With our next presidential election just a year away, American democracy faces a crisis: The political system seems likely to give us a choice between two candidates whom Americans don’t want to vote for.
At a time when our democratic traditions are already being threatened, the prospect of a general election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump — with polls showing that some 65% of voters are opposed to both men — seems likely to increase the public’s despair about our way of government.
For the good of the country, as a patriotic act, somebody should step up to change this unhappy picture. And a man from Colorado could be the one to do it.
In short: Gov. Jared Polis should run for president in 2024.
There are two reasons why Polis should make this gutsy move.
First, a challenge to Biden from a serious, respected contender could galvanize the Democratic Party to do what its leaders know they ought to do: find a presidential candidate who has a better chance to win than the unpopular 80-year-old incumbent.
If Polis jumps into the race, he would encourage other often-mentioned possibilities — e.g., Govs. Gretchen Whitman (Mich) and Gavin Newsom (Cal.), Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) — to enter as well.
It’s widely reported that each of those leading Democrats has considered a 2024 race, but they’re all holding back to show respect for their party’s incumbent president. If one prominent Democrat — Jared Polis, for example — had the guts to mount a primary campaign, others would probably do the same. Then the Democrats — and the American people — could land a presidential candidate who’s free of Biden’s considerable baggage.
Even Joe Biden would benefit from such a challenge. If he managed to beat Polis or other major figures in a serious primary contest, Biden would enter the general election as a proven winner, rather than as “Sleepy Joe,” the default choice of a somnolent party.
The second reason Jared Polis should run for president in 2024 is that Jared Polis could win.
After a generally successful first term, a well-received response to the COVID pandemic, and a runaway re-election victory against a Trump-endorsed challenger, Polis is gaining national recognition as the kind of person who might become a president. Established pundits ranging from the Washington Post’s George Will to the New York Times’ Bret Stephens have cited Colorado’s governor as a candidate they’d like to see in the race.
On a personal level, Polis checks a lot of boxes. He’d be our first Jewish president, a fact that might be an asset at a time when many are worried about anti-Semitism in the U.S. He’s a happily married man with two kids — who happens to be gay. He’s an unapologetic capitalist; in fact, he’s a multi-millionaire business tycoon who started his first profitable venture in his college dorm room. That’s the kind of biographical detail that Republican candidates love to boast about. He’s a strong campaigner who has never lost an election; that’s a biographical item that any candidate would like to mention.
Although he’s the Democratic governor of an increasingly Democratic state, Polis has taken some positions that seem likely to appeal to conservative-leaning voters. He has consistently called for lower taxes, even suggesting that Colorado should reduce the state income tax to zero. He takes a wary — indeed, libertarian — approach to government regulations.
Katherine Mangu-Ward, the editor of Reason Magazine, a leading libertarian journal, was asked this month which candidates she might support for president. She mentioned one name: Jared Polis.
Coloradans know that Polis and his fellow Democrats were losers this month when voters soundly rejected Proposition HH, their plan to offset impending property tax increases. But that loss can be turned into lemonade in a national campaign. The vote on HH has forced Polis to call a special session of the legislature to reduce (partly) the coming tax hikes. When he runs for president, Polis can traverse the nation bragging that he ordered the state legislature into session specifically to cut taxes — and he never has to mention the ill-fated Prop HH.
Polls suggest that the likely Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, is even more unpopular than Biden. But at least the Republican Party has several serious people who had the courage to take on Trump in the primaries. Some Democrat needs to show the same courage by challenging Biden. And the best guy to do that is a Coloradan: Jared Polis.
Political reporter T. R. Reid, of Denver, covered four presidential campaigns for The Washington Post. He did not confer with Polis or any of his staff about this column.
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