Friday, June 30, 2017

President Martin O'Malley: The Biography

In the 2020s, former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley may well be President of the United States, and if he is, he will be the subject of numerous biographies while he's in still in office.  Some time in the next few years, say, 2023 or so, I expect to read a biography on Mr. O'Malley that explains his rise to the White House and goes something like this:
As the returns came in from the 2016 presidential election and Hillary Clinton's political career was coming to an unexpected end, O'Malley, whose own presidential campaign that year had been the subject of great ridicule, sat watching the unfolding story of Donald Trump's election to the Presidency on television in his Baltimore townhouse.  As he recalled later, he turned and looked at [his wife] Katie without a word, and she nodded in reply.  He knew right away; he would be a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.  He got up, walked over to the table, retrieved his smartphone, and began making calls.  He was already recruiting for the next election, as his mentor Gary Hart had begun doing for the 1988 presidential campaign the night President Ronald Reagan was elected to a second term.  "Now we fight," he told Katie.   
When O'Malley resurfaced in public later that month, he gave no indication of his intentions.  Instead, he expressed an interest in running for Democratic National Committee chairman, a contest he ultimately ruled out.  When the question as to whether he would seek the Presidency again arose, he would only say, "I just might."  O'Malley had been a good actor; only his close supporters, such as Representative Eric Swalwell of California, knew what his answer really meant.  O'Malley would spend a great deal of time poring over domestic and foreign issues with top policy experts to formulate an agenda for 2020.  In the meantime, he would travel in 2017 and 2018 to numerous states where President Trump enjoyed broad support, aiding in efforts to campaign for local Democratic candidates and making invaluable contacts.  But he was also doing something that Democratic leaders in Washington neglected - defining the Democratic party's core principles and, as O'Malley himself said, "what and who our party stands for."
And here's something else I hope to read in that future O'Malley biography:
At a difficult moment in his Presidency, O'Malley reclined in his chair as he went over intelligence reports on the situation in Syria.  He was not prepared to provoke Iran by sending troops, having just withdrawn active units from the Middle East a year earlier after the collapse of ISIS, and he knew there was no turning back; the United States would not be a belligerent power on his watch.  
Later that same day, the President was amazingly relaxed as he sat for his first interview with Molly Ball of the Atlantic in nearly a decade.  He was proud of his latest legislative accomplishments, such as the all-payer care system appended to the 2010 health care law, immigration reform, the beginning of the high-speed rail and long-distance rail modernization projects for Amtrak, and the dedicated tax that freed public broadcasting from insecure funding.  "No more pledge drives!" President O'Malley laughed.   
The interview turned more serious, though, as the President reflected on the battles with Congress.  "The opposition would not relent," he told Ball.  "They made every effort to obstruct my program, tried to filibuster the Amtrak bill in the Senate, even, and I still have to fight hard for my green-energy initiative and Wall Street reform, all because they care more about their donors and the special interests.  I tell you, I've had an easier time working with Republicans than with these people.  Thank God Speaker Ryan has been on my side."
Ball later recalled that the President was still resentful toward his former party, but he had no regrets.  "The Democratic Party had become more autocratic than democratic," he told her.  "We knew that if we were going to advance progressive causes, we needed a new progressive movement.  But the national committee didn't want to hear it.  The last straw was the 2018 midterms.  We Democrats had the issues, we had the momentum, and Trump still played our own divisions and infighting against us.  That's when Senator Sanders and I knew it was time to take a chance and try something new."
President O'Malley, even in early 2022, was so much in disbelief of having won his office that he still had the look of a child who had seen his first magic show.  Having won the 2020 presidential election as the first nominee of the Social Progressive Party against President Pence and Democratic nominee Mark Cuban, he had gained a majority of fellow SPP members in the House and secured a plurality in the Senate, a remarkable achievement.  But the three-party dynamic caused by the Democrats and the Republicans still frustrated him.  "Look, this isn't France," he said in his interview with Ball.  "We weren't going to get farther than we actually did with the current political system." He expressed hope that the Senate would confirm the six new justices he was adding to the Supreme Court, but he knew he'd face stiff Democratic opposition for his nomination of Tulsi Gabbard for one of the seats.  "She rubbed them the wrong way back then,"  he said of the Hawaii ex-Democrat's resignation from the Democratic National Committee over Bernie Sanders.   
No one could know then that, that November, the Democrats would officially disband after the 2022 midterms when the SPP's Zephyr Teachout unseated Senator Charles Schumer in New York, causing the dwindling Democratic Senate caucus to defect en masse to O'Malley's new party.  SPP House Speaker Tim Ryan of Ohio said the dissolution of the Democratic Party had been "long overdue."   
In December President O'Malley was at a ceremony certifying the adoption of the Twenty-Eighth Amendment to the Constitution overturning the 2010 Citizens United ruling when he received word to return to the White House immediately.  It was a call from the Hague.  The most significant international trial of the century was about to begin.  The President was going to be called as a witness for the prosecution against the defendant.
"That old racist carnival barker is still causing problems for me," he would later say of his deposition, mere weeks after addressing the nation from the Oval Office on the condition of the previous elected President, the details of how he was discovered in a Tashkent hotel, and the number of Interpol agents involved. 
Don't laugh.

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