These Democrats Should Run for Senate instead of President in 2020

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With today’s announcement by Montana governor Steve Bullock that he is throwing his hat in the ring for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, we now have 23 nationally recognized candidates running.  With the field wide open and a troubled incumbent, this is to an extent understandable. 

Photo from Wikimedia

However, (and I’m by no means the first to observe this,) if the Democrats want to make lasting changes to the direction Trump and McConnell have taken the country since 2016, they need not only the White House – they need a Senate majority. So, here’s my run-down of the current presidential candidates and where I think they should be running for Senate instead. (Candidates listed alphabetically, direct from the relevant Wikipedia article.)

Michael Bennet – Bennet is currently a Democratic senator from Colorado, and his term doesn’t expire until 2022. He isn’t hurting the Dems’ chances at the Senate by running.

Joe Biden – While Biden had a long and distinguished career in the Senate, he’s not likely to run again after serving as VP for two terms. And Delaware’s two senators are already Democrats. Joe can stay in.

Cory Booker – Booker’s Senate term is up in 2020. Somebody’s gonna have to fill that hole. My 10-second Google search didn’t turn up anybody announced yet to run to fill his spot, but New Jersey is a fairly safe state for Democrats, seeing as they keep re-electing even the highly corrupt Bob Menendez. 

Steve Bullock – Bullock is touting his ability to have won statewide office in a majority Republican state as a qualification for his presidential campaign. But Montana has a Republican senator up for re-election in 2020, and if Bullock really has such skills, he should turn them toward defeating Steve Daines to turn the second Montana Senate seat blue.

Pete Buttigieg – Mayor Pete might be at some point a worthy Democratic Senate candidate from Indiana. However, Indiana doesn’t have a Senate seat up in 2020. Mayor Pete can keep running. He might make somebody a good Vice President.

Julián Castro – Castro would need to do a little bit of coordinating here with Beto O’Rourke. Both are from Texas, and Texas has a Senate seat up in 2020. O’Rourke almost knocked off Ted Cruz in 2018; Castro could surely put up a strong state-wide campaign if he took up the torch. One of these guys should be challenging John Cornyn next year.

John Delaney – Who is this guy again? Maryland already has two Democratic senators and neither are up for re-election in 2020. Delaney is welcome to keep tilting at windmills as long as his funding holds out.

Tulsi Gabbard – In pretty much the same spot as Delaney. She’s not going to challenge one of Hawaii’s existing Democratic senators, so why not run for President?

Kirsten Gillibrand – Gillibrand is already a Senator and just got re-elected in 2018. If she doesn’t take the White House, she’ll stay in the Capitol. No impact.

Mike Gravel – LOL.

Kamala Harris – Harris has two years left on her term in the Senate, so she’s safe either way. 

John Hickenlooper – Here’s another guy who should reconsider. Cory Gardner (who I always seem to get confused with Cory Booker for some reason) is up for re-election in 2020. Hickenlooper has been popular as a governor in Colorado. If he could oust Gardner that’d turn another Senate seat blue. It’d be worth a shot.

Jay Inslee – Inslee is currently Governor of Washington, a state that already has two Democratic senators. No harm in him running.

Amy Klobuchar – Klobuchar just won re-election to the Senate in 2018 so she’s safe either way. Fortunately for her it’s almost done snowing in Minnesota for the season, so her campaigning will get a little bit easier.

Wayne Messam – If you’re saying “who is that again?”, a reminder that Messam is currently the mayor of Miramar, Florida. Which, to be fair I guess, is about the same size as South Bend, Indiana. Florida doesn’t have any Senate seats up in 2020, though.

Seth Moulton – I had to look this guy up to remember who he is. (He’s a member of the House from Massachusetts.) Ed Markey is up for re-election in Massachusetts but surely he’ll run again, so Moulton is left out in the cold.

Beto O’Rourke – As I wrote above, he’s gotta get w/ Julián Castro and figure out which one of them is gonna take out John Cornyn.

Tim Ryan – No Senate seats open in Ohio in 2020, so Ryan can be another nondescript white Midwestern guy running for President.

Bernie Sanders – Bernie just won re-election in 2018. His seat is safe until old age catches up with him.

Eric Swalwell – Again, who? Another non-descript Midwestern boy (he was born in Iowa, even if he’s currently a Californian) who doesn’t have a Senate seat to run for.

Elizabeth Warren – Just won re-election in Massachusetts in 2018. 

Marianne Williamson – LOL. (From California. See Swalwell above.)

Andrew Yang – Also LOL. From New York. Not gonna challenge Schumer or Gillibrand even if they were up in 2020.

