Normal People

It was the one ostensible mistake I made in what I wrote about the run-up to what did in fact turn out to be a nobody-knows-anything election.

To my mind, the most interesting contest in the country is the Senate election involving ten-term Congressman Tim Ryan and Hillbilly Elegy author J. D. Vance, a lawyer and venture capitalist. That’s because, if Ryan soundly defeats Vance, he’s got a good shot at becoming the Democratic presidential nominee in 2024.

Even now I don’t think that I was altogether wrong.

Thanks to the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, we know why Ryan lost. Vance, who was on the ballot because Donald Trump endorsed him, trailed Ryan by significant margins until mid-summer. That was when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell invested more than $32 million in the Ohio Senate race, via a super-PAC he controlled, 77% of all Republican campaign media spending in the Ohio election after mid-August. Most of it was negative “voter education,” enough to tip the balance against “taxing-Tim” for having voted for various Biden measures. The power of money in American elections may be a scandal, but by now it has been well-established by the Supreme Court as a fact of life.

It seems nearly certain to me that the next US president will be someone born in the Seventies of the twentieth century, not the Forties. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat was probably correct when he wrote last week that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is likely to be the Republican nominee. DeSantis, 44, was born in 1978.

Douthat may have been wrong, however, in thinking that DeSantis “sweeping success” in his re-election campaign validated the theory that “normal” doesn’t have to mean “squishy.” The tough-guy approach worked well in Florida. DeSantis was “an avatar of cultural conservatism, a warrior against the liberal media and Dr. Anthony Fauci, a politician ready to pick a fight with Disney if that’s what the circumstances require.”

But a better-mannered Donald Trump may not be what the majority of voters will be looking for in the next election. Tim Ryan, 49, was born in 1973.  If you have time, and want a lift, watch Ryan’s fifteen-minute concession speech to get a feel for the man. Pay special attention to the six-minute mark, where Ryan speaks to the audience beyond the room he is in.

The words in that middle portion of that speech strike a powerful chord: “This country, we have too much hate, too much anger, there is way too much fear, way too much division. We need more love, more compassion, more concern for each other. These are important things.  We need forgiveness, we need grace, we need reconciliation. We do have to leave the age of stupidity behind us.”

There are many question to be answered. First among them:  are Ryan and his family willing to undertake a two-year front porch campaign?  If so, a ten-term former Congressman has a reasonable chance to win both the Democratic Party’s nomination, and the 2024 election itself.


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