Who was the last person you felt genuinely sorry for? A newly unemployed blue-collar worker who’s been ‘innovated’ out of a job by mechanization, perhaps. Or that elderly widower in an old folks’ home whose family never seems to visit. Maybe even a single mother in the Rust Belt, trapped in the bleak throes of opioid addiction. There’s enough suffering in this country to go around – it’s not hard to pick someone.
Then ask yourself this: what about the real victims? Those struggling through the hardship of sleepless nights and non-stop travel, met with at best indifference, at worst disdain wherever they go. When have you given them a moment’s thought? I’m speaking, obviously, about the plight of the single-digit 2020 Democrat.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has been among the most vocal of the low-scoring candidates. ‘It’s a “Hunger Games” situation,’ she said in a New York Times story last week during an event in the Midwest which featured several candidates. ‘You just make your pitch, and you make a shortened version that’s five minutes…I’m not a huge fan of five-minute speeches, just because I don’t think it really gives you a chance to do much.’
‘I try to call 20 people a day or 30 people a day, and a lot of them just say, “I’m going to wait until after this primary season’s over.”’ That quote comes not from a beleaguered telemarketer in the Asian subcontinent: it’s John Hickenlooper, once-respected governor of Colorado, effectively reduced to rubble by an aggressive and competitive primary field.
Imagine how grueling it must be taking those overnight bus trips between Iowa and New Hampshire, crawling down poorly maintained highways to South Carolina only to be overshadowed because Friendly Uncle Joe is in town the same day. People like John Delaney and Jay Inslee aren’t doing it for themselves: they’re doing it for you, the American people, to give you the chance to find purpose by nominating them for the presidency.
Think of the strength of spirit required for a man like Bill de Blasio to wake up, check RealClearPolitics on his phone, look at the words ‘0 percent’ five times and still get out of bed. Forget the US Coastguard and your local fire service: these are the real American heroes.
Most of these brave souls are in Miami this week, taking to the NBC debate stage in a dance as old as time. There, they will tell themselves, they will experience the moment that makes it all worth it: all the ill-attended campaign events, the begging-for-$1 tweets, the hokey county fairs, the livestreams only one person watched.
The spotlight of the Arsht Center will magnify through the television cameras, igniting the touch-paper of poorly thought-out Vanity Fair covers, discounted self-help books and binders doused in the blood of interns. They will prance around the inferno, stripping to reveal dumbed-down manifesto pledges etched in gothic script upon their nude flesh. At last, Twitter is ablaze with Michael Bennet memes and GIFs of Kirsten Gillibrand giving side-eye. Tim Ryan will levitate over the flames, eyes jet black as he shrieks in tongues about his electability. Eric Swalwell and Marianne Williamson kneel together, picking over the bruised, lifeless carcass of Joe Biden. Their time, finally, has come. They no longer need your pity.
At least, that might happen. For one or two candidates. Until then it’s back to weeping in the shower of the battle bus, eyes scrunched, fantasizing about what 10 percent might feel like.