So, let’s review.

Which Democrats should run for Senate instead of President? Bullock in Montana. Castro or O’Rourke in Texas. Hickenlooper in Colorado. Then Stacey Abrams should challenge Perdue in Georgia. 

Then we need a strong Democrat to run against Joni Ernst in Iowa, but the Iowa Democrats haven’t managed to field a strong candidate for anything in a while. (J. D. Scholten might have a better luck running state-wide against Ernst than he did running against Steve King for the House…)

And can North Carolina get enough voting rights back to unseat Thom Tillis? They get to undo some gerrymanders but that won’t affect a statewide race like the Senate.

In short: there are some opportunities for Democrats to make gains and possibly take an outright majority in the Senate in 2020. But they need to spend their energy running for those seats instead of having all their strong candidates running in a giant knock-out race for President. If 2020 is really about our Republic’s survival after four years of Trump and McConnell destroying all governing norms, Democrats need to treat it that way and make a cooperative concerted effort to win both the White House and the Senate. 

At least a guy can dream, right?

DBH: Can we relax about “socialism”?

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David Bentley Hart reworks his Facebook post from last year (which I posted about at the time) into a New York Times opinion piece. It’s still sharp and incisive in all the best ways. A snippet or two:

I have lived abroad often enough to be conscious of the flaws in various nations’ social democratic systems. But I know too that those systems usually make possible something closer to a just and charitable society than ours has ever been.

One need not idealize any of these nations or ignore the ways in which they differ in balancing public and private financing of civic services. But all of them are, broadly speaking, places where — without any unsustainable burden on the national economy — the cost of health care per capita is far lower than it is here and yet coverage is universal, where life spans are longer, where working people are not made destitute by serious illnesses, where a choice between food or pharmaceuticals need never be made, where the poor cannot be denied treatments by insurance adjusters, where pre-existing health conditions could never be denied coverage, where most people have far more savings and much lower levels of debt than is the case here, where very few families live only a paycheck away from total poverty, where wages generally keep pace with inflation, where every worker has decent vacation time each year, where suicide and opioid addiction are not the default lifestyle of the working poor, where homelessness is exceedingly rare, where retirement care is humane and comprehensive and where the schools are immeasurably better than ours are.

Americans, however, recoil in horror from these intolerable impositions on personal liberty.


Finished reading, an early 2019 compendium

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Maybe I’ll start posting these every time again… but for now I’ve got a long-ish list of books I’ve finished already this year. Particular standouts are in bold. Here goes nothin’:

All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Ostler
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jemar Tisby
Tisby carefully and methodically lays out the complicity and often encouragement that the American church gave to personal and institutional racism. A painful but needed reminder that we have a long way to go and a lot to make right.

The Killer Collective by Barry Eisler
Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission by Michael J. Gorman
Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch
The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem

We Need Each Other: Responding to God’s Call to Live Together by Jean Vanier
Vanier is a Catholic humanitarian who founded a federation of communities dedicated to caring for people with developmental disabilities. I’ve heard and watched a couple interviews with Vanier and his holiness and humility are immediately evident in a way that’s incredibly rare. (His On Being interview with Krista Tippett is a great one.)His book is similarly humble and holy.

Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life by Adam Greenfield

My Traitor’s Heart: A South African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe, and His Conscience by Rian Malan
Written prior to the end of apartheid in South Africa, Malan, a white South African journalist, tries to come to grips with the system of white supremacy that to him seems both wicked and unchangeable.

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblical Hebraica by Ernst Wurthwein
Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty by Gregory A. Boyd
Boyd makes the case that doubt can enhance faith, and that at times the need for certainty can be more damaging than helpful. I’m right there with him on that one.

Paul: A Biography by N. T. Wright
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Hyperion by Dan Simmons
Award-winning science fiction. Imaginative in a way that only the best sci-fi is.

Zoo Nebraska: The Dismantling of an American Dream by Carson Vaughan

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock by Gregory Alan Thornbury
A well-written and -researched biography of one of the truly fascinating characters of early contemporary Christian music.

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung

Flee, Be Silent, Pray: An Anxious Evangelical Finds Peace with God through Contemplative Prayer by Ed Cyzewski
Cyzewski makes the case for contemplative prayer being not just helpful but necessary, and makes it sound easy enough that even this long-time evangelical feels like I should take up the practice.

At the moment I’ve got another long one going: Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. (1200 pages!)

