Opinion

Opinion: You Democratic presidential pretenders have had your fun. Now get back to work

Democratic presidential primary debates
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), left, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) take the stage for Day 2 of the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Miami on June 27.
(Al Diaz / TNS)

On Monday, two Californians’ ships passed each other in the 2020 presidential campaign, as Bay Area Rep. Eric Swalwell exited the race and billionaire businessman Tom Steyer flirted with entering it. (Steyer officially announced this morning.) Swalwell has the better idea.

Swalwell was, alongside climate-focused Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, one of the 2020 race’s so-called single issue candidates. He entered to get his gun control message on a national stage; he did that during the first round of Democratic debates; he didn’t have the numbers to go forward. There are — you know what, I literally don’t even know how many candidates are in the race now. It depends on what criteria you use, and the field keeps growing. (For instance, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who, unlike Steyer, could end up being a contender, joined a couple of weeks ago.) By any criteria, there are enough.

Indeed, it’s time for a good handful of them to follow Swalwell’s lead and drop out while we still have the opportunity to miss them. I’m talking to you, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Sorry, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), we hardly knew ye, but goodbye. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), I believe you will go far; I also believe it will not be in this race this year.

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who were each polling at 15% this morning, are viable; they can stay in.

Not to sound all ‘my money,’ but taxpayers are currently paying the salaries of senators who are jumping around Iowa eating hash browns and kissing babies.

“Oh please, you old killjoy, they’re just trying to have some Type A fun,” you might say. “What’s the harm in that?” The harm in that is these people are U.S. senators, not summer campers with a passion project; we’re living in a linchpin time in the United States with a nightmare president hell-bent on curtailing our remaining freedoms and our planet’s remaining protections; we have a Senate dominated by obsequious suck-up Republicans (Hi, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina); and the Democratic senators we do have in there aren’t in there because they’re in the presidential race. The Senate runs during a good chunk of the summer; it’s in session right now and will be ’til Aug. 5. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is no genius, but he is diabolical. (Remember Merrick Garland.)

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Not to sound all “my money,” but like, also, taxpayers are currently paying the salaries of those senators who are jumping around Iowa eating hash browns and kissing babies. That’s cool, it’s fine, but if you paid me to do a job and instead I did a totally different job, I couldn’t blame you if I got fired from it. Some of these guys are in solidly blue states, and they’ve won multiple terms there, you might say. Right. They can use that popular mandate and their long roots to do their job, which is being a senator.

2020 isn’t just a presidential election; it’s also a Senate election. That’s why former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke should drop out too. He’s never gonna be president and seems to know, um, not that much about the world, but he does know Texas, where he came within striking distance of being a senator. Imagine if O’Rourke were spending all of this table-jumping energy building on the momentum of his 2018 race and registering voters in his home state, with an eye to flip it in 2020. The longer O’Rourke stays in the presidential race, the dumber he sounds — and the more he ruins his odds for that Texas seat, should he want to pursue it.

Governors can stay in for now if they want; state legislative sessions break for the summer, so no harm, no foul. We’ve got a lot of people and a Democratic majority in the House, so if Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) wants to stick around and explore his own mind, I don’t love it, but fine. Former Vice President Joe Biden should hang in the race for the time being. For one, the more Biden talks, the more I believe he will scuttle his wildly overblown candidacy. For another, he doesn’t have anything else to do this summer.

Melissa Batchelor Warnke is a contributing writer to Opinion. Follow her on Twitter @velvetmelvis.