To All Old White Men Considering a Run for President in 2020: Reconsider

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

For a brief period on the campus of Howard University, I walked around looking like Huey Freeman come to life from the comic strip pages with one unshakable thought: I wanted George W. Bush to get the fuck out of the White House.


As a native Houstonian, I already loathed Dubya as Texas governor. Sure, he was jovial, or “plainspoken,” “charming” and other useless adjectives deflecting from the fact that he was a damn fool, but he wasn’t particularly skilled at running a state; and even as a teenager, I knew he would be a disaster as president.

My resentment toward him only grew once he led America into war in Iraq, impacting family members and friends alike. Some people returned nothing like I remembered them, and I squarely blamed Bush for making that so.


So, despite wanting someone more like Howard Dean or John Edwards (I didn’t know he was a thot back then, y’all), I, like many, saw John Kerry and thought, “His wife is more interesting than he is, but fine, whatever.”

Of course, while one cannot discount the abhorrent swift-boat campaign launched against him, ultimately, Kerry, who to this day still looks like George Jetson in the AARP era of his life, wasn’t really that strong a candidate. He wasn’t that decisive in speaking. He never hit back hard enough at the Bush campaign. If there was one word to best describe him and his campaign, I would go with “eh.”

To that end, Kerry let me down. He left us all with four more years of Bush as president and that Sith Lord Dick Cheney as his vice president. That gave way to the Great Recession, which was right around the time I graduated from college—making my immediate postgrad life a special type of hell.

So when I read that Kerry was “seriously considering running in 2020,” my natural response was, ”Motherfucker, no. You’ve already had your chance.” And while, sure, some people, like John McCain and Mitt Romney, have bounced back and run for president once more, what did that lead to other than two more electoral fades? Does anyone really think Kerry of all people would fare any better in this climate?


As great a simpleton as everyone else’s president, Sweet Potato Saddam, is, he would surely crush Kerry in an election. Kerry could probably take him out in a knife fight or Words With Friends or something, but not in a presidential election. We do not need a rehash of 2004. John Kerry, enjoy the ketchup money your wife has and whatever hundreds of thousands you make for being Hillary Clinton’s replacement on the speakers circuit. Stop trying to drum up interest in a presidential bid no one wants.

And since we’re talking about older white gentlemen who have tried and failed to be president, let’s get to Bernie Sanders because I heard about his ass, too.


Politico recently reported that while he hasn’t made a final decision, Sanders is apparently summoning his old team to consider another go at the presidency. However, Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager and top political adviser, has denied such claims. “The senator is extremely focused on making sure the Democrats win in 2018, and that is the primary goal right now: to retake the House and retake the Senate so we can stop this horrendous Trump agenda,” Weaver explained.

Then there was Sanders himself, who made a similar claim during an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation. When asked if the reports were true, Sanders gave the typical politician-who-wants-to-run-for-president response.


“Really, right now what our focus is on is 2018,” Sanders said. “Doing everything that we can to see that the Democrats regain control of Senate and House and some governors’ chairs as well.”

Now, this is the part where I’m going to say some nice things about Sanders and some other things that may incite those Bernie bots who like to camp out in your Twitter mentions and set everything on fire because you don’t think he’s the messiah. Whenever I have offered valid criticism of Sanders, I get called a neoliberal, which to me is the equivalent of “shade” in that folks learn a new word and use it without knowing what the hell it means.


In any event, while Brother Bernie is claiming to be focusing on 2018 and governorships, I have a hard time believing that is the real case. It’s the same thing Sen. Kamala Harris says. Ditto for Sen. Cory Booker. Likewise for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Yet Sanders announced that he would offer his own rebuttal to the assault on the English language that was this year’s State of the Union. Yes, I know he is I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T and I know what that means, but I’m just as aware of pols who like the spotlight.

While I give a lot of credit to Sanders and the Our Revolution organization for helping progressive candidates get elected all across the country, Sanders is 76 years old. He will be 79 by the next Election Day. Last summer, his more ardent supporters said that age wasn’t nothing but a number, highlighting Nelson Mandela’s becoming president of South Africa in his 70s (he was 77). Fair enough, but America has had two old-as-hell presidents (Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, respectively), and while Brother Bernie has much better politics, I’m still wary.


Then there is the matter of how Sanders tackled race both during and after the 2016 election ended. As I said last January, his continued emphasis on colorblind economic policy, his musings about “identity politics” and his trying to shield from culpability the basket of deplorables who voted for Trump from what it meant to vote for a racist demagogue was troubling. Whether or not they are as bigoted as that simpleton in the White House doesn’t mean their vote for him wasn’t a sign of complicity—a racist act in and of itself.

Granted, more recently, he’s participated in conversations with the likes of the Rev. William Barber II, which suggests that could change. If so, great, but considering where we are now, would it not be better to promote his policies through others rather than have him at the top of the ticket? Has he registered as a Democrat yet, anyway? Never mind.


Regardless, I’d like to put that genre of politics for Democrats—old white men at the top of the ticket—in airplane mode. I do not want Hillary Clinton to run again. We’ve all suffered enough, and for some on the Fox News side of life, they still can’t let her go, which only extends our collective grief. Still, given the #MeToo movement and, well, the fact that so far, most of the gains Democrats have made are largely because black women saved their asses and a truly diverse array of people are entering politics, shouldn’t the next Democratic presidential nominee reflect that?

Do we really want more of the same old heads who are closer to doing the Electric Slide with Jesus or dabbing with the devil in hell than they are to their youth (and, by “youth,” I’m capping it around 65) seeking the presidency? It’s not to say they’re incapable of running or, if they won (OK, if Sanders won, ’cause Kerry would have no chance), couldn’t govern, but I’d rather Democrats respond to an old, white demon of a man who bathes in misogyny, racism, xenophobia and Big Mac sauce with a candidate who both sounds and looks nothing like him.


So, please, if you’re old and white with presidential ambitions, consider sitting this one out.

Michael Arceneaux is the author of "I Can't Date Jesus," which will be released July 24, 2018 by Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, but go ahead and pre-order it now.

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KC Complains A Lot

It’s probably only a coincidence, but has anyone noticed that, with exception of Jimmy Carter, every Democrat who’s been elected has been relatively young?

Kennedy, Clinton and Obama all were young men by any measure. Like, I’m just a dude and I noticed it. Plus you have (EXTREMELY RELATIVELY) liberals winning national elections in Canada and France.

It’s kind of crazy that Joe Biden and John Kerry and Bernie Sanders keep floating these 2020 trial balloons and no one in the national Democratic party has figured out that literally everytime they’ve run an old white dude (or woman in Hillary’s case) since the1960s they’ve lost, and that maybe in light of that and elections elsewhere in the world they should actually run younger candidates.

But maybe expecting the Democrats to see the obvious is asking too much. Sure, let’s allow John Kerry to have delusions about whether or not he should run for President. Why not? It’s not like the fate of the world is on the line.