Today my habitual Donald Trump depression lifted a bit when I watched Chuck Todd interview the Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas about who Moulitsas thought would be the best Democrat to run against Trump in 2020.
I agreed with Markos (his last name is too tough for me to spell repeatedly) that Bernie Sanders' time had come and gone, though he'd have a role to play in the next presidential election. They joked that Markos would pay for that assessment with a flurry of nasty comments on his web site from fanatic "Bernie bros."
Markos then rattled off the names of three women: Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand. He said that he favored Warren, who is my favorite pick also.
But later, I got to thinking about why I liked the idea of Warren running against Trump. I realized that in large part I was envisioning her standing next to Trump in a presidential debate, having to deal with Trump's insults, lies, and macho posturing.
When I talked with my wife, Laurel, about the Markos interview, she had an interesting reaction.
Laurel thought that our very own Oregon senator, Jeff Merkley, would be the best Democrat to run against Trump. She observed that, like it or not, our human brains have evolved to intuitively view strong large men as the best leaders, and this is a big hurdle for a woman to overcome.
I don't disagree with that. However, obviously there's more to what we could call "stage presence" that someone's sex and size.
Trump has a knack for commanding a stage because he's so outrageous, it's very difficult to turn away -- much like I never skip the "Caught on Tape" feature on the local evening news, because a semi-truck tipping over on a bridge in a fierce windstorm is just so damn watchable.
So that got me to wondering how each of the aforementioned possible Democratic candidates would look in their fiercest pose, going head to head with Donald Trump in a nationally televised debate.
After all, I'm pretty sure the policy differences between Warren, Harris, Gillibrand, and Merkley are slim. They're all solid progressives. Any of them would be hugely better for our country than Trump. What I mostly care about is which one would have the best chance of beating Trump.
And that relates to how they'd look on a stage, challenging Trump's lies and insults.
My research on this question, which just took me a whole seven minutes or so, showing that I'm a committed political commentator, consisted of scanning through the first page of Google Images results for the four Democrats, looking for the fiercest photograph.
Of course, I had to do the same thing for Trump, as painful as it was to look at the photos. Here's what I came up with for our (hopefully) one-term president.
I can't stand Trump. But I have to admit, he does have a talent for arousing strong emotions. His own emotional range is quite limited, since I've never seen him appear genuinely compassionate, for example, but he does well at expressing outrage and anger.
Any Democrat who goes up against him should be able to at least hold their own in this regard. I'm not saying they should try to outdo Trump in the outrage and anger department. But a calm, cool demeanor is going to come across as uncaring and lacking poweron a debate stage.
Here's the images I came up with for the four Democrats.
I've seen quite a few TV interviews of Warren. She comes across as intelligent, committed, informed, caring, and yes, strong. I can easily see her going toe-to-toe with Trump and giving him everything he could handle. She's got a quick wit and enough fire in her belly to win over voters, in my view.
l like Kirsten Gillibrand a lot. However, she doesn't have the same emotional punch as Warren does. She seems like a very nice woman, with great ideas, but I have a feeling Gillibrand would have a tougher time handling Trump. After Warren, she's my second choice, though.
I'm not very familiar with Kamala Harris. Browsing through the Google Images photos of her, I was struck by how she seemed to have a pretty standard unemotional look. However, this might be due to her being newer on the national stage than the other potential Democratic candidates. Regardless, Harris doesn't strike me as someone who could take on Trump successfully.
I was sort of surprised that the photos of Jeff Merkley were even blander than those of Kamala Harris. When Merkley talks, he says the right things, and he comes across as a caring, committed person. But visually, I worry that Merkley doesn't have the above-mentioned stage presence needed to make undecided voters think, "Oh, yeah! This guy excites me."
Now, I readily admit that what I've done here will strike some as astoundingly shallow. And I agree that we shouldn't select our next president on the basis of who comes across best on a stage.
As I noted, though, I doubt that the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are going to differ much on key policy issues. And it's an annoying truth that many voters don't take the time and trouble to understand the positions of various candidates in much detail.
How the Democratic candidate is able to stand up to Trump will be key to making Trump a one-term president. Right now Elizabeth Warren strikes me as the best person for that job. But there's a good chance some relatively unknown Democrat will emerge from the political shadows between now and 2020.
If they can beat Trump, that's all that really counts.