My recipe for a better campaign


Hard to believe, but the 2020 race for the presidency has started — and I’m desperately hoping it proves to be more satisfying and less vilifying than the fracas four years ago.

Both races included good men and women (serious, savvy and smart), but the contest looked and sounded more like a food fight than a presidential debate.

I hope the Democrats live and learn. And I believe they can start, easily and simply, with a few do’s and don’ts:

Quit name-calling

No more Lyin’ Ted Cruz or Little Marco Rubio. Democrats will have their opportunities for some cheap shots and nicknames: Klobuchar the Cautious, Sanders the Socialist, Warren the Wacky or O’Rourke the Opportunist. Let ideas define the candidates, not taglines or tweets.

Don’t make it all about Trump

We’ve had enough time, and Lord knows enough media coverage, to form our opinions and attitudes about his administration. I want to know more about the Democrats’ positions and policies. Bernie Sanders needs to tell me how he’d pay for universal health care and free college tuition, especially in light of the burgeoning national debt.

At the end of last year, debt held by the public was $16 trillion and government holdings an additional $6 trillion, for a total national debt of $22 trillion. That ought to be a cautionary note for any candidate.

Amy Klobuchar needs to elucidate her foreign-policy objectives and her attitudes about how to deal with Russia, North Korea and China. It also wouldn’t hurt if she’d address the criticism that she’s bullied her staff in the past. That’s not the most important issue around, but it’s good to know how a person reacts when angry and disappointed.

Elizabeth Warren ought to tell me how she’d get her Accountable Capitalism Act — requiring 40 percent of a company’s board of directors be elected by its workers — approved by a Republican-controlled Senate.

And all the Democrats ought to address the question raised in a recent issue of The Atlantic — how to repair the broken relationship between the elite, white liberals in the party and the nation’s white working class, including many who voted for Donald Trump after, I suspect, Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment.

Come with a sense of humor

A little levity could enhance civility, promote tolerance and increase understanding — of the candidates for each other and the voters who must to listen to them. I’ve been around Klobuchar enough to know she’s quick with a quip and ready with a rejoinder.

At a roast some years ago for retiring anchorman Don Shelby, Klobuchar shared the dais with Norm Coleman, Al Franken and Pat Miles. She was the quickest and funniest of all.

Three years ago in the Republican presidential debates, I didn’t see many smiles or hear a lot of laughs. What I did hear were tirades and taunts and it got worse as the weeks went by. I believe this is the year a candidate for President of the United States can do better by occasionally showing a sly grin or using a gentle jab.

I hope the media covers the ensuing campaign as a public affair, rather than an athletic contest. We don’t need minute-by-minute, quarter-by-quarter, poll-after-poll accounts; we’re better served by thoughtful comparisons and analyses.

Maybe this primary presidential contest will inspire us to think better of politics. One of the advantages, I believe, is the number of women running. A smaller testosterone trail could produce a bigger intelligence index. What a welcome change that would be.

Dave Nimmer had a long career as a reporter, editor and professor. Now retired, he has no business card, but plenty to do. Send comments or questions to [email protected].