You’ve got it, folks. After years of relentless effort, months and months of speculation, and countless meetings behind closed doors with money men, power brokers, Doug Burgum will announce next week his candidacy for President of the United States.
Most Americans, barring a few, will immediately ask who? Burgum, the billionaire divorced governor of an expansive state with a population just north of Seattle.
Burgum, as governor of North Dakota has stayed away from culture war issues, which are the driving force behind the conservative base in the United States. In fact, Burgum avoided taking a position on any issue at all. He has, however, occasionally weighed in on behalf of the people he is supposed to represent, such as when he criticized the GOP in his home state for a resolution that stated the obvious truth: “LGBT practices can be unhealthy and dangerous. They may endanger or shorten life, and they may infect society in general.”
Burgum, however, has stayed with the party line on major issues such as the transgender grooming and racism against whites in public K-12 schools. Last month, he signed the North Dakota legislature’s strong pro-life legislation. Burgum signed the law as a formality because of the overwhelming supermajority in both chambers. Any veto was pointless.
Burgum isn’t the worst candidate. He has probably more right than most politicians, including the average Republican. He is more wrong than half a dozen players who are of the same or greater stature but chose not to.
He has no chance to win. It is possible that a consultant convinced him to run because his approval rate is among the highest in the nation. His name recognition is non-existent outside North Dakota, and his campaign pitch, which is a boilerplate Reaganism in economics with a defensive crouch about the social revolution, will not bring anyone to the polls for either the primary or general.
Burgum is not the only one running a meaningless campaign in this election cycle. Larry Elder announced his candidacy last month. Did anyone notice? The “small-l Libertarian,” who failed in his recall bid to unseat the unpopular Gavin Newsom two years ago, says he is running for president in order to deal with his guilty about not having served in the military.
Asa Hutchinson is another popular governor who has no political vision or clout beyond Arkansas. He entered the contest to say that we should be more cheerful as we send the wages of American workers to Ukraine to fund its bloodbath.
Vivek Ramaswamy is a little known entrepreneur who has some populist tendencies. He’s been running a Twitter heavy messaging campaign. Born Loser Nikki Haley is hoping to bring her unique vapid brand slow-roll liberalism to the White House, as its second female and non-white occupant. There are whispers about Chris Christie and Glenn Youngkin. Mike Pence is waiting .
There is often real value in having a candidate on the field who knows that he won’t win but whose mere presence can change the conversation or tone, and even move a frontrunner to a certain position. Goldwater was a good candidate for Nixon on this front in 1960. Patrick Buchanan performed a similar role twice in the 1990s. Ramaswamy may have understood his role in this case.
Also, it is worth noting that several campaigns for president are actually campaign for vice president. It is clear that this is the case for both South Carolinians in the primary race of 2024, Nikki Haley, and Tim Scott.
But neither of these two explanations is true for many other candidates who have been announced or are likely to be. This could be a simple gimmick – no one would be surprised if Liz Cheney turned a protest into a lucrative contract with cable – in which case, the American people deserve a more honest and efficient use of their money, time and political capital.
It is unlikely that the division of the Party into 15 tiny primary camps would do much to improve short- and mid-term prospects.
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Donald Trump is likely to have a great time. Kaitlan Collins, a CNN activist who spoke at a town hall recently, reminded us that Trump is most effective when given an opponent with whom to spar. It doesn’t even have to be a fair battle. It is just as entertaining to watch Trump bully someone like Collins or Cheney than to watch him fight a true evil powerhouse such as Hillary.
The path of destruction Donald Trump took through the old GOP was one of the greatest benefits of the 2016 primaries. Hacks and hopefuls like John Kasich and Jeb Bush disappeared one by one. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and other serious opponents have learned from the campaign and have been governing accordingly for the past seven years.
The waste and chaos that would result from another primary crowded with sheep and goats may be worth it to separate the two species.