population but is 21 percent Hispanic; it’s managing the transition from predominantly rural to predominantly urban. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans, but not overwhelmingly.
As governor, Hickenlooper championed gun-safety laws and navigated the state through marijuana legalization. In addition, he “signed off on austere budgets that attracted bipartisan support; he allied with Republicans to boost natural gas exploration, and with Democrats to legalize civil unions,” The Post reports. He’s a trained geologist and successful entrepreneur — who brags he was never sued.
Hickenlooper teamed up with former Ohio governor John Kasich and a bipartisan group of governors to oppose repeal of Obamacare and offer specific proposals for stabilizing markets, expanding and reforming Medicaid, and fighting against anti-competitive health-care consolidation, “particularly among local hospital systems, pharmacy benefits managers, and pharmaceutical companies.”
If we use Holder’s test, Hickenlooper rates high in experience, capacity to govern and honesty/integrity in office and his business career. His support for gay marriage and success in attracting support in a state not dominated by one party suggest he understands how to govern inclusively. (We shouldn’t think that nonwhite candidates automatically get high marks in inclusion, and whites low marks. Inclusion, properly understood, is the ability to attract and lead rural and urban, white and nonwhite, gay and straight and both liberals and conservatives.)
Does he have the vision, the inspirational qualities to excite primary voters? We’ll find out. In a growing field, he’ll need to make a quick, positive impression and generate enthusiasm. In that regard, he’s got the same challenge as a slew of other lesser-known candidates.