How character can win the next election

My hunch (it’s nothing more than that) also says that the voters who will decide the 2020 election are exhausted by the constant conflict and endless tumult of our hyperpartisan times. They yearn for the relative tranquility of the 1990s, and for a return to normalcy in the Oval Office. They want someone who will pour oil on troubled waters, not gasoline on a raging fire. They are seeking a healer, not a warrior.

The presidency, FDR once said, is “pre-eminently a place of moral leadership.” Sometimes this requires the principled defense of unpopular groups, as George W. Bush did for American Muslims in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Sometimes it requires the deliberate sacrifice of political advantage, as Lyndon B. Johnson did with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But day by day, it means the practice of the ordinary virtues, such as decency, civility and respect.

Imagine a Democratic candidate who ended his or her stump speech on something like the following note: “I will do my best to keep the promises I have made during my campaign, and to achieve the goals I have set forth. But you know from your own lives that circumstances can upset the best-laid plans. I cannot always control the circumstances in which I will find myself, or the outcome of my acts.