Richard Beck: In defense of heretics

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I really appreciated this from Richard Beck today:

People don’t just wake up one day to suddenly and brazenly espouse a heresy. In my experience, you end up a heretic because there’s a gnawing theological issue that’s keeping you up at night. The burden and size of this issue often grows and grows until a lack of progress in its resolution becomes intellectually and emotionally intolerable…

…many people at this point do something very heroic and commendable. They become heretics.

It’s heroic and commendable because faith isn’t being jettisoned. A herculean effort is made to keep and secure faith. Sure, the price is believing in some rather contested, controversial stuff, but the win is keeping you in the orbit of God, the Bible, and the church.

All that to say, heresy might be wrong, but it can be awfully therapeutic. The mind settles and the heart calms and you can get on with the real business of following Jesus in your day to day life. Some people just need to believe in weird, quirky stuff to make the puzzle fit together.

Beck’s reasoning has validity, too, when it comes to beliefs that aren’t heresy but that are outside the theological mainstream of whatever community you’re in.

Our salvation is blessedly not on the basis of mentally embracing exactly perfect doctrine. I’m comfortable, as I think Beck is here, to trust that God knows the hearts and desires of those people seeking Him, and that if He sees it needful to bring my heart around to embrace some belief that I just can’t stomach today, He can do that.

As Beck says at the end of his piece, “a little bit of empathy, understanding and compassion around these issues would do everyone a great deal of good.” Amen.

Opening Day

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It’s been a long winter. Heck, it’s been a long week. Which makes today a particularly happy one: it’s opening day for Major League Baseball. (OK, the Mariners and A’s played two games in Japan a week ago that were officially regular season games, but today is the real opening day.)

Wrigley Field panorama, image by Wally Gobetz on Flickr

I’ve enjoyed baseball since I was a kid, having spent many hours as a teenager listening to the Texas Rangers on the radio. Upon moving to Iowa after college I fell in with a bunch of Chicago Cubs fans and have followed them ever since. We took the kids to Wrigley Field last fall for the first time, and I have some kid-made Cubs fan art hanging in my office that dates back to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. I won’t be free to sit and watch the Opening Day game with them today – darn workday afternoon games! – but I’m doing my best to pass a love of the game on to the next generation.

Play ball! Oh, and: Go Cubs, Go!

Current Earworm

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I’m accompanying a local friend who’s a high school senior when he sings for state contest in a couple weeks. I have now had this song he’s singing stuck in my head since last Sunday night. “Vagabond”, with text by Robert Louis Stevenson and music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

There are worse earworms, I guess, but that little bum-padump-pa-dah signature is starting to wear on me…

My latest fascination

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I’ve never been particularly a jewelry or fashion guy. I’ve worn a watch inconsistently over the years, usually a cheap digital for running. My wife has made her best attempts a couple times during our 20-some-year relationship to give me nicer watches, and while I did indeed like them, they never really took. Enough dead watch batteries later I finally just gave up and they got relegated to a box in the closet.

A few years ago I got an Apple watch, and then a couple years later an upgraded Apple watch, and while I really liked it for most of what it did, I couldn’t help feeling from time to time that the last thing I really needed was an electronic device literally strapped to me.

Sometime this past winter I started reading about mechanical watches. Which led to me putting one on a gift wish list. Which led to my dear and patient wife buying me this for Valentine’s Day.

This is what the watch community calls an “entry level” watch. A Seiko 5 Sport, it’s fully mechanical – gears, not an electronic quartz-driven mechanism, and automatic, meaning you don’t wind it and it has no battery – it stores kinetic energy from moving around while you wear it.

I’ve worn it most every day for the past six weeks and I’m really enjoying it. I can’t entirely define why, but there’s something inherently enjoyable about having this finely-crafted mechanical device ticking away in the way that timepieces have done for hundreds of years. Now sure, it won’t buzz when I get a text message (though my wrist still feels phantom buzzing from time to time…) or alert me when the Cubs win a baseball game. But it seems like an appropriate level of value vs. distraction; that is to say, it looks good, keeps good time, and otherwise stays out of the way. And while it cost more than a cheap Timex digital, it was still a lot cheaper than the Apple Watch!

I’ve done just enough online reading about mechanical watches to understand that they call this one “entry level” for a reason. I can’t quite envision buying one that looks a lot the same yet costs the same as a decent used car… but at this entry level it doesn’t feel yet like a too dangerous habit.

Strange Planet

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One of my favorite discoveries as of late has been the new webcomic Strange Planet. Apparently only published via Instagram, artist Nathan W. Pyle explores mundane human activities through the lens of aliens. It’s delightful and odd. A characteristic example:

I don’t know how long Mr. Pyle can sustain this pace and level of observation, but I’m definitely gonna enjoy these as long as they keep coming.