I believe this brings the number of Democrats running in 2020 up to [checks notes] 47. Which means we’re destined for another field in which true believers are splintered every which way while a celebrity candidate running on a lark vacuums up all of the casual primary voters and surges to victory.
Congratulations, future Democratic nominee Michael Avenatti!
Whenever you see Rep. Tim Ryan’s name in print, chances are it’s in one of two contexts. One: Hailing from northeastern Ohio, which includes Youngstown, he’s one of the few Democrats left in Congress representing a working-class white district in middle America. As such, he’s become the de facto spokesman for the wing of the party that thinks it needs to moderate a bit in order to better connect with those voters. You may remember him as the man who challenged Pelosi in the House Democrats’ leadership election in late 2016, arguing that the party was out of touch with the blue-collar Rust Belters who helped sweep Trump to victory. (Trump won three of the five counties in Ryan’s own district.) He’s a “different kind of Democrat,” in other words, prone to saying stuff like this:
“We cannot be a party that is hostile to business. We need those businesspeople to hire our people, who just want a shot,” Ryan fumes. “We can be business-friendly and still be progressive.” And while it puts him at odds with some peers, such arguments have also won him some unlikely fans. “The smart guys in the Democratic Party, they understand what’s going on. [Ohio Democratic Senator] Sherrod Brown gets this. Tim Ryan gets this,” Trump’s former chief strategist Stephen Bannon told 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose in an interview that aired on Sept. 10. “The only question before us: Is it going to be a left-wing populism or a right-wing populism?”
Bernie Sanders is a populist too and he and Ryan overlap in their focus on economics over culture war. But Sanders is a full-spectrum progressive. Ryan is more moderate on cultural issues from what I’ve seen, although of course he has his limits: After having spent most of his adult life and his tenure in Congress being pro-life, he confessed his sins to liberals and switched to pro-choice three years ago — probably the first clue that he was starting to think seriously about higher office.
Two: The dude’s really, really into meditation.
Put the two aspects of his persona together, the down-to-earth midwesterner who’s not so far removed from hippie culture that he won’t break out the yoga mat, and you’ve got the makings of a presidential candidate.
Tim Ryan has been telling political consultants and operatives that he intends to run for president of the United States in 2020, and is beginning to put together a team, according to multiple sources who’ve spoken to Ryan…
But he won’t be running on a stereotypical working-class persona; instead, he believes his path to the White House runs through the “yoga vote.”
Ryan has long been a champion of mindfulness, meditation, and similar pursuits, and has even created a “Quiet Time Caucus” in the House of Representatives. James Gimian, the publisher of Mindful magazine who knows Ryan, said he isn’t sure whether Ryan will run for president, but that the yoga vote has gone mainstream in recent years. “The so-called yoga voters are the kind of folks who realize that while they grew up with their mom saying, ‘Pay attention,’ nobody trained them in how to pay attention and use their mind to focus on what’s important,” he said. “That’s a growing population — it’s no longer just Lululemon yoga women.” He said that anybody who is negotiating the “emotional land mine of modern day living” could be someone Ryan’s message would resonate with.
Minor problem: There’s no such thing as the “yoga vote.” There are, of course, many voters — many — who do yoga:
Laugh if you want, but remember: there are more licensed yoga instructors in the USA (52,000+ according to https://t.co/WhjMzLWyLQ) than coal miners. More people (~20 mn) practice yoga than watch NASCAR. https://t.co/ZsUh0ZXOU4 https://t.co/YQz6vR8sVu
— David Frum (@davidfrum) July 23, 2018
In fact, if you're laughing at the idea of a "yoga vote" while searching for "real America" in rural Kentucky, maybe you should consider, "How thick is YOUR bubble"? https://t.co/41PhVNiWHK
— David Frum (@davidfrum) July 23, 2018
But for there to be a “yoga vote” the way there’s, say, a “NASCAR vote,” there would need to be various cultural threads among the yoga voters binding them together. Are there any? “NASCAR voters” is a byword for southern, conservative, and working class. Who are the “yoga voters”? The only distinctive trait I can think of offhand about yoga practitioners is that they’re mostly women; if Ryan’s going to win the woman vote in the 2020 primaries, he’ll need to get past Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris, for starters. The fact that a former high-school QB who represents a steel town in the midwest is into meditation seems to put the lie to the idea that there’s much cultural common ground to organize “yoga voters” electorally. It’s like saying that a candidate is aiming to win the “baseball-fan vote.” What would that even mean? Mostly male and, uh, what else?
We don’t need to overthink the goofiness of the “yoga vote” or of what Ryan’s really up to, though. He’s been a congressman since before he turned 30 and is touted perennially as a candidate for higher office somewhere, surprising some Ohioans when he chose not to run for governor this year. Ryan probably looked at that race and figured he was swimming upstream in a red tide that saw the state break for Trump by a landslide-ish margin two years ago. He knows he has a strong profile for national “electability,” though, as a Democrat who can plausibly argue that he’ll connect with heartland voters in a way few other 2020 candidates from his party will. He was briefly in the mix as Hillary chose her VP nominee but didn’t get the call, possibly because, uh, Hillary figured she had the Rust Belt locked up anyway and didn’t need him but also because it’s rare for a member of the House to be nominated as vice president. The only time it’s happened in the past several decades was Paul Ryan in 2012, and Ryan had an unusually high profile for a congressman. He was the brains behind the GOP’s entitlement-reform push and of course went on to become Speaker a few years later. Tim Ryan doesn’t have that sort of juice…
…unless he runs for president himself and draws some interest in the primaries as the “heartland candidate.” Democrats are keenly aware of how many Obama voters in middle America flipped to Trump in 2016. A surprisingly good showing by Ryan in the primaries, even if he finishes far out of the running for the nomination, would make him a VP shortlister for sure, particularly if the nominee is at risk of being labeled too far left. If he gets the nod, he’ll be just 47 years old on Election Day 2020. If the ticket goes on to win, he’d obviously be a very likely nominee in 2028. Ryan, in other words, is actually planning to run for vice-president, playing the long game and banking on the fact that he brings enough attributes that are in short supply on the left at the moment to “balance” a ticket with a progressive. And if the hippies don’t like him at first blush, hey — he does yoga.
In lieu of an exit question, via the Free Beacon, here’s what the other side of the party’s offering these days.